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Cities of Refugeהַמִּקְלָט עָרֵי

By Rabbi Dr. Hillel ben David (Greg Killian)

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Introduction. 1

Makom – Place. 4

The Kohen Gadol and the Manslayer. 5

The Shema. 6

Two hundred and forty-eight 7

In The Wilderness 9

Other Manslayers 10

Adam and Chava. 10

Kayin and Hevel 11

Yosef and His Brothers 11

Moshe and the Egyptian. 12

Exile In Megillat Ruth. 12

Babylonian Galut 12

Mashiach ben Yosef and the Bne Israel 13

The Yeshiva. 14

Atonement 15

Korban Pesach. 15

Exceptions. 15

For The Land. 16

Beyond The Jordan River. 16

Rambam’s Mitzvot 16

City of Refuge = Torah. 18

Chart of forty-two. 18

Description: hline

 

Introduction

 

When it is proven that a person killed unintentionally, he is banished to one of the six cities of refuge (arei miklat) or one of the forty-two[1] Levitical cities,[2] to protect him from the vengeance of the slain man’s relatives. He must stay there and not leave the city or its city limits for any reason whatsoever until the death of the Kohen Gadol (High Priest) who served at the time that he was sentenced to exile. In this study I would like to look at these cities in greater detail.

 

Moshe, in his last active mitzva, consecrates three of the six cities of Refuge, those that lie on the east side of the Jordan river.

 

Devarim (Deuteronomy) 4:41 Then Moshe set apart three cities on the eastern side of the Jordan, That the murderer who killed his neighbor unintentionally, and did not hate him previously, might flee there; .. Bezer in the desert .. for the Reuvenites; and Ramot in Gil’ad for the Gadites; and Golan in Bashan for the Menashites.”

 

Let’s look at the Torah’s creation of the concept of a refuge city:

 

Bamidbar (Numbers) 35:6 And the cities which ye shall give unto the Levites, they shall be the six cities of refuge (Miklat), which ye shall give for the manslayer to flee thither; and beside them ye shall give forty and two cities.

 

Bamidbar (Numbers) 35:31-32 You may not accept a ransom for the life of a murderer who is guilty of a capital crime; he must be put to death. Nor may you accept ransom in lieu of flight to a city refuge, enabling one to return to live on his land before the death of the priest.

 

The above passage is where we find the first usage of refugemiklat - מקלט.

 

An Ir Miklat (refuge city - an absorption / integration city – a new mindset) represents the study of the Torah. Not only does the city absorb the manslayer, but the manslayer also absorbs the Ir Miklat! This is the meaning contained in the Hebrew word miklat.

 

A manslayer was directed to an Ir Miklat by a road sign that simply said miklat miklat - מקלט מקלט.

 

Anyone who is responsible for the taking of a life flees to, or is sent to, an Ir Miklat. This includes the intentional murderer and one who killed totally by accident without any contributory negligence. The “killer” is taken from the Ir Miklat to stand trial. If the court decides that the person is completely free of any guilt or responsibility, then he is freed. If the killing is deemed a premeditated murder, the guilty party is to be executed. Only if the verdict of the court is shogeg, an inadvertent murderer, will the person be returned to Ir Miklat to remain there, as mentioned above. By the way, if the killer lives in an Ir Miklat in the first place, he would be sent to another one. If would not do to remain in his home town.

 

The mitzva of Ir Miklat is one of only two mitzvot that the Torah labels chukat mishpat. This is an almost paradoxical term, with mishpat being that kind of mitzva that is logical, based on common sense, easy to understand, and with chok being that kinnd of mitzva whose reasons are not given to us, nor can we completely figure them out on our own.

 

The gematria of miklat - מקלט is 179:

מ - 40

ק – 100

ל – 30

ט – 9

======

Total = 179 time 2 equal 358

 

The gematria, therefore, of miklat miklat is 358. Mashiach also has a gematria of 358. This double state points to Mashiach and His revelation.

 

So we see that the road sign pointing to the city of refuge also contains a hint that points one toward Mashiach.

 

Makkoth 10b AND DIRECT ROADS WERE MADE LEADING FROM ONE TO THE OTHER. It is taught: R. Eliezer b. Jacob says that the words miklat miklat [asylum asylum] was inscribed at the parting of the ways so that the manslayer might notice and turn in that direction.

 

The Gemara teaches us that the word miklat [asylum] was inscribed at the parting of the ways so that the manslayer might notice and turn in that direction.

 

As one stays continuously in the Ir Miklat, so, Joshua commanded us to study Torah continuously:

 

Yehoshua (Joshua) 1: 8 This book of the law shall not depart out of thy mouth; but thou shalt meditate therein day and night, that thou mayest observe to do according to all that is written therein: for then thou shalt make thy way prosperous, and then thou shalt have good success.

 

We shall examine this concept in greater detail, but, I am getting ahead of myself. Lets see what the Torah teaches about an Ir Miklat.

 

A person who murders intentionally after having been previously warned is liable to the death penalty. A person who kills unintentionally is exempt from the death penalty, but is punished with galut (exile).

 

Bear in mind, lest you believe that this sin of manslaughter does not apply to you, that every time our words hurt another, we are guilty of being a small manslayer. Thus, to a certain extent, we all need an Ir Miklat.

 

Miklat is used some twenty times in the Tanach[3] and is always used as a reference to the cities of refuge. The normal Hebrew word for refuge is not miklat.

 

Makkoth 9b MISHNAH. WHITHER ARE THEY BANISHED? TO THE THREE CITIES SITUATE ON THE YONDER SIDE OF THE JORDAN AND THREE CITIES SITUATE IN THE LAND OF CANAAN, AS ORDAINED, YE SHALL GIVE THREE CITIES BEYOND THE JORDAN AND THREE CITIES IN THE LAND OF CANAAN; THEY SHALL BE CITIES OF REFUGE. NOT UNTIL THREE CITIES WERE SELECTED IN THE LAND OF ISRAEL DID THE [FIRST] THREE CITIES BEYOND THE JORDAN RECEIVE FUGITIVES, AS ORDAINED, [AND OF THESE CITIES WHICH YE SHALL GIVE] SIX CITIES FOR REFUGE SHALL THEY BE UNTO YOU WHICH MEANS THAT [THEY DID] NOT [FUNCTION] UNTIL ALL SIX COULD SIMULTANEOUSLY AFFORD ASYLUM. AND DIRECT ROADS WERE MADE LEADING FROM ONE TO THE OTHER, AS ORDAINED, THOU SHALT PREPARE THEE A WAY AND DIVIDE THE BORDERS OF THY LAND. INTO THREE PARTS. AND TWO [ORDAINED] SCHOLAR — DISCIPLES WERE DELEGATED TO ESCORT THE MANSLAYER IN CASE ANYONE ATTEMPTED TO SLAY HIM ON THE WAY, AND THAT THEY MIGHT SPEAK TO HIM. R. MEIR SAYS: HE MAY [EVEN] PLEAD HIS CAUSE HIMSELF, AS IT IS ORDAINED, AND THIS IS THE WORD OF THE SLAYER. R. JOSE B. JUDAH SAYS: TO BEGIN WITH, A SLAYER WAS SENT IN ADVANCE TO [ONE OF] THE CITIES OF REFUGE, WHETHER HE HAD SLAIN IN ERROR OR WITH INTENT. THEN THE COURT SENT AND BROUGHT HIM THENCE. WHOEVER WAS FOUND GUILTY OF A CAPITAL CRIME THE COURT HAD EXECUTED, AND WHOEVER WAS FOUND NOT GUILTY OF A CAPITAL CRIME THEY ACQUITTED. WHOEVER WAS FOUND LIABLE TO BANISHMENT THEY RESTORED TO HIS PLACE [OF REFUGE] AS IT IS ORDAINED, AND THE CONGREGATION SHALL RESTORE HIM TO THE CITY OF REFUGE WHITHER HE WAS FLED

 

In the Torah portion which speaks of the Arei Miklat, it mentions the Arei Miklat (gematria is 179) exactly ten time! These ten are beautifully divided into five and five. The Torah first talks about unintentional manslaughter and then mentions miklat five times.[4] Then the Torah speaks about intentional murder before returning to manslaughter. When the Torah returns to manslaughter it mentions miklat five additional times. This mirrors the arrangement of then Luchot are which we find engraved the ten commandments as two blocks of five commands[5] opposite five commands.[6]

 

The designated cities of refuge were named by Joshua after they entered eretz Israel:

 

