Three holidays are described at length in this parsha. The first is the Day of Atonement, taking place on the tenth day after the seventh New Moon. (Which usually falls around September.) On that day, you are not to do any work. You are to practice self-denial. (This is where we get the practice of fasting on Yom Kippur.)
Five days later, we have the festival of Huts, which we usually call Sukkot.
On both these days you’re supposed to bring a fire offering to God.
The week after Sukkot, you’re supposed to go on a pilgrimage. The word in Hebrew is tahoggu, similar to the modern Arabic work haj. On this pilgrimage, you’re supposed to take with you branches of palm, boughs of thick trees and willows of the brook, and celebrate in the presence of God for seven days. Pretty cool, God telling you to party!
Now, a man whose mother was an Israelite and whose father was not, got into a scuffle with a guy whose parents were both Israelites. But the guy, whose mom was named Shelomit, made the mistake of insulting God’s name. God tells Moses to put Shelomit’s son to death, and to do that with anyone who cursed the name of God! God didn’t fool around!
And while God was on the subject of punishment, God decrees that anyone who strikes down any human life is to be put to death. That’s not as bad as it sounds. If a death is accidental, there are “sanctuary cities” where someone can go to be protected from being killed.
Now we get to a famous passage: “an eye in place of an eye, a tooth in place of a tooth.” This passage is right between two passages that say that, if you kill an animal you have to pay for it “life in place of life.” So most scholars say that “an eye for an eye” doesn’t mean that you poke someone’s eye out. It means you pay the value of the eye.
Food for Thought
Do you think God meant to put out someone’s eye if he put out someone else’s, or was the law that there should be a lot of money paid by the person who put out the eye?