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Rotzeach uShmirat Nefesh - Chapter Eight

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Rotzeach uShmirat Nefesh - Chapter Eight


It is a positive commandment to set aside cities of refuge, as Deuteronomy 19:2 states: "You shall set aside three cities." The practice of setting aside cities of refuge applies only in Eretz Yisrael.


מִצְוַת עֲשֵׂה לְהַפְרִישׁ עָרֵי מִקְלָט שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (דברים יט ב) "שָׁלוֹשׁ עָרִים תַּבְדִּיל לָךְ". וְאֵין עָרֵי מִקְלָט נוֹהֲגוֹת אֶלָּא בְּאֶרֶץ יִשְׂרָאֵל:


There were six cities of refuge. Three Moses our teacher set aside in TransJordan, and three Joshua set aside in the land of Canaan.


וְשֵׁשׁ עָרִים הָיוּ. שָׁלֹשׁ הִבְדִּיל משֶׁה רַבֵּנוּ בְּעֵבֶר הַיַּרְדֵּן. וְשָׁלֹשׁ הִבְדִּיל יְהוֹשֻׁעַ בְּאֶרֶץ כְּנַעַן:


None of the cities of refuge served as a haven until they were all set aside, as implied by Numbers 35:13: "There shall be six cities of refuge for you." And so, Moses informed us that the three cities of refuge in TransJordan did not serve as a haven until the three in the land of Canaan were set aside.

If so, why did Moses set them aside? He said: "Since a mitzvah came to my hand, I will fulfill it."


אֵין אַחַת מֵעָרֵי מִקְלָט קוֹלֶטֶת עַד שֶׁיֻּבְדְּלוּ כֻּלָּן. שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (במדבר לה יג) "שֵׁשׁ עָרֵי מִקְלָט תִּהְיֶינָה לָכֶם". וְהוֹדִיעָנוּ משֶׁה רַבֵּנוּ שֶׁאֵין שָׁלֹשׁ שֶׁבְּעֵבֶר הַיַּרְדֵּן קוֹלְטוֹת עַד שֶׁיֻּבְדְּלוּ שָׁלֹשׁ שֶׁבְּאֶרֶץ כְּנַעַן. וְלָמָּה הִבְדִּילָן אָמַר הוֹאִיל וּבָאָה מִצְוָה לְיָדִי אֲקַיְּמֶנָּה:


In the era of the King Mashiach, three other cities will be added to these six, as Deuteronomy 19:9 states: "And you shall add three other cities to these three cities."

Where are these cities added? In the cities of the Keni, K'nizi, and the Kadmoni, concerning which a covenant was made with Abraham, but which have not yet been conquered. Concerning these cities, the Torah ibid.:8 says: "And if God, your Lord, will expand your boundaries...."


בִּימֵי הַמֶּלֶךְ הַמָּשִׁיחַ מוֹסִיפִין שָׁלֹשׁ אֲחֵרוֹת עַל אֵלּוּ הַשֵּׁשׁ. שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (דברים יט ט) "וְיָסַפְתָּ לְךָ עוֹד שָׁלֹשׁ עָרִים עַל הַשָּׁלֹשׁ הָאֵלֶּה". וְהֵיכָן מוֹסִיפִין אוֹתָן בְּעָרֵי הַקֵּינִי וְהַקְּנִזִּי וְהַקַּדְמוֹנִי שֶׁנִּכְרַת לְאַבְרָהָם אָבִינוּ בְּרִית עֲלֵיהֶן וַעֲדַיִן לֹא נִכְבְּשׁוּ וַעֲלֵיהֶן נֶאֱמַר בַּתּוֹרָה (דברים יט ח) "וְאִם יַרְחִיב ה' אֱלֹהֶיךָ אֶת גְּבֻלְךָ":


The Jewish court is obligated to construct roads leading to the cities of refuge; they should be maintained and widened. Any stumbling block and obstacle should be removed from them.

On these roads neither a hill, a valley, nor a river should be left. Instead, a bridge should be built across so as not to impede a person fleeing there. This is all implied by Deuteronomy 19:3, which states: "You shall prepare the road for yourselves."

The width of the road to the city of refuge should not be less than 32 cubits. Signs stating "Refuge, refuge," should be written at intersections, so that killers would be aware of the way and turn there.


