It is forbidden to harm oneself (Talmud, Baba Kama 90a). We are considered to be stewards for our bodies—they belong to God—and any harm or defacement is prohibited. That being said, most people who engage in self harming behaviors like cutting are in emotional and psychological pain. It is simply not enough to tell them that the activity is prohibited. There are significant issues that must be addressed by a competent therapist. And that’s a mitzvah too!
The Torah has much to say in regards to personal injury.Chapter 21 of Sh’mot (the Book of Exodus) deals extensively with issues of torts and personal injury.The primary teaching is Exodus 21:24 which teaches, “an eye for an eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, burn for burn, wound for wound, bruise for bruise.” Our tradition universally reads this verse as referring to monetary compensation for the injured party. The torah further expounds on particular cases of injuries and how they are to be adjudicated. Exodus 21:17 deals with a party injured during an altercation.Exodus 21:26 deals with a master who injures his servant.Exodus 21:28ff is concerned with the owner of an bull who gore another person.
Rabbinic law further develops the field of Jewish torts and the Mishnah dedicates several tractates to the issue of personal injury and the particulars nuances involved in such cases.
In Modern times we no longer live in societies that are ruled by Jewish civil law.The sages of the Talmud recognized the primacy of secular civil law for Jewish communities in the Diaspora.Still it would serve us well to reflect on the underlying principles of Jewish civil law.Our tradition believes in justice and fairness.We come from a belief espoused in Leviticus 19:18, which instructs us to “Love your fellow as yourself.’” In Judaism, justice and love are not ethereal emotional ideals, but real concepts that are to be achieved.Our religion is based on actions, mitzvot, that are meant to lead us to holiness.Jewish civil law was our traditions attempt to create a just and fair world through prescribed actions and consequences.
(Note: One of my colleagues seems to have read this question as concerning what I would call self-inflicted injuries. I read it as dealing with Torts - injuries caused between persons, not necessarily physical, by wrongful acts, neglect, or default - as used in the American legal system, though the Jewish Halachah is often broader in certain aspects.)
The Torah speaks volumes about personal injuries (injuries between persons). From the discussion in the Torah about the damages owed if a pregnant woman is struck by accident and loses the fetus, to the setting of compensation plus punitive damages owed for wrongful taking, to the rules for division of property when no direct heir is left, to the responsibility of an agent to the owner in a failed bailment, to the obligation of an employer to their employees, to one who injures by speech; and to the obligation to the rightful owner by one who finds an object; all address issues of the rights and responsibilities of persons towards one another, and how an injury or a wrong can and should be redressed.
The concepts set forth in the Torah are further elucidated in the Talmud, and then in the Codes of Jewish law. The end result is that Jewish law is extremely well-developed and clear in this area. There is one order (one of six) of the Mishnah (Nezikin – Damages) on this, and the entire related order of the Talmud focuses on this concept.
This is such a broad realm that it is really impossible to summarize it and present it in any fairness. There are many good books, articles, and texts that deal with aspects of the topic, most readily available or searchable online.
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