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Steinsaltz

Refuge was written on signs at every crossroads marking the path to a city of refuge, so that the unintentional murderer would identify the route to the city of refuge and turn to go there. Rav Kahana said: What is the verse from which this is derived? “Prepare for you the road” (Deuteronomy 19:3), meaning: Perform for you preparation of the road.

§ Apropos that halakha, the Gemara cites that Rav Ḥama bar Ḥanina introduced this portion with regard to the halakhot of exile with an introduction from here: “Good and upright is God; therefore He directs sinners along the way” (Psalms 25:8). He said: If He directs sinners by commanding the placing of signs directing them to the city of refuge, it may be inferred a fortiori that He will assist and direct the righteous along the path of righteousness.

Rabbi Shimon ben Lakish introduced this portion with an introduction from here: It is stated with regard to an unintentional murderer: “And one who did not lie in wait, but God caused it to come to his hand, and I will appoint you a place where he may flee” (Exodus 21:13). Now this is puzzling. Why would God cause one to sin in this manner? The verse states: “As the ancient parable says: From the wicked comes forth wickedness” (I Samuel 24:13). Evil incidents befall those who have already sinned.

Reish Lakish explains: In this light, the verse “But God caused it to come to his hand” may be understood. With regard to what scenario is the verse speaking? It is with regard to two people who killed a person, where one killed unintentionally while the other killed intentionally. For this person there are no witnesses to his action, and for that person there are no witnesses to his action; therefore, neither received the appropriate punishment of exile and execution, respectively. The Holy One, Blessed be He, summons them to one inn. This person who killed intentionally sits beneath a ladder, and that person who killed unintentionally descends the ladder, and he falls upon him and kills him. There were witnesses to that incident and therefore, that person who killed intentionally is killed, and that person who killed unintentionally is exiled, each receiving what he deserved.

Apropos the path upon which God leads people, the Gemara cites a statement that Rabba bar Rav Huna says that Rav Huna says, and some say it was a statement that Rav Huna says that Rabbi Elazar says: From the Torah, from the Prophets, and from the Writings one learns that along the path a person wishes to proceed, one leads and assists him.

One learns this from the Torah, as it is written that initially God said to Balaam with regard to the contingent dispatched by Balak: “You shall not go with them” (Numbers 22:12). After Balaam implored Him and indicated his desire to go with them, it is written: “Arise, go with them” (Numbers 22:20). One learns this from the Prophets, as it is written: “I am the Lord your God, Who teaches you for your profit, Who leads you on the path that you go” (Isaiah 48:17), indicating that along the path that one seeks to go, God will direct him. One learns this from the Writings, as it is written: “If one seeks the cynics, He will cause him to join the cynics, but to the humble He will give grace” (Proverbs 3:34), indicating that if one chooses cynicism God will direct him there and if he opts for humility God will grant him grace.

§ The Gemara resumes its discussion of the halakhot of exile. Rav Huna says: In the case of an unintentional murderer who was exiled to a city of refuge, and the blood redeemer found him on the way and killed him, he is exempt. The Gemara notes: Rav Huna holds that the verse: “Lest the blood redeemer pursue the murderer…and strike him fatally…and for him there is no sentence of death, as he did not hate him from before” (Deuteronomy 19:6), is written with regard to the blood redeemer, teaching that the blood redeemer is not liable to be executed for killing the murderer.

The Gemara raises an objection to the opinion of Rav Huna from a baraita: “And for him there is no sentence of death”; the verse is speaking with regard to the unintentional murderer, teaching that the unintentional murderer is not liable to be executed. That is why the Jewish people were commanded to establish cities of refuge to protect him. The baraita proceeds to prove that the verse is written with regard to the murderer. Do you say that it is speaking with regard to the unintentional murderer, or is it speaking only with regard to the blood redeemer? When it states in an earlier verse: “And he did not hate him from before” (Deuteronomy 19:4), it is clear that the reference is to the unintentional murderer, and therefore, you must say that in the phrase: “And for him there is no sentence of death,” the verse is speaking with regard to the unintentional murderer.

The Gemara answers: Rav Huna states his opinion in accordance with the opinion of that following tanna, as it is taught in another baraita: “And for him there is no sentence of death”; the verse is speaking with regard to the blood redeemer. The baraita clarifies: Do you say that it is speaking with regard to the blood redeemer, or is it speaking only with regard to the unintentional murderer? When it states: “As he did not hate him from before,” the unintentional murderer is already stated, as that phrase certainly is referring to him. How do I realize the meaning of the verse: “And for him there is no sentence of death”? It is with regard to the blood redeemer that the verse is speaking.

The Gemara cites proof concerning Rav Huna’s ruling from the mishna. We learned in the mishna: And they would provide the unintentional murderer fleeing to a city of refuge with two Torah scholars, due to the concern that perhaps the blood redeemer will seek to kill him in transit, and in that case they will talk to the blood redeemer. The Gemara asks: What, is it not that the Torah scholars forewarn him that if he kills the unintentional murderer he would be liable to be executed? That contradicts Rav Huna’s opinion that a blood redeemer who kills the unintentional murderer is exempt.

The Gemara rejects this proof: No, the statement of the Torah scholars to the blood redeemer can be explained as it is taught in a baraita: And they will speak to him about matters appropriate to him. They say to the blood redeemer: Do not accord him treatment appropriate for murderers, as it was unintentionally that he came to be involved in the incident. Rabbi Meir says: The unintentional murderer too speaks [medabber] on his own behalf to dissuade the blood redeemer, as it is stated: “And this is the matter [devar] of the murderer, who shall flee there and live” (Deuteronomy 19:4), indicating that the murderer himself apologizes and speaks to the blood redeemer. The Sages said to Rabbi Meir: Many matters are performed more effectively through agency.

The Gemara analyzes the baraita. The Master says in the baraita: It was unintentionally that he came to be involved in the incident. The Gemara asks: Isn’t this obvious? As, if it were intentionally that he killed a person, is he liable to be exiled? The Gemara answers: Yes, even intentional murderers flee to a city of refuge on occasion.

The Gemara continues: And so it is taught in a baraita: Rabbi Yosei, son of Rabbi Yehuda, says: Initially, either one who killed another unintentionally or one who killed another intentionally would hurry and flee to the cities of refuge, and the court in his city would send for him and would bring him from there to stand trial.

The baraita continues: With regard to one who was found liable to receive the death penalty for intentional murder, after the trial the court would execute him, as it is stated: “And the elders of his city shall send and take him from there and deliver him into the hands of the blood redeemer and he shall die” (Deuteronomy 19:12). And with regard to one who was not found liable to receive the death penalty, e.g., if they deemed that it was due to circumstances beyond his control, they freed him, as it is stated: “And the congregation shall rescue the murderer from the hands of the blood redeemer” (Numbers 35:25). With regard to one who was found liable to be exiled, the court would restore him to his place in the city of refuge, as it is stated: “And the congregation shall judge between the murderer and the blood redeemer…and the congregation shall restore him to his city of refuge, that he fled there” (Numbers 35:24–25).

The baraita continues: Rabbi Yehuda HaNasi says: The Torah does not command intentional murderers to flee to a city of refuge; rather, the Torah is cognizant of the fact that in practice, intentional murderers would exile themselves on their own, as they thought that they would be admitted to these cities, which would provide refuge for both unintentional and intentional murderers, and they do not know that only those who murder unintentionally are admitted to these cities, but those who murder intentionally are not admitted.

§ Rabbi Elazar says: An unintentional murderer is not admitted to a city of refuge whose majority consists of unintentional murderers, as it is stated with regard to an unintentional murderer who fled to a city of refuge: “And he shall speak his matters in the ears of the elders of that city” (Joshua 20:4), indicating that there is some novel element in the matters that he seeks to convey to the elders of the town, but not when their matters are equal to his matters, as those elders made the same statements when they arrived at the city of refuge as unintentional murderers.

And Rabbi Elazar says: An unintentional murderer is not admitted to a city in which there are no elders, as we require the fulfillment of the verse: “And he shall speak in the ears of the elders of the city” (Joshua 20:4), and there are none. It was stated: A city in which there are no elders is the subject of a dispute between Rabbi Ami and Rabbi Asi. One says: An unintentional murderer is admitted there, and one says: An unintentional murderer is not admitted there. The Gemara explains: According to the one who says that an unintentional murderer is not admitted to a city in which there are no elders, his reasoning is due to the fact that we require the presence of the elders of the city and there are none. According to the one who says that an unintentional murderer is admitted there, his reasoning is that he holds that speaking to the elders is merely a mitzva ab initio, but it does not affect the city’s status as a city of refuge.

And a city in which there are no elders is the subject of another dispute between Rabbi Ami and Rabbi Asi. One says: One can become a wayward and rebellious son in it. And one says: One cannot become a wayward and rebellious son in it. The Gemara explains: According to the one who says that one cannot become wayward and rebellious son in it, it is due to the fact that we require the presence of the elders of the city, as it is written: “And his father and mother shall take hold of him and bring him out to the elders of his city and the gate of his place” (Deuteronomy 21:19), and there are none. According to the one who says that one can become a wayward and rebellious son in it, the presence of the elders is merely a mitzva ab initio.

And a city in which there are no elders is the subject of another dispute between Rabbi Ami and Rabbi Asi. One says: If a corpse was discovered proximate to that city, the inhabitants of the city bring a heifer whose neck is broken. And one says: The inhabitants of the city do not bring a heifer whose neck is broken. The Gemara explains: According to the one who says that the inhabitants of the city do not bring a heifer whose neck is broken, it is due to the fact that we require the presence of the elders of the city, as it is written: “And the elders of that city shall bring the calf down to a rough valley” (Deuteronomy 21:4), and there are no elders. According to the one who says that the inhabitants of the city bring a heifer whose neck is broken, the presence of the elders is merely a mitzva ab initio.

§ Rabbi Ḥama bar Ḥanina says: For what reason was the portion discussing murderers stated

Talmud - Bavli - The William Davidson digital edition of the Koren No=C3=A9 Talmud
with commentary by Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz Even-Israel (CC-BY-NC 4.0)
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