There are three categories of unintentional killers.


שְׁלֹשָׁה הֵם הַהוֹרְגִים בְּלֹא כַּוָּנָה:


There is a person who kills unintentionally, without at all knowing that this will be the consequence of his actions. Concerning such a person, Exodus 21:13 says: "Who did not lay in ambush." The law applying to such a person is that he should be exiled to a city of refuge, as we have explained in the previous chapter.


יֵשׁ הוֹרֵג בִּשְׁגָגָה וְהַעֲלָמָה גְּמוּרָה וְזֶהוּ שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר בּוֹ (שמות כא יג) "וַאֲשֶׁר לֹא צָדָה". וְדִינוֹ שֶׁיִּגְלֶה לְעָרֵי מִקְלָט וְיִנָּצֵל כְּמוֹ שֶׁבֵּאַרְנוּ:


There is a person who kills unintentionally, whose acts resemble those caused by forces beyond his control - i.e., that the death will be caused by an extraordinary phenomenon that does not commonly occur. Such a person is not liable to be exiled, and if he is slain by the blood redeemer, the blood redeemer should be executed for killing him.


וְיֵשׁ הוֹרֵג וְתִהְיֶה הַשְּׁגָגָה קָרוֹב לְאֹנֶס וְהוּא שֶׁיֶּאֱרַע בְּמִיתַת זֶה מְאֹרָע פֶּלֶא שֶׁאֵינוֹ מָצוּי בְּרֹב מְאֹרְעוֹת בְּנֵי אָדָם. וְדִינוֹ שֶׁהוּא פָּטוּר מִן הַגָּלוּת. וְאִם הֲרָגוֹ גּוֹאֵל הַדָּם נֶהֱרָג עָלָיו:


There is a person who kills unintentionally, whose acts resemble those willfully perpetrated - e.g., they involve negligence or that care should have been taken with regard to a certain factor and it was not. Such a person is not sentenced to exile, because his sin is very severe and exile cannot bring him atonement, nor do the cities of refuge served as a haven for him. For they serve as a haven only for those obligated to be exiled. Therefore, if the blood redeemer finds this killer anywhere and slays him, he is not liable.


וְיֵשׁ הוֹרֵג בִּשְׁגָגָה וְתִהְיֶה הַשְּׁגָגָה קְרוֹבָה לְזָדוֹן וְהוּא שֶׁיִּהְיֶה בַּדָּבָר כְּמוֹ פְּשִׁיעָה. אוֹ שֶׁהָיָה לוֹ לְהִזָּהֵר וְלֹא נִזְהַר. וְדִינוֹ שֶׁאֵינוֹ גּוֹלֶה מִפְּנֵי שֶׁעֲוֹנוֹ חָמוּר אֵין גָּלוּת מְכַפֶּרֶת לוֹ וְאֵין עָרֵי מִקְלָט קוֹלְטוֹת אוֹתוֹ שֶׁאֵינָן קוֹלְטוֹת אֶלָּא הַמְחֻיָּב גָּלוּת בִּלְבַד. לְפִיכָךְ אִם מְצָאוֹ גּוֹאֵל הַדָּם בְּכָל מָקוֹם וַהֲרָגוֹ פָּטוּר:


What should such a person do? Sit and protect himself from the blood redeemer.

Similarly, if the blood redeemer slays any of the murderers whose acts were observed by only one witness, or who were not given a warning or the like, the blood redeemer is not liable for execution. Killing such individuals should not be considered more severe than killing a person who killed unintentionally.


וּמַה יַּעֲשֶׂה זֶה. יֵשֵׁב וְיִשְׁמֹר עַצְמוֹ מִגּוֹאֵל הַדָּם. וְכֵן כָּל הָרַצְחָנִים שֶׁהָרְגוּ בְּעֵד אֶחָד אוֹ בְּלֹא הַתְרָאָה וְכַיּוֹצֵא בָּהֶן אִם הֲרָגָן גּוֹאֵל הַדָּם אֵין לָהֶם דָּמִים. לֹא יִהְיוּ אֵלּוּ חֲמוּרִים מֵהַהוֹרֵג בְּלֹא כַּוָּנָה:

Mishneh Torah (Moznaim)

Featuring a modern English translation and a commentary that presents a digest of the centuries of Torah scholarship which have been devoted to the study of the Mishneh Torah by Maimonides.


