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    Turning the other cheek – Ask the Rabbi

    Q. Does Judaism believe in turning the other cheek?

    A. The doctrine is found in the Sermon on the Mount, especially Matthew 5:39 and Luke 6:29-30, which say that If someone hits you on the cheek, let them hit the other cheek too.

    The idea is known in the Tanach in Isaiah 50:6 and Echah 3:30, and in the Lex Talionis (“an eye for an eye”: Ex. 23:25).

    Jesus says, “You have heard… but I say to you”: a claim that the Torah law is wrong and it is better to suffer patiently, allowing the enemy to keep on hitting.

    There are three major objections to Jesus’ teaching.

    1. Personal authority: no-one may cast a Torah law aside and replace it on his own authority. The result would be anarchy.

    2. History: the Lex Talionis was not applied literally but replaced by a fine which ensured that the punishment fitted the crime.

    3. Impracticality: a person who is in pain cannot be expected to let the enemy get away with it and add to his attacks.

    There is a Jewish teaching that it is better not to be the persecutor but the one who is persecuted, better to be insulted than to insult. However, Jesus seems to expect people to do more than they can realistically manage.

    Asher Ginzberg (Ahad HaAm) notes that Christian ethics are not always suited to life on earth.

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