The Torah of #MeToo - Restitution

It is difficult to speak of restitution when misconduct and abuse cause harm at so many levels--physical, emotional, spiritual, financial. But there are some ways in which Jewish law anticipates a trauma-informed approach to restitution, in that it recognizes five different kinds of damages. Asher Lovy, an expert and activist in addressing child sexual abuse in the Jewish community, looks to these categories of damages as a model for just policies and procedures today.

Too often, victims and survivors today are denied any kind of restitution. Traditional Jewish sources help us imagine a world where restitution attends to physical, emotional, and spiritual healing in concrete ways.

(א) הַחוֹבֵל בַּחֲבֵרוֹ חַיָּב עָלָיו מִשּׁוּם חֲמִשָּׁה דְבָרִים, בְּנֶזֶק, בְּצַעַר, בְּרִפּוּי, בְּשֶׁבֶת, וּבְבֹשֶׁת.

Mishna Bava Kamma 8:1

One who injures another is liable to pay compensation for that injury due to five types of indemnity: He must pay for damage, for pain, for medical costs, for loss of livelihood, and for humiliation.

What do these five categories of damages illuminate for you?

What categories of damages does the Mishna leave out? What other kinds of harm are important to consider?

As the Mishna continues below, it explains each of the five categories and how they are measured. Some of the explanations are quite graphic and they are all very specific. Below, are the Mishna's explanations for how medical costs are assessed.

בְּנֶזֶק כֵּיצַד.

רִפּוּי, הִכָּהוּ חַיָּב לְרַפְּאֹתוֹ. עָלוּ בוֹ צְמָחִים, אִם מֵחֲמַת הַמַּכָּה, חַיָּב. שֶׁלֹּא מֵחֲמַת הַמַּכָּה, פָּטוּר. חָיְתָה וְנִסְתְּרָה, חָיְתָה וְנִסְתְּרָה, חַיָּב לְרַפְּאֹתוֹ. חָיְתָה כָל צָרְכָּהּ, אֵינוֹ חַיָּב לְרַפְּאֹתוֹ.

How is payment for damage assessed?

. . .

For medical costs:

If one struck another, then he is liable to heal him by paying for his medical costs. In a case where growths, e.g., blisters or rashes, appeared on the injured party, if the growths are due to the blow, the one who struck him is liable; if the growths are not due to the blow, the one who struck him is exempt. In a case where the wound healed, and then reopened, and again healed, and then reopened, the one who struck him remains liable to heal the injured party by paying for his medical costs, as it is apparent that the current wound resulted from the original injury. If the injury healed fully, the one who struck him is not liable to heal him by paying for any subsequent medical costs.

What do you notice about how the Mishna defines medical damages?

In what ways does the Mishna acknowledge trauma?

Why do you think the Mishna is so specific?

What lessons do you draw about trauma and restitution from this text?