And he who invokes the LORD’s name shall be doomed to die; and the community shall surely stone him, sojourner and native alike; for his invoking the Name he shall be put to death. And should a man mortally strike down any human being [adam], he is doomed to die. And he who mortally strikes down a beast shall pay for it, life for life.
— Leviticus/Vayikra 24:16-18.
Alter* adds in a note to his translation (above):
The use of the generic term ‘adam, “human being,” sets up the contradistinction of killing a domestic animal rather than a human being. But there many also be an implied contrast with God in the preceding unit. God in principal cannot be hurt by any human act, but His name, available for manipulation and debasement in human linguistic practice, can suffer injury, and for this injury the death penalty is exacted, as here in the case of murder.
* Please see Source Materials for full citations and additional information.
The “Opening the Book” series was originally presented in cooperation with the independent, cross-community Jewish Study Center and with Kol Isha, an open group that for many years pursued spirituality from a woman’s perspective at Temple Micah (Reform). “A Song Every Day” is an independent blog, however, and all views, mistakes, etc. are the author’s.