Yehoshua (Joshua) 20:1 HaShem also spake unto Joshua, saying, 2 Speak to the children of Israel, saying, Appoint out for you cities of refuge, whereof I spake unto you by the hand of Moses: 3 That the slayer that killeth any person unawares and unwittingly may flee thither: and they shall be your refuge from the avenger of blood. 4 And when he that doth flee unto one of those cities shall stand at the entering of the gate of the city, and shall declare his cause in the ears of the elders of that city, they shall take him into the city unto them, and give him a place, that he may dwell among them. 5 And if the avenger of blood pursue after him, then they shall not deliver the slayer up into his hand; because he smote his neighbour unwittingly, and hated him not beforetime. 6 And he shall dwell in that city, until he stand before the congregation for judgment, and until the death of the high priest that shall be in those days: then shall the slayer return, and come unto his own city, and unto his own house, unto the city from whence he fled. 7 And they appointed Kedesh in Galilee in mount Naphtali, and Shechem in mount Ephraim, and Kirjath-arba, which is Hebron, in the mountain of Judah. 8 And on the other side Jordan by Jericho eastward, they assigned Bezer in the wilderness upon the plain out of the tribe of Reuben, and Ramoth in Gilead out of the tribe of Gad, and Golan in Bashan out of the tribe of Manasseh.9 These were the cities appointed for all the children of Israel, and for the stranger that sojourneth among them, that whosoever killeth any person at unawares might flee thither, and not die by the hand of the avenger of blood, until he stood before the congregation.

 

Now because we know that HaShem always acts midda kneged midda (measure for measure), we understand that there is a direct correlation between the crime and the punishment. This begs a question: Why is galut, exile, the correction for one who kills inadvertently?

 

The midda kneged midda is like this: If a man causes another man to lose his makom, his place, in this world, the Torah mandates that this unintentional manslayer must lose his makom, his place, by going into galut. The manslayer must leave his home, community, job, and friends (his makom, his “place”) and flee to one the cities of refuge to remain in exile until the Kohen Gadol dies. Thus we see that exile is a great kindness from HaShem that enables us to correct that which we have blemished in this world.

 

HaShem lessened the discomfort of those who were exiled to the cities of refuge by sending them to cities where the Levites were also landless.

 

Devarim (Deuteronomy) 19:2-4 Three cities you shall set aside within the land that HaShem your G-d is giving you as an inheritance... and they shall be for all murderers to escape to. This is the murderer who shall flee there, and live: one who strikes his fellow unintentionally...

 

The person who kills unintentionally doesn’t have an appreciation of life. Therefore, his punishment is to go to the City of Refuge.

 

Makom – Place

 

The Hebrew word Makom - מקם is normally translated as place.

 

Makom is a word that we use rather lightly in the English speaking world. In the Hebrew world it is never taken or used lightly. You see, HaMakom (The Place) - המקם is one of HaShem’s names! By referring to HaShem as The Place we are saying that HaShem is not in the world; rather, the world is in HaShem. HaMakom asserts that HaShem is everywhere and everything: physical and spiritual, matter and energy. All of this makes up the oneness of HaShem. HaShem makes a place for the world. He provides a place for the world to exist.

 

Bereshit Rabbah 68:9 HaShem encompasses the world; the world does not encompass Him[7].

 

The Land of Israel is also HaMakom, the place on earth set aside by HaShem as the Holy Land.

 

The Torah calls Mt. Moriah, HaMakom:

 

Bereshit (Genesis) 22:4-5 Then on the third day Abraham lifted up his eyes, and saw the place (HaMakom) afar off. And they came to the place (HaMakom) which God had told him of; and Abraham built an altar there, and laid the wood in order, and bound Isaac his son, and laid him on the altar upon the wood.

 

Bereshit (Genesis) 22:9 And they came to the place (HaMakom) which God had told him of; and Abraham built an altar there, and laid the wood in order, and bound Isaac his son, and laid him on the altar upon the wood.

 

Bereshit (Genesis) 22:14 And Abraham called the name of that place (Makom) Adonai-Yireh: as it is said to this day, In the mount of HaShem it shall be seen.

 

The Midrash reiterates the significance of HaMakom:

 

Midrash Tehillim Psalm 90 R. Huna said in the name of R. Ammi: Why is the name of the Holy One, blessed be He, called “place?” Because He is the place of the world, as is said Behold, there is a place by Me. Abraham called Him “place,” as is said And Abraham called the name of that place Adonai-Yireh (Gen. 22:14). Jacob called Him “place,” as is said How full of awe is this place (Gen. 28:17). Moses called Him “place,” as is said Behold, there is a place by Me (Ex. 33:21).

 

Many of the items found in the Bet HaMikdash did not have fixed places. For example, the menorah had a position relative to the Holy Ark, specifically, southeast of the Ark, but it did not have an absolute place in the Temple. In contrast, the mizbeach, the altar, had an absolute place, and if it was not in that place, the obligation of performing the Temple service was not fulfilled. Why? Because, says the Rambam, the place of the altar is the place from which man himself was created!

 

We feel homesick when we have been away from our home (the place) for a protracted period of time. No matter how humble, we long for our place of origin. We long for our home, our place. Thus we learn that our soul longs to return to HaShem, it’s origin, it’s source. Homesickness was given to us as a mashal to help us understand that our soul longs to return to it’s home with HaShem.

 

Thus we can understand that makom, place, is very significant. It is a name of HaShem, it is where HaShem focuses His attention, it is a place we call home.

 

Exile is when we leave our makom, our place, and go to another place. It can never replace our place. The pain of exile is the pain of not having a place to be, because it is not our place.

 

The Kohen Gadol and the Manslayer

 

Who lives in the Cities of Refuge? The Levites. What did the Levites do with their time? They worked in the Beit HaMikdash, they sang in the Beit HaMikdash, and they were the teachers of Torah. The person who killed unintentionally would now have the opportunity to get an appreciation of what one can do with life. Such an experience will forever change the person. Seeing a Levi who spends his evening, morning, and afternoon immersed in Torah and mitzvot will change his view of life.

 

The Torah is telling us that there is some connection between the sin of the unintentional manslayer and the Kohen Gadol, by linking the exile of the manslayer with the death of the Kohen Gadol. But what in the connection between the manslayer and the Kohen Gadol? To answer this, we will need a bit of background.

 

The Torah prohibits using stones touched by iron for the mizbeach, the altar, because iron, which is used to form weapons, is responsible for loss of human life. If even an unintentional murder takes place it indicates that the Beit HaMikdash is not fulfilling its role. The Kohen Gadol, the guardian of the Beit HaMikdash, is also at fault to a certain degree, and he too share in the punishment of manslayer. The Kohen Gadol should be beseeching HaShem for both the one who dies and the one who killed. Only the Kohen Gadol goes into the Holy of Holies – HaMakom – The Place. Only the Kohen Gadol can give the one who has lost his place – a place – in The Place.

 

When the Kohen Gadol entered the Holy of Holies on Yom HaKippurim, He represented the entire nation. Therefore we can see that every Jew is also part of a larger entity, the body of Mashiach:

 

Ephesians 5:23 For the husband is the head of the wife, as Mashiach also is the head of the Bne Israel, himself the savior of the body.

 

Yochanan (John) 15:5 I am the vine, you are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing.

 

So, if every one of the Bne Israel is a part of a larger entity (a body or a vine), then clearly the head (Mashiach – the Kohen Gadol) suffers when the part is broken (unintentionally killing). Additionally, it is the head (Kohen Gadol) which is in control of the body (Bne Israel). Thus we see that the manslayer and the Kohen Gadol are linked and that each is responsible for the other.

 

In fact, the Talmud indicates that it is the death of the Kohen Gadol which provides atonement for the manslayer.

 

Makkoth 11b It is the death of the [high] priest that procures the atonement.

 

This echoes what we find in the Nazarean Codicil:

 

Bereans (Hebrews) 9:7 But into the second went the high priest alone once every year, not without blood, which he offered for himself, and for the errors of the people: 8 The Holy Ghost this signifying, that the way into the holiest of all was not yet made manifest, while as the first tabernacle was yet standing: 9 Which was a figure for the time then present, in which were offered both gifts and sacrifices, that could not make him that did the service perfect, as pertaining to the conscience; 10 Which stood only in meats and drinks, and divers washings, and carnal ordinances, imposed on them until the time of reformation. 11 But Mashiach being come an high priest of good things to come, by a greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, that is to say, not of this building; 12 Neither by the blood of goats and calves, but by his own blood he entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us.

