Saturday, January 12, 2013

On the Expression "Remove A Plank From Your Own Eye"

Reading the Economist this week, In an editorial about America's handeling of the fiscal cliff, I was struck by the highlighted sentence:

FOR the past three years America’s leaders have looked on Europe’s management of the euro crisis with barely disguised contempt. In the White House and on Capitol Hill there has been incredulity that Europe’s politicians could be so incompetent at handling an economic problem; so addicted to last-minute, short-term fixes; and so incapable of agreeing on a long-term strategy for the single currency.
Those criticisms were all valid, but now those who made them should take the planks from their own eyes. 

Those familiar with the Talmud, are probably familiar with the Talmudic version of "take the planks from their own eyes" -

"תמהני אם יש בדור הזה שמקבל תוכחה, אם אמר לו: טול קיסם מבין שִניך, אמור לו: טול קורה מבין עיניך" (ערכין טז). 
(There is a similar version of this saying in Baba Batra, 16B.)

Literally - 'I wonder whether there be any in this age that will receive reproof: but if one saith to another, Cast out the mote out of thine eye, he will be ready to answer, Cast out the beam out of thine own eye.'"

Admitting my own ignorance, I had never heard the expression in English. However, a very quick Google search found the following passage from Mathew in the New Testament:

Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother's eye. Mathew 7:5 
Clearly this was a common enough expression in ancient Israel, which found its way both into the New Testament and the Talmud.

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