וְחַיָּבִין בֵּית דִּין לְכַוֵּן הַדְּרָכִים לְעָרֵי מִקְלָט לְתַקְּנָם וּלְהַרְחִיבָן. וּמְסִירִין מֵהֶן כָּל מִכְשׁוֹל וְכָל תַּקָּלָה. וְאֵין מַנִּיחִין בַּדֶּרֶךְ לֹא תֵּל וְלֹא גַּיְא וְלֹא נָהָר. אֶלָּא עוֹשִׂין עָלָיו גֶּשֶׁר כְּדֵי שֶׁלֹּא לְעַכֵּב אֶת הַבּוֹרֵחַ לְשָׁם. שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (דברים יט ג) "תָּכִין לְךָ הַדֶּרֶךְ". וְרֹחַב דֶּרֶךְ עָרֵי מִקְלָט אֵין פָּחוֹת מִשְּׁלֹשִׁים וּשְׁתַּיִם אַמּוֹת. וּמִקְלָט מִקְלָט הָיָה כָּתוּב עַל פָּרָשַׁת דְּרָכִים כְּדֵי שֶׁיַּכִּירוּ הָרַצְחָנִים וְיִפְנוּ לְשָׁם:


Every year, on the fifteenth of Adar, the court would send out emissaries to inspect the roads leading to the cities of refuge. Wherever they found flaws, they would have them repaired. If a court was dilatory regarding this matter, it is considered as if they shed blood.


בַּחֲמִשָּׁה עָשָׂר בַּאֲדָר בְּכָל שָׁנָה בֵּית דִּין מוֹצִיאִין שְׁלוּחִים לְתַקֵּן הַדְּרָכִים. וְכָל מָקוֹם שֶׁמְּצָאוּהוּ שֶׁנִּתְקַלְקֵל מְתַקְּנִים אוֹתוֹ. וּבֵית דִּין שֶׁנִּתְרַשְּׁלוּ בְּדָבָר זֶה מַעֲלֶה עֲלֵיהֶן הַכָּתוּב כְּאִלּוּ שָׁפְכוּ דָּמִים:


When the cities of refuge were first set aside, they would measure from one city to another to determine whether they were set aside in equal measures. This is also implied by the verse: "You shall prepare the road for yourselves."


וְכֵן מוֹשְׁחִין בֵּין כָּל עִיר וְעִיר מֵעָרֵי מִקְלָט בִּתְחִלַּת הַפְרָשָׁתָן עַד שֶׁיִּהְיוּ מְשֻׁלָּשׁוֹת בְּשָׁוֶה. שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (דברים יט ג) "תָּכִין לְךָ הַדֶּרֶךְ":


The cities of refuge that are designated should not be big cities or metropolises, nor should they be small villages. Instead, they should be cities of intermediate size.

They should be located solely in trading places, where water is found. If there is no water near them, water should be diverted toward them. They should located solely in a populated area. If the surrounding populace is reduced, it should be increased. If the number of inhabitants of the city of refuge decrease, priests, Levites, and Israelites should be brought to live there.

Snares may not be set in such a city, nor may rope traps be set there, so that the blood redeemer will not come there.


עָרֵי מִקְלָט אֵין עוֹשִׂין אוֹתָן לֹא עֲיָרוֹת גְּדוֹלוֹת וְלֹא כְּרַכִּים גְּדוֹלִים וְלֹא קְטַנִּים אֶלָּא עֲיָרוֹת בֵּינוֹנִיּוֹת. וְאֵין מוֹשִׁיבִין אוֹתָן אֶלָּא בִּמְקוֹם שְׁוָקִים וּבִמְקוֹם הַמַּיִם. וְאִם אֵין שָׁם מַיִם מַכְנִיסִין לְתוֹכָן מַיִם. וְאֵין מוֹשִׁיבִין אוֹתָן אֶלָּא בִּמְקוֹם אֻכְלוּסִין. נִתְמַעֲטוּ אֻכְלוּסֵיהֶן מוֹסִיפִין עֲלֵיהֶן. נִתְמַעֲטוּ דִּיּוּרֵיהֶן מַכְנִיסִין לְתוֹכָן כֹּהֲנִים לְוִיִּים וְיִשְׂרְאֵלִים. וְאֵין פּוֹרְסִין בְּתוֹכָן מְצוּדוֹת וְאֵין מַפְשִׁילִין בְּתוֹכָן חֲבָלִים כְּדֵי שֶׁלֹּא יִהְיֶה רֶגֶל גּוֹאֵל הַדָּם מְצוּיָה שָׁם:


All of the cities of the Levites serve as a haven; each is a city of refuge. This is indicated by Numbers 35:6-7: "And in addition to them, you shall give them 42 cities. All the cities that you shall give the Levites shall be 48 in number." The verse thus established an association between them; all of them serve as havens.


