In this portion the Torah discusses matters that help perfect one's body. The body viewed as the sheath of the soul, has also been created in the image of G‑d (Gen.1:27). This is why if someone kills another creature created in G‑d's image, he himself will be killed as an appropriate act of retribution. By his deed he has separated a soul from its body (i.e. sheath) hence his own soul will be separated from its sheath. Avenging the murdered person is the only means to restore the harmony that existed…

The act of murder is viewed as if the murderer had also severed the life of the soul in the celestial regions from its "body" in those regions. Although such separation would have occurred sooner or later anyway [by the natural death of the victim, Ed.], the murderer is punished for having brought this about prematurely. Hence his own soul will not find its resting place until the murder has been avenged. This principle explains the strange story related in Kings I, chapter 21 of the judicial murder of Navot through Jezebel and king Ahab. We are told that the "spirit" of the slain Navot volunteered to seduce king Ahab into sinning by listening to his false prophets and that the Heavenly Tribunal concurred in this act of deviousness by the "spirit" of Navot. (Kings I 22:21)

As a result, Ahab was killed in a battle with Aram which served the ostensibly patriotic purpose of recapturing the city of Yavesh Gilead [which the Aramites had wrested from the Jewish state some considerable period earlier].

Clearly, the soul, i.e. Ruach, of Navot had not been able to come to rest due to the premature death of its body, and this may be why the Ruach was permitted to act in its own personal interest. Avenging the murdered person is the only means to restore the harmony that existed between body and soul prior to the murder.

We can now understand why, even if the family of the victim or the court were to agree to it, payment of a ransom would not restore the equilibrium which had been upset previously…As long as the victim of the murder has not been appeased, there can be no question of the deed having been atoned for.

When the death of the victim is due to an unintentional act however, the Torah does not consider him guilty of bloodshed. Clearly, the death of the victim was an act of G‑d, i.e. the attribute of Justice chose as its instrument someone who had committed some other undetected offense. The killer had unconsciously carried out G‑d's design in all those cases where he had not planned to kill the victim with a lethal instrument. The killer has to flee to the city of refuge, one of the cities of the Levites. Those cities are regarded as sites of judgment. The Levites themselves represent the sefira of gevura in the pattern chesed-gevura-tiferet, a pattern that corresponds to the respective levels of kohen-levi-israel. A soul that is separated from its body…needs to…a place where souls hover until the death of the High Priest

This unintentional killer must remain in the city of refuge until the death of the High Priest (35:25). This is because when the body of the victim was slain, also his soul was taken from him and had to remain in exile until a time when G‑d is in a favorable frame of mind.

At the time the High Priest dies, when his soul ascends to the Celestial Regions, the soul of the murder victim is then also allowed to proceed to those regions. We find that such is the case even when the souls in question had not been separated from their bodies through murder. A soul which is "exiled" may be released from such exile as a result of the death of a great person, i.e. a prominent tzadik. The Mekor Chayim on the Zohar finds an allusion to the statement of our sages that "the righteous may be granted children when they have died, though they had no children during their lifetime," in the words "he has to remain in his city of refuge until the death," [This means that as long as the soul of the righteous was held captive by its body it could not become a parent. Ed]

This demonstrates retroactively that all G‑d's actions are based on truth, and that He shows His mercy to all. A soul that is separated from its body and does not have any "clothing" to accompany it to the higher world [since it did not leave children behind in this world], and therefore lacks a go-el [redeemer] needs to remain for a while in the "city of refuge", i.e. a place where souls hover until the death of the High Priest who is the Torah scholar. He does not require a redeemer.

If the High Priest leaves a widow and no children, the levirate marriage rules do not apply to such a widow [in the sense that she need not enter into a marriage with a brother of her late husband in order to perpetuate his name on this earth]. If she does so nonetheless, it is for the benefit of other souls who are homeless in a region between This World and the World to Come. These souls wait for the time when they can be suitably "dressed", in order to proceed to their ultimate destination. The High Priest widow's late husband's "continuity", i.e. his name, has been maintained even though he did not leave behind physical issue. So far the commentary of the Mekor Chayim.

[Translated and adapted by Eliyahu Munk.]