What does the above imply? When a person throws a stone into the public domain and it causes death or he tears down his wall into the public domain, and a stone falls and causes death - whether he tears down the wall during the day or during the night - he is considered to be close to having acted intentionally. A city of refuge does not serve as a haven for him. For he should have checked the surroundings and then thrown the stone or torn down the wall.


כֵּיצַד. הַזּוֹרֵק אֶבֶן לִרְשׁוּת הָרַבִּים וְהָרְגָה אוֹ הַסּוֹתֵר כָּתְלוֹ לִרְשׁוּת הָרַבִּים וְנָפְלָה אֶבֶן וְהֵמִיתָה. בֵּין שֶׁסְּתָרוֹ בַּיּוֹם בֵּין שֶׁסְּתָרוֹ בַּלַּיְלָה הֲרֵי זֶה קָרוֹב לְמֵזִיד וְאֵינוֹ נִקְלָט מִפְּנֵי שֶׁזּוֹ פְּשִׁיעוּת הִיא שֶׁהֲרֵי הָיָה לוֹ לְעַיֵּן וְאַחַר כָּךְ יִזְרֹק אוֹ יִסְתֹּר:


The following rules apply if a person tears down a wall into a garbage dump at night. If it is likely that people are there, he is considered to be close to having acted intentionally, and a city of refuge does not serve as a haven for him. If people are never found there, the death is considered close to having been caused by forces beyond his control, and he is not liable for exile.


סְתָרוֹ לָאַשְׁפָּה בַּלַּיְלָה אִם הָרַבִּים מְצוּיִין בָּהּ הֲרֵי זֶה קָרוֹב לְמֵזִיד וְאֵינוֹ נִקְלָט וְאִם אֵין הָרַבִּים מְצוּיִין בָּהּ כְּלָל הֲרֵי זֶה קָרוֹב לְאֹנֶס וּפָטוּר מִן הַגָּלוּת:


Different rules apply if people would use a garbage dump to relieve themselves at night, but would not use it for this purpose during the daytime. If it happened that a person sat there during the day, and he was killed by a stone that came from a person tearing down his wall, the person who tore down his wall should be exiled.

If after the stone began to fall, the person came and sat down, and the stone struck him and caused his death, the person who tore down his wall is not liable to be exiled.


הָיְתָה הָאַשְׁפָּה עֲשׂוּיָה לְהִפָּנוֹת בָּהּ בַּלַּיְלָה וְאֵינָהּ עֲשׂוּיָה לְהִפָּנוֹת בָּהּ בַּיּוֹם וְנִקְרָה אָדָם וְיָשַׁב שָׁם וְנָפְלָה עָלָיו אֶבֶן בִּשְׁעַת סְתִירָה וּמֵת הֲרֵי זֶה גּוֹלֶה. וְאִם אַחַר שֶׁנָּפְלָה הָאֶבֶן בָּא זֶה וְיָשַׁב וְנָפְלָה עָלָיו וּמֵת הֲרֵי זֶה פָּטוּר מִן הַגָּלוּת:


Similarly, if a person threw a stone into the public domain, and after the stone left his hand, the victim stuck his head out from a window and was struck by it, the person who threw the stone is not liable for exile. This is derived from Deuteronomy 19:5, which states: "the iron slips from the wood and finds his fellow." This excludes an instance when the victim causes himself to be found by the iron or other object that causes death.


וְכֵן הַזּוֹרֵק אֶת הָאֶבֶן וְאַחַר שֶׁיָּצָאת מִיָּדוֹ הוֹצִיא הַלָּה אֶת רֹאשׁוֹ וְקִבְּלָהּ פָּטוּר מִגָּלוּת שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (דברים יט ה) "וּמָצָא אֶת רֵעֵהוּ" פְּרָט לְמַמְצִיא עַצְמוֹ:


When a person who hates the victim kills unintentionally, the city of refuge does not serve as a haven for him. This is implied by Numbers 35:23, which states that a person who is exiled: "is not the victim's enemy." We operate under the presumption that one who is an enemy is close to having acted willfully.

