When a Torah scholar is exiled to a city of refuge, his teacher is exiled together with him. This is derived from Deuteronomy 19:5, which states: "He shall flee to one of these cities, and he shall live." Implied, is that everything necessary for his life must be provided for him. Therefore, a scholar must be provided with his teacher, for the life of one who possesses knowledge without Torah study is considered to be death. Similarly, if a teacher is exiled, his academy is exiled with him.
When a servant is exiled to a city of refuge, his master is not obligated to provide for his sustenance. The income from his labor, however, belongs to his master.
When a woman is exiled to a city of refuge, her husband is obligated to provide for her sustenance. For he cannot tell her: "Take the fruits of your labor in exchange for your sustenance," unless the woman is capable of earning a sufficient amount to provide for herself.
When a killer was sentenced to exile and died before the sentence was implemented, his bones should be taken to a city of refuge and buried there.
When a killer dies in his city of refuge, he should be buried there. When the High Priest dies, the bones of the killer may be taken to his ancestral plot.
When any of the other Levites who live in the city of refuge dies, he should not be buried within the city or within its Sabbath boundary. As Numbers 35:3 states: "Their open space will be for their animals, for their property and for all their life." Implied is that these cities were given for life, and not for burial.
When a killer kills accidentally in a city of refuge, he should be exiled from one neighborhood to another. He should not depart from the city.
Similarly, when a Levite kills in one of his own cities, he should be exiled to another one of the cities of the Levites. For they all serve as a haven, as will be explained. If he killed outside the cities of the Levites and fled to his own city, that city serves as a haven for him.
When the majority of the inhabitants of a city of refuge are killers, it no longer serves as a haven. This is derived from Joshua 20:4, which speaks of the designation of the cities of refuge and states: "And the killer will speak his words in the ears of the elders of the city." Implied is that there is a distinction between their words and his words.
Similarly, a city that does not have elders does not serve as a haven, for it is written: "The elders of that city."
When a killer was exiled to a city of refuge, and the inhabitants of the city desire to show him honor, he should tell them: "I am a killer."
If they say, "We desire to honor you regardless," he may accept the honor from them.
A person who was exiled to a city of refuge should never leave his city of refuge, not even to perform a mitzvah or to deliver testimony - neither testimony involving monetary matters, nor testimony involving a capital case. He should not leave even if he can save a life by delivering testimony, or he can save a person from gentiles, from a river, from a fire or from an avalanche. This applies even if he is a person like Yoav ben Tz'ruyah, upon whom the salvation of the entire Jewish people may depend. He should never leave the city of refuge until the death of the High Priest. If he departs, he has allowed for his death, as explained.
When it is said that a killer may return after the death of the High Priest, the intent is a High Priest anointed with the anointing oil, one who assumed his office through wearing his vestments, one who performs the service of a High Priest, and one who was removed from his office. When any of these four die, a killer may return from his city of refuge.
When, by contrast, a priest anointed to lead the nation in war dies, a killer may not return, for this priest is considered to be an ordinary priest.
The following individuals are exiled and never return from their exile:
a) a person who was sentenced to exile at a time when the office of High Priest was not filled;
b) a person who killed a High Priest unintentionally and there was no other High Priest; or
c) a High Priest who killed unintentionally and there was no other High Priest.
If, however, the killer was sentenced, but the High Priest died before the killer was actually exiled, he is not required to go into exile.
If before the killer was sentenced, the High Priest dies, and another High Priest was appointed in his stead, and then the sentence of exile was delivered, the killer returns after the death of the second High Priest, the one in whose term of office he was sentenced.
If a killer was sentenced and it was discovered that the High Priest was the son of a divorcee or the son of a woman who underwent chalitzah, the High Priesthood is negated. It is as if he were sentenced without there having been a High Priest; he may never leave his city of refuge.
When a killer returns to his city after the death of the High Priest, he is considered to be an ordinary citizen. If the blood redeemer slays him, the blood redeemer should be executed, for the killer has already gained atonement through exile.
Although the killer has gained atonement, he should never return to a position of authority that he previously held. Instead, he should be diminished in stature for his entire life, because of this great calamity that he caused.
Although a person who intentionally injures his father is liable to be executed by the court just like a person who kills another person, if a person unintentionally injured his parents, he is not liable for exile. For the Torah prescribed exile only for a person who unintentionally killed another man, as we have stated.
Published and copyright by Moznaim Publications, all rights reserved.
To purchase this book or the entire series, please click here.
The text on this page contains sacred literature. Please do not deface or discard.
Moznaim is the publisher of the Nehardaa Shas, a new, state-of-the-art edition of the Talmud and all major commentaries in 20 volumes. Click here to purchase or email the publisher at firstname.lastname@example.org
The progeny of Abraham are likened to the dust of the earth (Genesis 13:16), and to the stars of the heavens (Genesis 15:5). For when they fall they fall as low as dust, and when they rise they rise as high as the stars...