כָּל עָרֵי הַלְוִיִּם קוֹלְטוֹת וְכָל אַחַת מֵהֶן עִיר מִקְלָט הִיא. שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (במדבר לה ו) "וַעֲלֵיהֶם תִּתְּנוּ אַרְבָּעִים וּשְׁתַּיִם עִיר" (במדבר לה ז) "כָּל הֶעָרִים אֲשֶׁר תִּתְּנוּ לַלְוִיִּם אַרְבָּעִים וּשְׁמֹנֶה עִיר". הִקִּישָׁן הַכָּתוּב כֻּלָּן זוֹ לָזוֹ לִקְלֹט:


What then is the difference between those cities that are set aside as cities of refuge, and the other cities of the Levites?

The cities of refuge serve as havens whether one enters them with the intent of taking refuge or one enters them without that intent; since a killer enters their confines, they serve as a haven for him. The other cities of the Levites serve as a haven only when one enters with that intent in mind.

Also, a killer who lives in a designated city of refuge does not have to pay rent. If, by contrast, he lives in another one of the cities of the Levites, he must pay his landlord rent.


וּמַה הֶפְרֵשׁ יֵשׁ בֵּין עָרֵי מִקְלָט שֶׁהֻבְדְּלוּ לְמִקְלָט וּבֵין שְׁאָר עָרֵי הַלְוִיִּם. שֶׁעָרֵי מִקְלָט קוֹלְטוֹת בֵּין לְדַעַת בֵּין שֶׁלֹּא לְדַעַת הוֹאִיל וְנִכְנַס בָּהֶן נִקְלָט. וּשְׁאָר עָרֵי הַלְוִיִּם אֵינָן קוֹלְטוֹת אֶלָּא לְדַעַת. וְרוֹצֵחַ הַדָּר בְּעָרֵי מִקְלָט אֵינוֹ נוֹתֵן שְׂכַר בֵּיתוֹ. וְהַדָּר בִּשְׁאָר עָרֵי הַלְוִיִּם נוֹתֵן שָׂכָר לְבַעַל הַבַּיִת:


Whenever a city serves as a haven, the surrounding area also serves as a haven.

When a tree is standing within the limits of a city of refuge and its leaves extend beyond those limits, once a killer comes below its leaves they serve as a haven for him. If a tree stands outside the limits and its leaves extend within those limits, as soon as he reaches its trunk it serves as a haven for him. If the blood redeemer kills him there, he should be executed.

Even though the surrounding area of a city serves as a haven, a killer should not dwell there, as [implied by Numbers 35:25: "He shall dwell in it," i.e., not in its surrounding area.


כָּל עִיר הַקּוֹלֶטֶת תְּחוּמָהּ קוֹלֵט כָּמוֹהָ. אִילָן שֶׁעוֹמֵד בְּתוֹךְ תְּחוּם עָרֵי מִקְלָט וְנוֹפוֹ נוֹטֶה חוּץ לַתְּחוּם מִשֶּׁיַּגִּיעַ תַּחַת הַנּוֹף נִקְלָט. הָיָה עוֹמֵד חוּץ לַתְּחוּם וְנוֹפוֹ נוֹטֶה לְתוֹךְ הַתְּחוּם מִשֶּׁיַּגִּיעַ לְעִקָּרוֹ נִקְלָט וְהַהוֹרְגוֹ שָׁם נֶהֱרָג עָלָיו. וְאַף עַל פִּי שֶׁהַתְּחוּם קוֹלֵט אֵין הָרוֹצֵחַ דָּר בּוֹ שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (במדבר לה כה) "וְיָשַׁב בָּהּ" בָּהּ וְלֹא בִּתְחוּמָהּ:

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The Mishneh Torah was the Rambam's (Rabbi Moses ben Maimon) magnum opus, a work spanning hundreds of chapters and describing all of the laws mentioned in the Torah. To this day it is the only work that details all of Jewish observance, including those laws which are only applicable when the Holy Temple is in place. Participating in one of the annual study cycles of these laws (3 chapters/day, 1 chapter/day, or Sefer Hamitzvot) is a way we can play a small but essential part in rebuilding the final Temple.
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