Who is considered to be an enemy? A person who did not speak to the victim for at least three days because of animosity.

Similarly, all the following individuals are considered close to having acted willfully, and a city of refuge does not serve as a haven for them:

a) a person who entered an intersection holding an open knife in his hand without realizing that the victim was approaching from the other side and unintentionally stabbed him, causing his death;

b) a person who unintentionally pushed a colleague to his death with his body and not with his hands;

c) a person who intended to throw a stone that could kill two cubits, and instead threw it four;

d) a person who thought that it was permitted to kill;

e) a person who intended to kill one person and instead killed another. This applies even if he intended to kill a gentile or an animal and instead killed a Jew.


הַשּׂוֹנֵא שֶׁהָרַג בִּשְׁגָגָה אֵינוֹ נִקְלָט שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (במדבר לה כג) "וְהוּא לֹא אוֹיֵב לוֹ" חֶזְקָתוֹ שֶׁהוּא קָרוֹב לְמֵזִיד. וְאֵי זֶהוּ שׂוֹנֵא זֶה שֶׁלֹּא דִּבֵּר עִמּוֹ שְׁלֹשָׁה יָמִים מִפְּנֵי הָאֵיבָה. וְכֵן אִם נִכְנַס לְקֶרֶן זָוִית וֶהֱמִיתוֹ שָׁם בִּשְׁגָגָה אוֹ שֶׁדְּחָפוֹ בְּגוּפוֹ אוֹ נִתְכַּוֵּן לִזְרֹק שְׁתַּיִם וְזָרַק אַרְבַּע. אוֹ שֶׁעָלָה עַל דַּעְתּוֹ שֶׁמֻּתָּר לַהֲרֹג. אוֹ שֶׁנִּתְכַּוֵּן לַהֲרֹג אֶת זֶה וְהָרַג אֶת זֶה אֲפִלּוּ נִתְכַּוֵּן לַהֲרֹג עַכּוּ''ם אוֹ בְּהֵמָה וְנִמְצָא יִשְׂרָאֵל הֲרֵי כָּל אֵלּוּ קְרוֹבִין לְמֵזִיד וְאֵינָן נִקְלָטִין:


When a person enters a courtyard of a homeowner without permission, and the homeowner kills him unintentionally, the homeowner is not liable to be exiled as can be inferred from Deuteronomy 19:5, which, when describing a person who must be exiled speaks of one: "Who encounters his colleague in the forest." Our Sages commented: A forest is a place that the victim has the right to enter. Similarly, in all such places, and only in such places, is a killer liable to be exiled.

Therefore, if a person enters a carpenter's shop without permission, and a block of wood flies forth and strikes him in the face and kills him, and he dies, the carpenter is not liable to be exiled. If he entered with permission, the carpenter should be exiled.


הַנִּכְנָס לַחֲצַר בַּעַל הַבַּיִת שֶׁלֹּא בִּרְשׁוּת וַהֲרָגוֹ בַּעַל הַבַּיִת בִּשְׁגָגָה פָּטוּר מִן הַגָּלוּת שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (דברים יט ה) "וַאֲשֶׁר יָבֹא אֶת רֵעֵהוּ בַיַּעַר" מָה יַעַר שֶׁיֵּשׁ רְשׁוּת לַנֶּהֱרָג לְהִכָּנֵס לְשָׁם אַף כָּל כַּיּוֹצֵא בּוֹ. לְפִיכָךְ הַנִּכְנָס לַחֲנוּת הַנַּגָּר שֶׁלֹּא בִּרְשׁוּת וְנִתְּזָה בְּקַעַת וְטָפְחָה לוֹ עַל פָּנָיו וּמֵת פָּטוּר מִגָּלוּת. וְאִם נִכְנַס בִּרְשׁוּת הֲרֵי זֶה גּוֹלֶה:


When a person was lifting a barrel with a pulley to bring it up to a roof, and the the rope broke, causing it to fall on a colleague, or a person was climbing up a ladder and fell on a colleague and killed him, the person who caused the death is not liable to be exiled. This is considered to be something beyond his control. For this is not something that is likely to happen, but is rather an extraordinary occurrence.