 

When the manslayer flees to the city of refuge, he will be tempted to pray for the death of the Kohen Gadol, in order that he should be allowed to end his exile. The Talmud speaks of this problem:

 

Makkoth 11a MISHNAH. IT IS ALL ONE WHETHER A HIGH PRIEST [WHO DIED] HAD BEEN ANOINTED WITH THE [HOLY] ANOINTING OIL; OR HAD BEEN CONSECRATED BY THE MANY VESTMENTS, OR HAD RETIRED FROM HIS OFFICE — ALL MAKE POSSIBLE THE RETURN OF THE MANSLAYER; R. JUDAH SAYS ALSO THE [DEATH OF THE] PRIEST WHO HAD BEEN ANOINTED FOR WAR PERMITS THE RETURN OF THE MANSLAYER. THEREFORE, MOTHERS OF HIGH PRIESTS WERE WONT TO PROVIDE FOOD AND RAIMENT FOR THEM THAT THEY MIGHT NOT PRAY FOR THEIR SON’S DEATH.

 

GEMARA. What are the data [for the above statement]? — Said R. Kahana: They are [severally] indicated in the texts [the high priest being mentioned three times], And he shall abide in it unto the death of the high priest which was anointed with the holy oil; again it is written, Because he should have remained in the city of refuge until the death of the high priest; and once more, But after the death of the high priest the slayer shall return into the land of his possession. And whence R. Judah’s view? — It is written once again, [And ye shall take no satisfaction for him that is fled to the city of his refuge] that he should come again to dwell in the land, until the death of the priest. And the other? — Since the description ‘high’ is omitted therein, the last quoted passage is taken [by him] as [but a secondary reference to] one of the aforementioned.

 

THEREFORE MOTHERS OF HIGH PRIESTS [WERE WONT TO PROVIDE FOOD AND RAIMENT FOR THEM THAT THEY MIGHT NOT PRAY FOR THEIR SON’S DEATH]. The reason [given] is that the banished might not pray [for the high priest‘s death]; but what if they should pray, [think you] he would die? [Surely the saying is,] As the flitting bird as the flying swallow, so the curse that is causeless shall [not] follow! Said a venerable old scholar: I heard an explanation at one of the sessional lectures of Raba, that [the high priests were not without blame, as] they should have implored Divine grace for [averting the sorrows of] their generation, which they failed to do. Others read in the Mishnah thus: THAT THEY MIGHT PRAY FOR THEIR SONS THAT THEY DIE NOT. The reason [given then] is that the banished should pray [for the high priest]; but, what if they did not pray [for him; think you] he would die? What should he have done [to avert it]? — As they say here [in Babylon]: ‘Toby did the [bad] jobbing and Ziggad got the [hard] slogging,’ or as they say there [in Palestine]: ‘Shechem got him a wife and Mabgai caught the knife.’ Said a venerable old scholar: I heard an explanation at one of the sessional lectures of Raba that [the high priests were not without blame, as] they should have implored Divine grace for [averting the sorrows of] their generation, which they failed to do.

 

These Cities of Refuge were, therefore, refuges in space.

 

The Shema

 

The prayers found in the siddur contain several profound uses of the number forty-two. Whether in the number of words or letters, forty-two is an integral building block used by the prayers to achieve results.

 

In the verse Shema Israel,[8] HaShem Elokeinu, HaShem echad there are six words, and in the paragraph of Ve’ahavta (You shall love) till uvisharecha (and upon your gates) there are a total of forty-two words.

 

The Shema is recited twice a day, by observant Jews, to obey the Torah command, as found in the Shema itself. The goal of the Shema is not just to declare that HaShem is one, but rather to declare that HaShem is one and there is nothing in existence besides Him. The world and everything around us, is just an extension of HaShem. We are an extension of the oneness of HaShem.

 

To help us understand the making of many into one, HaShem gave us the sense of hearing. As an aside, HaShem gave us the human body, with all of its responses, in order to give us intimate insights into HaShem and His creation. If we understand what it means to hear, we can understand what it means to declare HaShem‘s oneness.

 

Hearing is a sense which requires us to assemble the sounds from another person, into a cohesive picture. Thus we would say that hearing is the forming of disparate parts into a single idea or picture. Literally we make many (sounds) into one (idea).

 

The Shema, which is uttered twice a day by every observant Jew, is an interesting perspective into hearing. Shema is normally translated as “hear”. Our Sages teach us that shema literally means the gathering of many and making them into one. The appropriateness of this definition is brought into sharp distinction when we see that the goal of the shema is that HaShem should be one and His name One.

 

This “oneness” was our state in Gan Eden. Thus we would say that we find forty-two words in the Ve’ahavta[9] in order to facilitate our return to the state that we enjoyed in Gan Eden.

 

The goal of the Shema is oneness, but the goal of the Ve’ahavta is to create a new reality where Klal Israel[10] are bonded together in love for HaShem.

 

The verse of Shema Israel” (Hear O Israel) accentuates “accepting the yoke of heaven“, and the paragraph of “Ve’ahavta” (and you shall love) deals with absolute love of HaShem.

 

The six cities of refuge correspond to the six words “Shema Yisrael Adonai Elohenu Adonai Ehad,” “Hear O Israel, the Lord is our G-d, the Lord is One.” Add the names of the forty-two other cities, and you have forty-eight words, corresponding to the total of forty-eight Hebrew words in the passage beginning with “Hear, O Israel...”[11] and ending with “...and upon thy gates”.[12]

 

The foregoing implies that the words of the declaration of faith beginning with “Hear O Israel”[13] constitutes those “cities of refuge“ where any Jews, no matter what his sin, can find shelter and protection. If he accepts the yoke of the Kingdom of Heaven and loves HaShem, he will be saved from the accusers who pursue him.[14]

 

Two hundred and forty-eight

 

Zohar Ruth 97b There are 248 limbs in the body, and each word of Shema serves to protect one of them.

 

However, when making a tally of all of the sections of Shema, one comes up with only 245 words. How do we make up for the three missing words?

 

The Shulchan Aruch[15] writes that there are 245 words in the Shema, and in order to make it up to 248, corresponding to the 248 limbs of a person, the Shliach Tzibbur repeats three words, HaShem Elokeichem Emet.[16] The Remo adds that that if one is not saying Shema with a tzibbur, then one adds at the beginning three words, El Melech Ne’eman (G-d faithful king).[17]

 

* * *

 

The first six words of the Shema followed by the forty-two words of the Ve’ahavta are a picture of the cities which were given to the Levites.[18] The Levites were given forty-two cities in addition to the six cities of refuge. This suggests an intrinsic connection between the Shema and the Levitical cities.

 

Bamidbar (Numbers) 35:6 And among the cities which ye shall give unto the Levites there shall be six cities for refuge, which ye shall appoint for the manslayer, that he may flee thither: and to them ye shall add forty and two cities.

 

The cities of refuge are closely connected to the cities of the Levites. They appear in the same chapter in the Torah. In fact, the forty-two Levite cities function as cities of refuge.[19] The cities of refuge are under the jurisdiction of the Levites, and more specifically, the High Priest. When an unintentional killer dwells within the city of refuge he becomes the “property” of the High Priest. He lives within his city and therefore belongs to him. Although by no means a slave, he still lives under the dominion of the High Priest. The same law governing the release of a permanent Jewish slave upon the death of his master[20] applies here. The unintentional killer may leave only upon the death of his “master”, the High Priest.

 

What was the point of having the manslayer flee to a city of refuge? A manslayer was one who had killed someone unintentionally. Chazal teach that this accident occurred because the manslayer did not take special precautions to insure that it could not happen. In other words, he did not have love for his fellow. To correct this lack of love, this failure to be cautious, HaShem sends the manslayer and his teacher to a city of refuge. These cities are populated by the Levites and priests who primary job was to teach Torah. Further, the priests were the descendants of Aharon who had a special knack for bringing peace between a man and his neighbor. Thus the Levitical cities were the ideal environment to rehabilitate the manslayer. The manslayer could learn Torah by observing it in the actions of those who were trained and called to teach Torah.

 

The forty-two cities which were given to the Levites are going to be inhabited by those who are close to HaShem because of their service in the Beit HaMikdash and because their primary job is to teach Torah. The primary way of teaching Torah is by modeling a life of Torah. This suggests that the Levites are re-creating Gan Eden and teaching Torah to the Bne Israel in such a way that they, too, are ascending back to the state that they had at Gan Eden. Both entities are part of the process of recreation. Forty-two is the perfect number to describe this process.

