SALT - Wednesday, 28 Tammuz 5779 - July 31, 2019

  • Rav David Silverberg
            The Torah in Parashat Masei presents the law of arei miklat – the cities that were designated as places where people who accidentally killed somebody can find refuge from the victim’s relative who might seek revenge.  It is clear from both the text as well as the discussions of this law in Masekhet Makkot that the killer is required to flee to an ir miklat, as his relocation serves not only the purpose of protection, but also as punishment for his irresponsible, negligent behavior which led to the loss of life.  The killer is required to remain in the ir miklat until the death of the kohen gadol (35:28).
            The Mishna (Makkot 12b) addresses the case of somebody who accidentally killed inside an ir miklat.  Rashi explains that the case is one where a person had relocated in an ir miklat because he accidentally killed, and while residing there, he accidentally killed a second time.  The Mishna rules that the person in this case must relocate from one section of the city to another.  The reason, as Rashi explains, is because he is not permitted to leave the city due to his initial accidental murder, but the second accidental murder requires him to relocate.  The solution, then, is for him to move from one neighborhood to another.
            By contrast, the Mishna states, if a permanent resident of the ir miklat (meaning, a Levi who lived in the city, as the arei miklat were inhabited by Leviyim) accidentally killed within the city, he must relocate to a different ir miklat.  As he never killed before, he is, obviously, permitted to leave the city, and therefore, now that he accidentally killed and is required to exile to an ir miklat, he must relocate in a different city of refuge.
            Rav Yaakov Ettlinger, in his Arukh La-ner, addresses a different case – that of a person who visits an ir miklat, and during his stay in the city he accidentally kills somebody.  This case presents the interesting question as to whether it suffices for this individual to simply remain in the city, or if he must flee to a different ir miklat.  Intuitively, we might assume that since the ir miklat is away from his home, he fulfills his exile obligation by remaining there in the city.  Alternatively, however, one could contend that there is an obligation to actually go through the process of moving and relocating after committing an accidental murder.  The requirement, according to this perspective, is not to reside in an ir miklat, but rather to journey to an ir miklat and then live there.  If so, then one who visits an ir miklat and accidentally kills would be required to move to a different ir miklat.
            Rav Ettlinger suggests answering this question based on a berayta cited by the Gemara (there in Masekhet Makkot), which is understood by the Rambam (Hilkhot Rotzei’ach 7:5) as discussing the opposite case – where a permanent resident of an ir miklat accidentally kills when he was away from his city.  The killer in this case is permitted to simply go home and reside there as usual.  The berayta infers this halakha from the Torah’s command in Parashat Masei (35:28), “be-ir miklato yeisheiv” – “he shall reside in his city of refuge” – which could be read as referring to the case of a permanent resident of the city.  Although such a person must relocate to a different city if he accidentally killed inside his city, he may reside in his hometown if the accidental murder occurred outside the city.  This appears to prove that the requirement is to journey to a city of refuge and remain there, and not necessarily to leave one’s home.  Rav Ettlinger thus concludes that in the converse case, of a visitor to an ir miklat who accidentally kills inside the city, he must leave and journey to a different city, as the requirement is not fulfilled by remaining in the ir miklat, even though the city is far from the killer’s home.