Parshat Moss’ay & Real Sanctuary Cities

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[based on snippets from Rabbi Moshe Chaim Armoni shlit”a’s “Bati L’Armoni: Drushim on the Parsha According to the PRDS”, Parashat Moss’ay]

Cave of the Patriarchs
Cave of the Patriarchs

In the US and Canada, “sanctuary cities” can arguably be defined as a criminal’s haven or even breeding spots for crime. Technically, they are cities where undocumented or illegal immigrants are not persecuted or prosecuted. In Israel, Um el-Fakhem has been dubbed a sanctuary city for terrorists, not only because the three terrorists who killed our policemen on Friday were from this village, but the terrorist who attacked the café in Tel Aviv escaped to this very village too.

Actually, this world provides infinite signs, hints, and messages as to the bigger picture and workings of this world provided by Torah, like the current parallel discussions of sanctuary cities

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Upon our Am’s upcoming crossing the Jordan River into our promised land, Hashem instructs us, in this week’s second parsha, to build six arei miklat, sactuary cities. The six are actually three laterally parallel pairs of cities, one of each of the pairs on the west side of the Jordan and their twins on the east. The west-of-the-Jordan northern city, Kedesh, is in the upper Galilee near what is today Moshav Ramot Naftali and Kibbutz Yiftach, west of the Hula Valley. The central city is Shchem – what the Romans named Napolin or Napolis and which the Arabs today call Nablus – and the southern city is Kiryat Arba-Hevron (Yehoshua 20: 7). In equal distances east of the Jordan as their twins west of the Jordan are Golan (opposite Kedesh), Ramot (opposite Shchem), and Betzer (opposite Hevron) (Dvarim 4: 43).

The Sefer haChinuch expands on this explaining that the location of the three cities east of the Jordan River were established by Moshe Rabbenu, the location of the three on the west, by Yehoshua Bin Noon, and that Melech HaMashiach will add yet three more sanctuary cities (Mitzvah 500-10). Moreover, Chazal tell us that each of the 42 Levite cities also “koltot” – i.e. serve as sanctuary cities (Tractate Makot 10a).

To explain all this, the Midrash goes all the way back to Adam, noting that he was expelled for bringing death to all generations. Therefore, the rest of world outside Eden, or the world in its entirety, became Adam’s “sanctuary city”. Any attempt to leave the sanctuary city – by trying to return to the Garden of Eden – would endanger him of meeting up with the goel dom, the blood avenger, being the Angel of Death, i.e. the yetzer hara (Midrash Rabba 23, 13).

That is, spiritually (by the pnimiyut) “murder” is the general term for all transgressions, because they spill kedusha to the klipa (Bati L’Armoni p. 305). Adam did not intend to “murder”. His intent was to “be like God knowing good and evil” and thus he is charged, not as mezid (wilful) but as killing b’shogeg (unintentionally).

The Chinuch notes that cities of refuge only apply when Yisrael is on their land – i.e. in the Land of Israel. Moreover, the Gemara explains that “divrei Torah koltin” (Tractate Makot 10a). That is, learning Torah is the ‘sanctuary city’ of our era.

Shabbat Shalom.

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