 

Owned by

High Priest

Previously owned by

Self

Between

Home and Refuge city

Chased by

Avenger of blood

Taught by

Priests

Type of

Exile

 

Finally, Rashi, on Bereshit 4:16, offer the following insight into the cities of refuge:

 

to the east of Eden --There his father was exiled when he was driven out of the Garden of Eden, as it is said (3:24) “and He stationed at the east of the Garden of Eden, etc., to guard” the way of approach to the Garden, from which we can learn that Adam was there. And we find that the easterly direction always offers asylum for murderers, as it is said (Deut. 4:41): “Then Moses separated, etc.” [three cities of refuge]in the direction of the sunrise”-.[21] Another explanation: בְּאֶרֶץנוֹד means that wherever he went, the earth would quake beneath him, and the people would say, “Go away from him; this is the one who killed his brother”.[22]

 

The Forty-two Encampments

 

reason for the linkage between

 

The Kli Yakar connects the encampments of the B’nei Yisroel in the midbar and the halachot of the arei miklat, by pointing out that there were forty-two cities that were inhabited by members of Shevet Levi that were not formally designated as ‘cities of refuge.’ Nonetheless, they offered protection to people who killed accidentally.

 

The Kli Yakar notes that these forty-two cities correspond to the forty-two encampments of the Jews in the desert. He explains that HaShem, in His infinite mercy, arranged that the cities of refuge were those designated for Shevet Levi. Members of Shevet Levi did not own portions in Eretz Israel, but rather lived in these cities.

 

HaShem lessened the discomfort of those who were exiled to arei miklat by sending them to cities where the leviyim were also landless. Yosef HaTzadik[23] acted in a similar fashion, resettling all the Egyptians during his reign to remove the stigma of ‘gerim’ (exiles) from his brothers.

 

In The Wilderness

 

The wandering of the Jews in the desert was another example of the exile of the unintentional manslayer. The spies derogatory report caused the Bne Israel to shun the land and reject the Word of HaShem. This sin would result in the deaths of most of those who had left Mitzrayim.[24] Because the people did not realize that their sin would have this consequence, HaShem sent them into galut, forcing them to wander for forty years.

 

Bamidbar (Numbers) 13:31 - 14:1 But the men that went up with him said, We be not able to go up against the people; for they are stronger than we. 32 And they brought up an evil report of the land which they had searched unto the children of Israel, saying, The land, through which we have gone to search it, is a land that eateth up the inhabitants thereof; and all the people that we saw in it are men of a great stature. 33 And there we saw the giants, the sons of Anak, which come of the giants: and we were in our own sight as grasshoppers, and so we were in their sight. 1 And all the congregation lifted up their voice, and cried; and the people wept that night. 2 And all the children of Israel murmured against Moses and against Aaron: and the whole congregation said unto them, Would God that we had died in the land of Egypt! or would God we had died in this wilderness! 3 And wherefore hath HaShem brought us unto this land, to fall by the sword, that our wives and our children should be a prey? were it not better for us to return into Egypt?

 

There is, in fact, a striking similarity between the galut of the Jews in the wilderness and that of an accidental murderer. The Jews in the wilderness never knew when they would be asked to move. When the cloud rose, they needed to pack their belongings and move on to the next location. In the instance of the cities of refuge, the manslayer’s galut ended with the death of the Kohen Gadol, an event that could not be predicted. In both cases, there was no predetermined time for the relocation to end, adding to the sense of instability.

 

It is interesting to note that the galut of the generation of the wilderness did not end until the death of the Kohen Gadol, Aaron:

 

Devarim (Deuteronomy) 10:6 And the children of Israel took their journey from Beeroth of the children of Jaakan to Mosera: there Aaron died, and there he was buried; and Eleazar his son ministered in the priest’s office in his stead.

 

Shortly after Aaron’s death, Joshua led the Bne Israel into the promised land and the Galut ended. This suggests that the death of Aharon was an atonement for the Bne Israel.

 

The ending of the galut in the wilderness and the entering of the Promised land hints also to the final redemption.

 

Seen in this light, we can now understand why the Torah juxtaposed the forty-two journeys of Bamidbar (Numbers) chapter 33 with the assigning of the forty-two Levitical cities of Bamidbar (Numbers) chapter 35. Clearly, the Levitical cities were also for the unintentional manslayer. Thus the forty-two stages of exile in the wilderness are directly associated with the forty-two Levitical cities which provided a refuge for the unintentional manslayer.

 

Other Manslayers

 

Adam and Chava

 

Adam and Chava were created as eternal beings. They were designed to live forever. It is only through their sin that death entered the world. Not only death for Adam and Chava, but death for everything and everyone in the world. Even time dies. When a moment is gone, it is “dead”, never to return.

 

Adam and Chava went into galut, exile, from Gan Eden, after they ate from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. Their consumption of this fruit resulted in their eventual death and their galut from Gan Eden. Adam and Chava had to leave their makom, their ideal place:

 

Bereshit (Genesis) 3:21 Unto Adam also and to his wife did HaShem God make coats of skins, and clothed them. 22 And HaShem God said, Behold, the man is become as one of us, to know good and evil: and now, lest he put forth his hand, and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live for ever: 23 Therefore HaShem God sent him forth from the garden of Eden, to till the ground from whence he was taken. 24 So he drove out the man; and he placed at the east of the garden of Eden Cherubims, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to keep the way of the tree of life.

 

Midrash Rabbah - Numbers XXIII:13 THEN YE SHALL APPOINT YOU CITIES OF REFUGE... THAT THE MANSLAYER... MAY FLEE THITHER (XXXV, 11). This bears on the Scriptural texts, Good and upright is the Lord, therefore doth He instruct sinners in the way (Ps. XXV, 8). Remember, O Lord, Thy compassions and Thy mercies (ib. 6). David says: Sovereign of the Universe! Were it not for Thy mercies which came to the timely assistance of Adam, he could not have survived. For it says, In the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die (Gen. II, 17), but Thou didst not do so unto him. Thou didst merely exclude him from the Garden of Eden and he lived nine hundred and thirty years, and only then did he die. What didst Thou do to him? Thou didst merely drive him from the Garden of Eden; as it says, So He drove out the man (ib. III, 24). Why was he driven out? Because he brought death upon future generations, and deserved to die immediately, but Thou didst have compassion upon him and didst drive him out, as is the fate of one who commits murder in error, such a man having to be an exile from his own home to the cities of refuge. Consequently it says, ‘Remember, O Lord, Thy compassions and Thy mercies,’ for they have been from of old (Ps. XXV, 6).

 

Pirke D’Rebbi Eliezer points out that when Adam was sent out of Gan Eden, he was exiled to Har HaMoriah.[25] According to some opinions in Chazal[26] this took place immediately after the judgment which took place on the sixth day of creation, before the beginning of that first Shabbat.

 

Har Moriah is the place of the Temple. It is the place of the Akeida. It is the ultimate place of Torah. It was in the Temple that the tablets of the testimony and the Torah scroll written by Moshe were kept. Thus we learn that when Adam inadvertently killed the world he was exiled from his makom to a place of Torah.

 

Kayin and Hevel

 

After Kayin killed Abel he was condemned to wander in galut. He had to leave “his makom”. This passage is particularly interesting because Kayin expresses the fact that this is an extremely severe punishment:

 

Bereshit (Genesis) 4:9 And HaShem said unto Kayin, Where is Abel thy brother? And he said, I know not: Am I my brother’s keeper? 10 And he said, What hast thou done? the voice of thy brother’s blood crieth unto me from the ground. 11 And now art thou cursed from the earth, which hath opened her mouth to receive thy brother’s blood from thy hand; 12 When thou tillest the ground, it shall not henceforth yield unto thee her strength; a fugitive and a vagabond shalt thou be in the earth. 13 And Kayin said unto HaShem, My punishment is greater than I can bear.

 

Kayin will eventually be killed by Lamech. In the meantime, his exile had no end, unlike the Torah requirement for the unintentional manslayer who was released when the Kohen Gadol died. So, why did Kayin escape the death penalty? The answer has two parts.

 

  1.  Since there were no witnesses to the crime, a Bet Din[27] would not be able to convict. Hence, he had the status of an unintentional manslayer and was condemned to galut.
  2. When a man is guilty of murder, HaShem gives the guilty verdict and He applies the penalty. Hence Kayin was killed, midda-kneged-midda,[28] by Lamech. Chazal teach that HaShem normally executes this penalty within one year of the time of the crime.

 

Yosef and His Brothers

 

When Israel and his family went into galut, if was shortly after Yosef’s brothers desired to kill him, but sold him instead. This is a very similar situation to the manslayer. Indeed, the Midrash even links these events with the cities of refuge:

 

Midrash Rabbah - Genesis LXXXIV:15 AND THE MAN SAID. LET US GO TO DOTHAN. For such are the designs of the Almighty. AND THEY SAW HIM AFAR OFF, etc. (XXXVII, 18). Said they: ‘Let us kill him by inciting the dogs against him’. AND THEY SAID ONE TO ANOTHER: BEHOLD, THIS DREAMER COMETH (XXXVII, 19). The Rabbi said: They exclaimed, ‘Behold, it is he, who is coming wrapt in his dreams!’ R. Levi said: They exclaimed that this one was to ensnare them into serving [foreign] overlords. COME NOW THEREFORE, AND LET US SLAY HIM... AND WE SHALL SEE WHAT WILL BECOME OF HIS DREAMS (XXXVII, 20). Said the Holy One, blessed be He, to them: Ye say, AND WE SHALL SEE, and I say, WE SHALL SEE: indeed we shall see whose words will be fulfilled.’

 

15. AND REUBEN HEARD IT, etc. (XXXVII, 21). Now where had he been? R. Judah said: Every one of them attended his father one day, and that day it was Reuben’s turn. R. Nehemiah said: [Reuben reasoned]: I am the firstborn and I alone will be held responsible for the crime. The Rabbis said: [Reuben reasoned]: He includes me with my brethren, and I am not to rescue him! I thought that I had been expelled [from the company of my brethren] on account of that incident, yet he counts me together with my brethren-And, behold, the sun and the moon and the eleven stars (Gen. XXXVII, 9)-shall I then not deliver him! Said the Holy One, blessed be. He, to him: ‘Thou wast the first to engage in life saving: by thy life! the cities of refuge will be set up [first] nowhere else than within thy borders’; thus it is written, Bezer in the wilderness, in the table-land, for the Reubenites, etc. (Deut. IV, 43).

 

Moshe and the Egyptian

 

Moshe killed the Egyptian then he needed to flee to Midian. Remember that Moshe was a Hebrew who was adopted by an Egyptian and raised as a prince in Paro’s palace. When he went into galut for killing the Egyptian, he was leaving his parents, his adopted parents, and his status as a prince. His galut took him to Midian where he became a shepherd and a stranger in a strange land.

 

Shemot (Exodus) 2:11 And it came to pass in those days, when Moses was grown, that he went out unto his brethren, and looked on their burdens: and he spied an Egyptian smiting an Hebrew, one of his brethren. 12 And he looked this way and that way, and when he saw that there was no man, he slew the Egyptian, and hid him in the sand. 13 And when he went out the second day, behold, two men of the Hebrews strove together: and he said to him that did the wrong, Wherefore smitest thou thy fellow? 14 And he said, Who made thee a prince and a judge over us? intendest thou to kill me, as thou killedst the Egyptian? And Moses feared, and said, Surely this thing is known. 15 Now when Pharaoh heard this thing, he sought to slay Moses. But Moses fled from the face of Pharaoh, and dwelt in the land of Midian: and he sat down by a well.

 

Why did not Moshe deserve the death penalty? Why was he treated as an unintentional manslayer when he clearly intended to kill him?

 

Rashi says that Moshe killed the Egyptian with the explicit Divine Name (Shem HaMaforash).[29] The Malbim explains that a non-Jew who strikes a Jew is subject to the death penalty, but not at human hands, death from Heaven. This Moshe facilitated by invoking the Shem HaMaforash. Thus we see that Moshe was merely the conduit for HaShem to slay the Egyptian who was mistreating a Jew. Because Moshe was the conduit, the Torah tells us that Moshe slew the Egyptian.

 

Now, if you have difficulty with this explanation, consider that HaShem did not inflict any penalty on Moshe except galut, the penalty for unintentionally killing a man. Further, Moshe would later be chosen to be “king” of the Jews and to be the leader of the Jewish people for forty years. This is not the normal penalty for a murderer. Since HaShem dealt with Moshe midda-kneged-midda, we know that Moshe was only guilty of unintentional killing.

 

Midrash Rabbah - Deuteronomy II:29 THEN MOSES SEPARATED. R. Aibo said: When Moses fled he began to sing a song, as it is said, And dwelt in the land of Midian; and he sat down by a well  (Ex. II, 15). Just as Israel sang a song by a well, so too Moses sang a song by a well. R. Levi said: [He sang a song] because the section dealing with the homicide’s [flight] to the Cities of Refuge was carried into effect through him.

 

Exile In Megillat Ruth

 

In Sefer Ruth, Elimelech abandoned eretz Israel during the famine that struck Israel in the days of the judging of the judges. Since Elimelech was a leader of the generation with the financial resources to help the poor during this famine, his abandonment of the poor, undoubtedly, contributed to their deaths. While he exiled himself voluntarily, in the end HaShem insured that the exile was permanent. Elimelech never returned to eretz Israel.

 

In our study of Megillat Ruth, we saw that Elimelech’s exile is reminiscent of Adam’s exile. Like Adam’s exile that resulted in the birth of righteous Seth, so Elimelech’s exile led to the “dove from Moab”, Ruth.

 

The exile of Elimelech led to the fields of Moab. As we learned in our study of Ruth, we know that a field is a remez, a hint, to a place of Torah study. Elimelech’s exile led to Ruth’s exile. She, too, ended up in a field, the field of Boaz. Additionally, Ruth became a part of the messianic line.

 

Babylonian Galut

 

The Midrash makes an explicit connection between the cities of refuge and the Babylonian galut. This suggests that in general, if we see a galut we should look for the sin of inadvertent man slaying:

 

Midrash Rabbah - Numbers XXIII:14 THEN YE SHALL APPOINT YOU CITIES (XXXV, 11). It is also written, SIX CITIES OF REFUGE  (ib. 13). YE SHALL GIVE THREE CITIES BEYOND THE JORDAN, AND THREE CITIES SHALL YE GIVE IN THE LAND OF CANAAN  (ib. 14). There were three in the Land of Israel, in the west, and three beyond the Jordan, in the east, in the land of the children of Reuben, and the children of Gad, and half the tribe of Manasseh; as it says, Bezer in the wilderness, in the table-land, for the Reubenites; and Ramoth in Gilead, for the Gadites; and Golan in Bashan, for the Manassites (Deut. IV, 43). This gives you three in the east. The three in the west were: Hebron, belonging to Judah, Shechem in the hill-country of Ephraim--this was Neapolis--and Kedesh in Galilee, belonging to the tribe of Naphtali. Moses divided [Transjordan] among Reuben, Gad, and half the tribe of Manasseh, and set apart from these lands three cities; as it says, Then Moses separated three cities (ib. 41). But Joshua divided [the land] among all the tribes and gave to the tribe of Levi forty-eight cities, of which the priests took thirteen, the rest going to the Levites. Three cities of refuge they took in their lot, but in the Land the tribe of Levi took nothing. Why? They shall eat the offerings of the Lord made by fire, and His inheritance (ib. XVIII, 1). You find that Sennacherib carried them off in three sections. On the first occasion he exiled the Reubenites, Gadites, and half the tribe of Manasseh. On the second, the tribe of Zebulun and the tribe of Naphtali; as it says, In the former time he hath lightly afflicted the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali (Isa. VIII, 23). On the third occasion he exiled the rest of the tribes; as it says, But on the latter he hath dealt a more grievous blow--hikbid  (ib.); ‘Hikbid’ implies that he swept them out  (hikbidam) as with a broom  (makbed). Nebuchadnezzar also drove out the tribes of Judah and Benjamin in three installments. On the first occasion he exiled Jehoiakim and on the second Jehoiachin. What did he do to him? He bound him [and seated him] in his most honored carriage; as may be inferred from the text, ‘For behold I shall send her away like the queen-mother1; as a queen-mother is honored by men, so was Jehoiachin honored by Nebuchadnezzar. Nebuzaradan exiled Zedekiah This gives you three exiles. The Holy one, blessed be He, said: ‘In this world, as a result of iniquities, Israel were exiled and dispersed through the gates of the Land,’ as it says, And I fan them with a fan in the gates of the land (Jer. XV, 7). For Sennacherib was the lord of the world, and used to exile some to one place and others to another. He drove Israel to Babylon and brought those who were in Babylon here.3 In the time to come, however, If any of thine that are dispersed be in the uttermost parts of heaven, from thence will the Lord thy God gather thee, and from thence will He fetch thee (Deut. XXX, 4). And gather together the scattered of Judah from the four corners of the earth (Isa. XI, 12). Isaiah in the same strain says, The ransomed of the Lord shall return, and come with singing unto Zion, and everlasting joy shall be upon their heads; they shall obtain gladness and joy, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away (ib. XXXV, 10).