If, by contrast, a person was lowering a barrel with a rope and it fell on a colleague and killed him, he was descending on a ladder and fell on a colleague, or he was shining with a polisher and it fell on a colleague and killed him, the person responsible should be exiled.

This is derived from Numbers 35:23, which states: "And it fell upon him, and he died," implying that the article must descend in an ordinary manner. An object that descends frequently causes damage. Indeed, it is likely that this will happen, for the nature of a heavy object is to descend downward speedily. Therefore, if the person did not hurry and act appropriately and properly while the object descended, he is responsible and should be exiled. The same applies in other analogous situations.


מִי שֶׁהָיָה דּוֹלֶה אֶת הֶחָבִית לְהַעֲלוֹתָהּ לַגַּג. וְנִפְסַק הַחֶבֶל וְנָפְלָה עַל חֲבֵרוֹ וַהֲרָגַתְהוּ. אוֹ שֶׁהָיָה עוֹלֶה בַּסֻּלָּם וְנָפַל עַל חֲבֵרוֹ וַהֲרָגוֹ. פָּטוּר מִן הַגָּלוּת. שֶׁזֶּה כְּמוֹ אָנוּס הוּא. שֶׁאֵין זֶה דָּבָר הַקָּרוֹב לִהְיוֹת בְּרֹב הָעִתִּים אֶלָּא כְּמוֹ פֶּלֶא הוּא. אֲבָל אִם הָיָה מְשַׁלְשֵׁל אֶת הֶחָבִית וְנָפְלָה עַל חֲבֵרוֹ וַהֲרָגַתְהוּ. הָיָה יוֹרֵד בַּסֻּלָּם וְנָפַל עַל חֲבֵרוֹ. הָיָה מְעַגֵּל בְּמַעְגֵּלָה וְנָפְלָה עַל חֲבֵרוֹ וַהֲרָגַתְהוּ. גּוֹלֶה. שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (במדבר לה כג) "וַיַּפֵּל עָלָיו וַיָּמֹת" שֶׁיִּפּל דֶּרֶךְ נְפִילָה. שֶׁהֲרֵי דֶּרֶךְ נְפִילָה מָצוּי בְּרֹב הָעִתִּים לְהַזִּיק וְדָבָר קָרוֹב הוּא לִהְיוֹת. שֶׁהֲרֵי טֶבַע הַכָּבֵד לֵירֵד לְמַטָּה בִּמְהֵרָה. וְהוֹאִיל וְלֹא זֵרֵז עַצְמוֹ וְתִקֵּן מַעֲשָׂיו יָפֶה בִּשְׁעַת יְרִידָה יִגְלֶה. וְכֵן כָּל כַּיּוֹצֵא בָּזֶה:


The following rules apply when a butcher was cutting meat and lifted his hands backward while holding a cleaver, and then brought them forward to break a bone, as butchers do. If anyone is killed while he draws the cleaver back - i.e., while he lifts it up in front of him or while he causes it to descend behind him, the butcher is not exiled. If anyone is killed when he brings the cleaver forward - i.e., while he lifts it up behind him or while he causes it to descend in front of him - the butcher should be exiled.

This is the governing principle. Whenever the object that kills is descending, the person responsible should be exiled. If it is not descending, he should not be exiled. Even a descent for the purpose of ascent does not cause the person to be exiled.


