The closing section of parashat Massai and the entire book of Numbers deals with the "Cities of Refuge" (Num. 35:11). If a person accidentally killed someone else, he was given the opportunity to escape to the cities of refuge where he was protected from the revenge of the victim's family, until the court could judge and release him from the death sentence.

The verse says, "A soul [in Hebrew 'nefesh'] that strikes by accident…." (Num. 35:11) The Lubavitcher Rebbe teaches that the word "Nefesh", while being used here to refer to a person, is also one of the words used to describe the G‑dly soul. "a 'nefesh' that strikes" - can also be understood as a state of sin which causes a spiritual outpouring of vitality to go from the realm of purity to the realm of impurity (Likutei Torah,Bamidbar13:3). The Torah teaches that a Jewish person's essential nature is to oppose sin, so as not to become separated from G‑dliness. Therefore, the third word, "unintentionally", tells us that any sin is really committed by accident. The rectification and atonement for a serious, yet unintentional, misdeed is to exile oneself to a City of Refuge.

The Jewish people were exiled because of accidental sins….

From this, we understand that exile is analogous to a City of Refuge. Just as the accidental sinner exiled himself to a City of Refuge, so too, the Jewish people were exiled because of accidental sins.

And, just as the Torah guarantees that the exiled person will be judged and released, so too, the Almighty will vindicate us and redeem us from this exile with the final and true redemption. This is especially so after so many heartbreaking and difficult years of exile, all of the promises of redemption, and the multitude of positive deeds and repentance performed by the Jewish people during this exile.

The very last portion of the book of Numbers is Massai, in which are listed all of the journeys of the Jewish people in the desert. The journeys began with the exodus from Egypt (in Hebrew, "Mitzrayim" - a hint to "Bein Hamaitzarim", the Hebrew term for the Three Weeks). The last journey brought them to the Holy Land, a hint to the Final Redemption.

We must rectify this behavior by creating true unity between Jews….

Upon completing the book of Numbers, the congregation announces "Chazak, chazak, v'nitchazek!" - 'Be strong, be strong and strengthen ourselves!" G‑d is pumping even more energy into us at this critical time when we must be strong even in the face of the apparent exile.

What can we do to bring the redemption? The second Temple was destroyed because of baseless hatred, a drastic lack of unity between Jews. Now, we must rectify this behavior by creating true unity between Jews. This must begin with each and every one of us identifying ourselves as an integral part of the Jewish people. May there be no "unaffiliated" among us. If you do not already, join a Jewish community or do something to identify yourself as a Jew. Do something nice for another Jewish person - a nice word, some charity, a kindly or favorable thought. DO SOMETHING! Through every Jewish person making an effort, we will shift the balance of the entire world for good, and G‑d will have no choice but to bring the final and true redemption now.

Shabbat Shalom, Shaul

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