 

Mashiach ben Yosef and the Bne Israel

 

The sins of the Bne Israel resulted in the death of Yeshua HaMashiach, albeit inadvertently. That same generation that saw Yeshua crucified also saw the destruction of the Bet HaMikdash, the symbol of Mashiach’s body, and the subsequent galut; the longest galut in our history. The tikkun for our sins that inadvertently caused the death of Mashiach, is to go into galut to a take refuge in Mashiach, the ultimate place (makom) of Torah.

 

Chazal tell us that the first Temple was destroyed because Israel had violated the “cardinal sins” of idolatry, murder, and immorality, while the second Temple was destroyed because of baseless hatred:

 

Yoma 9b Why was the First Temple destroyed? Because of three things that occurred in it: Idolatry, unseemly provocative sexual behavior, and bloodshed... But the Second Temple, where they occupied themselves with Torah, Commandments and acts of benevolence, why was it destroyed? Because there was baseless hatred. This teaches that baseless hatred is equated with three sins: idolatry, provocative sexual behavior and bloodshed.

 

Now Mashiach has told us that hatred is related to killing in:

 

Matityahu (Matthew) 5:21 Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not kill; and whosoever shall kill shall be in danger of the judgment: 22  But I say unto you, That whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment: and whosoever shall say to his brother, Raca, shall be in danger of the council: but whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell fire. 23  Therefore if thou bring thy gift to the altar, and there rememberest that thy brother hath ought against thee; 24  Leave there thy gift before the altar, and go thy way; first be reconciled to thy brother, and then come and offer thy gift.

 

We can infer that our actions of unintentional man slaying was the cause of the destruction of the second Temple.

 

We can also understand that it is the atonement of Mashiach, The Living Torah, that will end this bitter exile. It is the death of Mashiach ben Yosef, our Kohen Gadol, which provides the atonement which will allow us to enter the Promised Land, our makom, under the leadership of Mashiach ben David!

 

Thus we see that the solution to the manslayer’s exile is Torah and that the ultimate end to our national exile is found in The Living Torah, Mashiach. We must seek to study Torah and perform the mitzvot in order to gain the atonement of galut.

 

The Yeshiva

 

Rebbi Yochanan states, in Makkoth 10, that if a Rosh Yeshiva killed accidentally, then his entire Yeshiva must go to galut with him to the Ir Miklat.

 

The sedei Yitzchak points out that the Gemara, in Makkoth 10a, teaches that when a student killed accidentally and is sent to Galut, his Rav must go with him.

 

Makkoth 10a A Tanna taught: A disciple who goes into banishment is joined in exile by his master, in accordance with the text, and that fleeing unto one of these cities he might live[30], which means — provide him with whatever he needs to live[31]. R. Ze’ira remarked that this is the basis of the dictum, ‘Let no one teach Mishnah to a disciple that is unworthy.’ R. Johanan said: A master who goes into banishment is joined in exile by his College. But that cannot be correct, seeing that R. Johanan said: Whence can it be shown [Scripturally] that the study of the Torah affords asylum[32]? From the verse, [Then Moses separated three cities . . .] Bezer in the wilderness . . . Ramoth... and Golan . . ., which is followed by, and this-the law which Moses set before the children of Israel[33]? — This [discrepancy] is not difficult [to explain]. One [of his sayings] is applicable to the scholar who maintains his learning in practice, while the other saying is applicable to him who does not maintain it in practice. Or, if you will, I might say that ‘asylum’ means refuge from the Angel of Death, as told of R. Hisda who was sitting and rehearsing his studies in the school-house and the Angel of Death could not approach him, as his mouth would not cease rehearsing. He [thereupon] perched upon a cedar of the school-house and, as the cedar cracked under him, R. Hisda paused and the Angel overpowered him[34].

 

The Gemara bases this ruling on the verse that says that the accidental killer “will flee to one of these cities and live”.[35] The phrase “and live” means that the exiled person must have the basic necessities for life, one of which is the ability to learn Torah, and therefore the Rav must go to the Ir Miklat with his student. Similarly, when a Rosh Yeshiva is sent to Galut, it is essential to his life that his students accompany him so that he will be able to teach Torah, for that is his life. In this vein, Rebbi states, in Makkoth 10, that “I learned much Torah from my teachers, and more from my colleagues, and from my students I learned most of all”. Accordingly, a Rav’s life of Torah hinges primarily on his relationship with his students. Once the Gemara establishes that this reason applies to a student, it certainly applies to a Rav as well.

 

Atonement

 

There are two different purposes for Galut. One purpose is to attain atonement. For the purpose of attaining atonement, a killer should flee to the Ir Miklat even if no one is pursuing him. The second purpose is the element of punishment. For the purpose of giving him a punishment, the Torah advises Beit Din to appoint a Go’el Hadam (redeemer of the blood) to pursue the killer.

 

 

Exile is also a form of atonement:

 

Makkoth 2b R. Johanan said that the sanction for this (substitutive penalty of a flogging) may be obtained by argument a fortiori, thus: Now, what do we find in the case of one who had effected his intended act [of murder]? He is not banished. Is it not then logical [to argue from this] that zomemim who had not [actually] effected their intended act should not be banished?

 

But does not this [very] argument point to a reverse conclusion? For is it not logical [to argue] that he who had effected the intended act [of murder] is not to go into banishment, so as not to obtain the possibility of atonement; whereas the zomemim who have not effected their intended act, should be allowed to go into banishment, so as to obtain the possibility of atonement? Hence the derivation as from the text, given by Resh Lakish, is the best.

 

Korban Pesach

 

The Cheshek Shlomo, in Makkoth, asks another question on the halacha that an accidental murderer cannot leave the Ir Miklat under any circumstance. He says that the implication is that he may not leave, even to eat the Korban Pesach. If one does not eat the Korban Pesach he is liable for kareit. [36] Why does the command of eating the Korban Pesach, which has the punishment of kareit if not eaten, not over-ride the mitzva of remaining in the Ir Miklat? According to the Ohr Somayach that explains that the reason why the accidental murderer may not leave the Ir Miklat is because this action endangers his life, we can answer this question as well. There is a mitzva that we should live by the mitzvot and not endanger our lives by performing the mitzvot. Since by leaving the Ir Miklat the accidental murderer will be endangering his life, he is not required to perform the mitzva of eating from the Korban Pesach.

 

Exceptions

 

In the Mishnayot and in the Gemara we find several cases where a person who killed accidentally is not exiled to an Ir Miklat. The Rambam[37] writes that there are two types of exemptions from exile. One form is when the accident was almost completely unforeseen, in which case there is no claim of negligence against the one who killed. In these cases the Go'el Hadam has no permission to kill him, and therefore, he does not need the protection of the Ir Miklat. Examples of this are one who killed "bederech aliyah" (while in upward motion) or a blind person who killed.

 

However, there are also people who are exempt from exile, because they were reckless or negligent, and their accident is considered close to being intentional murder. In these cases, if the Go'el Hadam kills him, the Goel Hadam would not be punished, and the perpetrator does not receive the protection of the Ir Miklat. These people will live the rest of their lives in fear of the Go'el Hadam. An example of this is one who knocked his wall down into the street, and a falling stone killed a passerby.

 

Thus, we have three types of people who kill by accident. The first is a person who killed by pure accident, but the situation was not completely unforeseen. For this case, the Torah, on the one hand allows the Go'el Hadam to pursue the murderer, but on the other hand gives him the protection of the Ir Miklat. The second is a person who took all the necessary precautions but nevertheless killed due to rare and exceptional circumstances. Here, the Go'el Hadam has no permission to kill him, and he therefore does not need the protection of the Ir Miklat. The third is a person who was reckless and killed another person. For him the Torah does not give any protection from the Go'el Hadam.

 

For The Land

 

The role of the Ir Miklat is not to protect the killer; rather, it is for the sake of the land. The Parashah records, “You shall not pollute the land in which you live; for blood pollutes the land, and the land can have no expiation for blood that is shed on it, except by the blood of he who shed it”.[38] Ibn Ezra explains that this Pasuk is referring to unintentional murderers. Even one who murdered by mistake is considered to have polluted the Earth with blood. He is therefore forced to go to a place where the soil is not tilled and the land not blessed.

 

Beyond The Jordan River

 

Galut in it’s literal sense means being removed from Eretz Israel. Arei Miklat are unique to Eretz Israel because they provide a kind of in-house galut. The solution to the land beyond the Jordan river question is that before the conquest of the land they were not part of Israel but they would eventually be a part of Israel. The explanation for this switch is that there can be no annex to a land until ownership of that land is established.