קַצָּב שֶׁהָיָה מְקַצֵּב וְהִגְבִּיהַּ יָדוֹ בַּקּוֹפִיץ לַאֲחוֹרָיו וְהֶחֱזִירוֹ לִשְׁבֹּר הָעֶצֶם כְּדֶרֶךְ שֶׁעוֹשִׂין הַקַּצָּבִים. כָּל שֶׁיָּמוּת בַּהוֹלָכָה שֶׁהִיא הַהַגְבָּהָה מִלְּפָנָיו וִירִידָה מֵאַחֲרָיו אֵינוֹ גּוֹלֶה עָלָיו. וְכָל שֶׁיָּמוּת בַּחֲזָרָה שֶׁהִיא עֲלִיָּה מֵאַחֲרָיו וִירִידָה מִלְּפָנָיו גּוֹלֶה. זֶה הַכְּלָל כָּל שֶׁבְּדֶרֶךְ יְרִידָתוֹ גּוֹלֶה שֶׁלֹּא בְּדֶרֶךְ יְרִידָתוֹ אֵינוֹ גּוֹלֶה. וַאֲפִלּוּ בִּירִידָה שֶׁהִיא צֹרֶךְ עֲלִיָּה אֵינוֹ גּוֹלֶה:


What is an example of a "descent for the purpose of an ascent"? If a person was ascending on a ladder, and a rung gave way under his feet and fell and caused death, the person climbing is not obligated to be exiled.

Similarly, in the following situations, the death is considered close to having been caused by factors beyond the control of the individuals involved and they are not exiled:

a) a person intended to throw an article in one direction and it went in another direction,

b) a person had a stone in his bosom that he had never been made aware of and when he stood up it fell, or

c) a blind man killed someone unintentionally.


כֵּיצַד. הָיָה עוֹלֶה בַּסֻּלָּם וְנִשְׁמְטָה שְׁלִיבָה מִתַּחַת רַגְלָיו וְנָפְלָה וְהֵמִיתָה פָּטוּר מִן הַגָּלוּת. וְכֵן הַמִּתְכַּוֵּן לִזְרֹק בְּצַד זֶה וְהָלְכָה לָהּ לְצַד אַחֵר אוֹ שֶׁהָיְתָה לוֹ אֶבֶן מֻנַּחַת בְּחֵיקוֹ וְלֹא הִכִּיר בָּהּ מֵעוֹלָם וְעָמַד וְנָפְלָה וְהֵמִיתָה. וְכֵן הַסּוּמָא שֶׁהָרַג בִּשְׁגָגָה. כָּל אֵלּוּ פְּטוּרִין מִן הַגָּלוּת מִפְּנֵי שֶׁהֵן קְרוֹבִין לְאֹנֶס:


If there was a stone in his bosom that he was aware of and he forgot it, and then he stood up, the stone fell and caused death, he is exiled, as implied by Numbers 35:15, which mentions the death taking place "unintentionally." From the use of that term, we can infer that he knew of the stone's existence beforehand.

If the iron slips from the axe rebounding from the tree he is chopping, he is not exiled, because this does not come from his own force, but from the effect generated by his force. Thus, it is like a factor that is beyond his control.

Similarly, if a person throws a stone into a date palm to knock down dates, and the dates fall on an infant and kill him, the person who throws the stone is not liable to be exiled, because the infant was killed, not by force that he generated, but from the effect generated by his force. Similar principles apply with regard to other blows brought about by analogous situations.


הָיְתָה אֶבֶן בְּחֵיקוֹ וְהִכִּיר בָּהּ וּשְׁכָחָהּ וְעָמַד וְנָפְלָה וְהֵמִיתָה גּוֹלֶה שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (במדבר לה יא) "בִּשְׁגָגָה" מִכְּלָל שֶׁהָיְתָה לוֹ יְדִיעָה. נִשְׁמַט הַבַּרְזֶל מִן הָעֵץ הַמִּתְבַּקֵּעַ אֵינוֹ גּוֹלֶה מִפְּנֵי שֶׁאֵין זֶה בָּא מִכֹּחוֹ אֶלָּא מִכֹּחַ כֹּחוֹ וְנִמְצָא כְּמוֹ אֹנֶס. וְכֵן הַזּוֹרֵק אֶבֶן לְתָמָר לְהַפִּיל תְּמָרִים וְנָפְלוּ מִן הַתְּמָרִים עַל תִּינוֹק וַהֲרָגוּהוּ פָּטוּר מִפְּנֵי שֶׁנָּפְלוּ מִכֹּחַ כֹּחוֹ. וְכֵן כָּל כַּיּוֹצֵא בָּזֶה מִשְּׁאָר הַסִּבּוֹת: