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Dvar for Shoftim (Deuteronomy 16:18-21:9)

Among the many topics discussed in Parshat Shoftim is the concept of cities of refuge for those that inadvertently killed another. The Torah says that these cities are a way to avoid spilling the innocent blood of the accidental perpetrator (18:10) by the original victim’s avenging family. However, if the Torah was concerned about avoiding innocent blood being spilled, shouldn’t the initial accidental death be addressed and avoided? Why is the Torah seemingly only concerned with the accidental killer’s fate?

Rabbi David Forhrman explains that while accidents happen, how we react to mishaps is more important, as it’s something we can control, rather than something that controls us. While the accidental killer didn’t do enough to safeguard the friend he killed, our society provides that protection to him, as a form of kindness as well as justice. This helps us in so many ways: It helps the killer learn what it means to be protective of others, it builds a society focused on safeguarding those that need it, and it increases overall mindfulness of others. 

Shlomo Ressler