 

The fact that it was specifically Moshe who designates the Arei Miklat on the other side of the Jordan river is revealing. This alludes to a deep connection between Moshe and the land beyond the Jordan river. Sefer Devarim highlights the relationship between Moshe’s designating this area and the theme of Devarim, which is the process of Mishna Torah.[39]

 

In Devarim 4:41-44, the Torah connects Arei Miklat and the presentation of Mishna Torah. As Ibn Ezra points out in 4:41 on the words Az Yavdil Moshe “the explanation {for Arei Miklat being discussed here} is that the day that Moshe divided these cities is the same day that he spoke his words[40] of Brit”. The connection between the land beyond the Jordan river and Moshe’s final words is straightforward. Moshe needed to prepare this generation for their lives in Israel before they actually entered. A most appropriate place for such preparation is a place that, just like them, was not in Israel, but would one day be in Israel.

 

The opening pasukim of Deveraim 1:1-5 connect Moshe with the land beyond the Jordan river.[41] Within this link there lies a consolation for Moshe; even though Moshe was told that he would not be buried in Israel, his burial spot would one day be considered a part of Israel. There was a correlation between this place and this final speech both for those who would enter the land and for Moshe himself who would not enter Eretz Israel proper. For those who would enter Israel, the land beyond the Jordan river represented hope for the future, illustrated the idea that holiness can relace the mundane, that change can occur.

 

Rambam’s Mitzvot

 

Mitzva #408 requires the other tribes to allocate 48 cities scattered throughout Israel to the levites in place of tribal inherited agricultural land. In mitzva #342, we see that the cities of the levites were subject to zoning restrictions aimed at making them attractive and convenient. The mitzva to allocate these cities falls on the entire community, especially on the leaders who handle such matters. It is in effect when all the tribes are settled in Israel.

 

Six of those cities were arei miklat, although the other cities also provided an unintentional murderer protection under some circumstances.

 

In the root for this mitzva the author focuses on why the cities of the levites were chosen as the refuge for unintentional murderers. The levites were elevated by their special spiritual service. It was in recognition of their spiritual achievements that the Torah put places of refuge in their territory. The atmosphere of holiness might help the fugitive to repent of anything he or she had done wrong. And the levites could be counted on to care for and respect the fugitive rather than treating the fugitive badly, even if the fugitive had inadvertently killed a friend or relative of the levites. The levites would not be distracted from doing the right thing by personal feelings. Making the cities of the levites the arei miklat was a compliment to the levites.

 

For the institution of ir miklat to tamp down blood feuds, the judicial system that decides murder cases must be effective and respected. We have seen other mitzvot about judicial procedure, and we get more information on that topic here.

 

Mitzvot #410 and #413 govern a case where the court decides the killer killed unintentionally and must therefore go to the ir miklat. Killing someone is a serious matter even if the killing was unintentional, so the killer suffers serious penalty, moving from his or her home to a new place and living among strangers. Remember that communications and travel were very different in ancient times. That gets the killer away from the family of the victim, who might be tempted to take revenge if the killer was around. And the structure of the ir miklat provides protection from a revenge killing as long as the killer stays in the ir miklat. The beit din has a mitzvah to sentence an unintentional killer to exile in the ir miklat under appropriate circumstances. If they fail to do so, they bear some responsibility if the victim’s family takes revenge.

 

Any Jew might be subject to exile in the ir miklat for killing anyone, even if the victim was a slave or a convert. An slave who killed another slave or a convert was subject to exile. A son can be exiled for the unintentional killing of his father, and a father can be exiled for the unintentional killing of his son. But some people are entitled to use force against others. A father can physically discipline a child, and a teacher can physically discipline a student. If the father or teacher kill unintentionally during discipline, the father or teacher are not subject to exile. If a non-Jew, even a convert, unintentionally kills someone, the penalty is death rather than exile. We have seen before that the only punishment meted out to non-Jews is death. That notion begs for explanation, and unfortunately I do not have one.

 

Our rabbis formulated strict requirements for a killing that would require the perpetrator to be exiled to the ir miklat. The death must have occurred very promptly after the incident. If the victim lingered, there was always the possibility that something other than the perpetrator’s action caused the death. The court has to make sure that the killing was unintentional, that there was no enmity between the killer and victim before the incident. Another obscure requirement is that a killer is only exiled if the killed with a downward motion, not with an upward motion.

 

Someone exiled to an ir miklat lives as normal a life as possible in the ir miklat, and people associated with the exiled person may have to help make that happen. If a student is exiled, the student’s Torah teacher goes too. A husband continues to have some responsibility for the wellbeing of his wife in the ir miklat, and a master continues to have some responsibility for his slave in the ir miklat. The residents of the ir miklat can choose to honor someone exiled there as long as they know the honoree is an exile.

 

There is another rubric of refuge as well. The altar in the Temple serves as a refuge parallel to the ir miklat for a kohen in service at the Temple holding on to the upper edge of the altar. The court would send guards to take the kohen from the altar to the ir miklat, but the kohen would remain under the court’s protection so he was not subject to the revenge of the victim’s family. The altar also provides refuge to anyone fleeing death at the hands of the king. The author cites this topic to Rambam, but there is no obvious Biblical source.

 

The killer remains in the ir miklat until the kohen gadol dies. Then the killer is free to leave and a member of the victim’s family would be subject to the death penalty for killing him. If an unintentional killer dies before getting to the ir miklat, the killer’s body is buried there.

 

Just as there is a prohibition on allowing a convicted murderer to buy off punishment, there is a prohibition in mitzva #413 on allowing a killer sentenced to exile in an ir miklat to buy off the punishment.

 

City of Refuge = Torah

 

All of these unintentional manslayers went into galut because of their sin. They were forced to leave their makom, their place, because they caused others to lose their place in this world. The goal of the galut is the tikkun, the correction, of the individual that can be found in Torah. The reason for galut in the cities of refuge was to force the manslayer to study Torah and confront the mitzvot twenty-four hours a day. The constant interaction between the manslayer and the Levites would be life-changing and would enable the manslayer to change his heart.

 

From this, we understand that the Temple’s destruction and ensuing galut for which we mourn, on Tisha B’Ab. Exile is analogous to a city of refuge. Just as the inadvertent manslayer exiled himself to a city of refuge, so too, the Jewish people were exiled because of inadvertent sins. Their tikkun is found in their study of Torah.

 

At this point, we can shed new light on what lies behind Simchat Torah, which Chazal combined together with Shemini Atzeret, the day after Succoth. In Devarim (Deuteronomy) 4:41, the Torah relates that Moshe before his passing, set aside the three ‘Arei Miklot’ cities of refuge, on the eastern side of the Jordan. Immediately afterwards in Devarim 4:44, the pasukim teaches, ‘And this is the law which Moshe set before the children of Israel’. The Baal HaTurim points out that this pasuk comes to teach that a person must exile one’s self to a place of Torah, as is taught in:

 

Avot 4:14 Exile yourself to a place of Torah.

 

Rabeinu Bachya points out that the pasukim come to teach me that Torah protects a person even more than an ‘Ir Miklat’ (city of refuge) for the ‘Ir Miklat’ saves only for a sin done inadvertently while Torah saves from all sin. Furthermore, the Midrash describes a dialogue between Klal Israel and HaShem in which Klal Israel want to know how they will atone for their sins when the existence of cities of refuge will cease. HaShem’s answer is that there will always be Torah!

 

We can now appreciate Chazal’s choosing the day that follows Succoth as ‘Simchat Torah’. When we leave that succah that serves us as a refuge when we are forced to exile; we are distraught as to where will our salvation come from. Therefore Chazal made sure that we will choose this day to reach the greatest intimacy with the Torah, thereby appreciating it’s special quality of serving as our salvation and refuge at all times. These are certainly appropriate thought when we begin again the cycle of Torah reading with Bereshit and learn about Adam and Cain having had to undergo their respective exiles. We must remember that we have Torah that serves as the greatest refuge. May HaShem open our hearts and our eyes to appreciate and see the depth of His Torah!!

 

 

Chart of forty-two

 


 

The following chart details the corellations between the places in Bamidbar (Numbers) 33, the Shema, Matthew’s genealogy, and the cities of Refuge (arei miklat):

 

Camp

Meaning

Shema

Hebrew

Shema

English

Matthew

Genealogy

Cities of Refuge /

42 cities of the Leviim[42]

 

 

שמע

Hear

 

Golan - Passage

 

 

ישראל

Israel

 

Ramoth - Eminences

 

 

יהוה

HaShem

 

Bosor - Burning

 

 

אלהינו

Our G-d

 

Kedesh - Sanctuary

 

 

יהוה

HaShem

 

ShechemBack, Shoulder

 

 

אחד

one

 

Hebron - Society

Succoth - סכת

Temporary Shelters

וְאָהַבְתָּ

And you shall love

Abraham

Yattir – A remnant

Etham - אתם

Contemplation

אֵת

 

Isaac

Eshtemoa – Woman’s Bosom

Pi Hahiroth - החירת פי

Mouth of Freedom

יְהוָה

HaShem

Jacob

Cholon - Sandy

Marah - מרה

Bitterness

אֱלֹהֶיךָ

your G-d

Judah

Debir - word

Elim - אילם

Mighty men, Trees, Rams

בְּכָל

with all

Perez

Ayin - eye

Reed Sea - סוף ים

Reed Sea

לְבָבְךָ

your heart

Hezron

Yuttah – Turning away

Sin - סין

Desert of Clay

וּבְכָל

and with all

Ram

Beth-shemesh – House of the Sun

Dophkah - דפקה

Attack

נַפְשְׁךָ

your soul

Amminadab

Gibeon - Hill

Alush - אלוש

Wild

וּבְכָל

and with all

Nahshon

Geba - Cup

Rephidim - רפידם

Weakness

מְאֹדֶךָ

your might

Salmon

Anathoth - Poverty

Desert of Sinai - סיני מדבר

Hatred

וְהָיוּ

and they shall be

Boaz

Almon - Hidden

Kibroth Hattaavah - התאוה קברת

Graves of Craving

הַדְּבָרִים

the words

Obed

Gezer - Dividing

Chazeroth - חצרת

Courtyard

הָאֵלֶּה

these

Jesse

Kibzaim - Congregation

Rithmah - רתמה

Smoldering

אֲשֶׁר

which

David

Beth-horon – House of Wrath

Rimmon Perez - פרץ רמן

Spreading Pomegranate Tree

אָנֹכִי

I

Solomon

Elteke – Of grace

Livnah - לבנה

White Brick

מְצַוְּךָ

command

Rehoboam

Gibbethon – High House

Rissah - רסה

Well Stpped Up With Stones

הַיּוֹם

this day

Abijah

Aiyalon – Deer Field

Kehelathah - קהלתה

Assembly

עַל

shall be on

Asa

Gath-rimmon (Dan) – High wine-press

Shapher - שפר

Beautiful

לְבָבֶךָ

your heart

Jehoshaphat

Taanach – Who humbles thee

Haradah - חרדה

Terror

וְשִׁנַּנְתָּם

and diligently

Jehoram

Gath-rimmon (Mannashe) - High wine-press

Makheloth - מקהלת

Assemblies

לְבָנֶיךָ

you shall teach

Uzziah

Beeshterah – With Increase

Tahath - תחת

Bottom

וְדִבַּרְתָּ

and you shall speak

Jotham

Kishion - Hardness

Terah - תרח

Ibex

בָּם

of them

Ahaz

Dobrath - Words

Mithcah - מתקה

Sweet Delight

בְּשִׁבְתְּךָ

when you sit

Hezekiah

Yarmuth – Throwing Down

Chashmonah - חשמנה

Fruitfulness

בְּבֵיתֶךָ

in your house

Manasseh

En-gannim – Of Gardens

Moseroth - מסרות

Correction

וּבְלֶכְתְּךָ

and when you walk

Amon

Mishal – Parables, governing

Bene Jaakan - יעקן בני

Wise Son

בַדֶּרֶךְ

by the way

Josiah

Abdon - Servant

Char Haggidgad - הגדגד חר

Hole of the Cleft

וּבְשָׁכְבְּךָ

and when you lie down

Jeconiah

Helkath - Field

Yotvathah - יטבתה

Pleasantness

וּבְקוּמֶךָ

and when you rise up

Shealtiel

Rehob – Breadth, Space

Avronah - עברנה

Transitional

וּקְשַׁרְתָּם

and you shall bind them

Zerubbabel

Hammoth-dor – Hot springs generation

Etzion Geber - גבר עצין

Giant’s Backbone

לְאוֹת

for a sign

Abihud

Kartan – Two Cities

Kadesh (Rekem) - קדש

Sanctuary

עַל

upon

Eliakim

Yokneam – Building up, Possessing

Hor - הר

Mountain

יָדֶךָ

your hand

Azor

Kartah – Meeting, Calling

Tzalmonah - צלמנה

Shadiness

וְהָיוּ

and they shall be

Zadok

Dimnah - Dunghill

Punon - פונן

Perplexity

לְטֹטָפֹת

for frontlets

Akim

Nahalal - Pasture

Oboth - אבת

Necromancer

בֵּין

between

Elihud

Betzer – Remote Fortress

Iye Abarim - העברים עיי

Ruins of the Passes

עֵינֶיךָ

your eyes

Eleazar

Yachtzah – Trodden down

Divon Gad - גד דיבן

Sorrowing Overcomers

וּכְתַבְתָּם

and you shall write them

Matthan

Kedemot – Antiquity, Old Age

Almon Diblathaim - דבלתימה עלמן

Cake of Pressed Figs

עַל

on

Jacob

Mephaat – Appearance, or force, of waters

M’Hari Abarim - מֵהָרֵי הָעֲבָרִים

Mountains of the Passes

מְזֻזוֹת

the door-posts of

Joseph

Mahanaim – Two fields, Two Armies

Moab - מואב

Mother’s Father

בֵּיתֶךָ

your house

Mashiach

ben Joseph

Cheshbon - Reckoning

Beth Yeshimoth - הישמת בית

House of The Desolaton

וּבִשְׁעָרֶיךָ

and on your gates.

Mashiach

ben David

Yazer – Assistance, Helper

 

 

 

 


* * *

 


This study was written by

Rabbi Dr. Hillel ben David

(Greg Killian).

Comments may be submitted to:

 

Rabbi Dr. Greg Killian

4544 Highline Drive SE

Olympia, WA 98501

 

Internet address: gkilli@aol.com

Web page: http://www.betemunah.org/

 

(360) 918-2905

 

Return to The WATCHMAN home page

Send comments to Greg Killian at his email address: gkilli@aol.com



 



[1] The Kli Yakar notes that these forty-two cities correspond to the forty-two encampments of the Jews in the desert.

[2] Bamidbar 35:6

[3] An acronym for Torah, Neviim, and Ketuvim – the so-called Old Testament.

[4] Bamidbar (Numbers) 35:11, 35:12, 35:13, 35:14, 35:15, then 35:25, 35:26, 35:27, 35:28, 35:32.

[5] The first set of five teach us how to love HaShem.

[6] The second set of five teach us how to love our neighbor.

[7] Bereshit Rabbah 68:9: Shemot Rabba 45:6

[8] Devarim (Deuteronomy) 6:4-9, 11:13-21, Bamidbar (Numbers) 15:37-41

[9] The first paragraph of the Shema.

[10] All of the Jews.

[11] Deut. 6:4

[12] Deut. 6:9

[13] Deut. 6:4-9

[14] Ohev Yisrael

[15] Orach Chaim 61:3

[16] This is the Sefardi custom.

[17] This is the Ashkenazi custom.

[18] Oheiv Yisrael from Apt.

[19] Rambam, Mishneh Torah, Laws of the Murderer, 8:9

[20] Mishna, Tractate Kiddushin, 1:2

[21] Mid. Devarim Rabbah, Lieberman, p.60; Tan. Buber ad loc.

[22] Mid. Tan., Bereishith 9

[23] Bereshit (Genesis) 47:21, see Rashi

[24] All males over 20 years of age except: Joshua, Caleb, and the tribe of Lev. All of the women also survived.

[25] Har HaMoriah = Mount Moriah.

[26] Sanhedrin 38b

[27] A court.

[28] Measure-for-measure.

[29] The YHVH - יהוה name.

[30] Devarim  4:42.

[31] I.e., also the spiritual life.

[32] Refuge from evil and wrong-doing. Cf. Sot. 21a.

[33] Devarim 4:41-45.

[34] Cf. Shab. 30b, a similar incident about King David, and B.M. 86a, about Rabbah b. Nahmani.

[35] Devarim (Deuteronomy) 4:42

[36] Cut off

[37] Hilchot Rotze'ach 6, 1-4

[38] Bamidbar 35:33

[39] Moshe’s words of review and farewell

[40] Mishna Torah

[41] Mentioning it twice, explicitly telling us this is where Moshe was to begin his Mishna Torah speech.

[42] Yehoshua (Joshua) chapter 21