Thursday, July 24, 2014

Masei 5774

The congregation shall return him [the murderer] to the city of refuge…and he shall remain there until the Kohen Gadol (High Priest)…dies.” (Bamidbar/Numbers 35:25) 

In this week’s Torah portion the six cities of refuge are established. These are intended as places of asylum for those who have accidentally killed someone. The murderer had to remain in the city of refuge until the death of the Kohen Gadol.

The Mishna (Makkot 11a) notes that the mother of the Kohen Gadol would bring food and clothing to the accidental murderers/refugees. Why would she do this?

The Mishna explains that she would do this so that the refugees would not pray for the death of her son. But what would keep the refugees from enjoying the care packages and then praying for the Kohen Gadol’s death?

Rabbi Ozer Alport on cites the explanation of Rabbi Shlomo Eisenblatt: “Her [the mother’s] focus was not to guarantee that nobody would pray for the death of her son, which would have been unrealistic, but rather to ensure that even if they did pray, their petitions would be denied…The power of a pure and truly heartfelt prayer is so great that even if it is uttered by somebody whose carelessness resulted in the death of another Jew, and even if his request is for something as audacious as the death of the Kohen Gadol, if he cries out to G-d with all his heart, he may well be answered.”

“Although the feelings of gratitude that the accidental murderers felt toward the mother of the Kohen Gadol may not have been sufficient to stop them from praying altogether, they were enough to ensure that they would be unable to pray with their entire hearts, and the smallest reduction in the purity and intensity of their petitions was enough to prevent them from being answered.”

Rabbi Mordechai Kamenetzky on provides further explanation. ”The mission of the Kohen Gadol’s mother was not just to distribute food. It was to develop a bond with those people whose carelessness spurred a death. They saw the love a parent had for her son as she subconsciously pled with the inmates to spare her child. They saw how a total stranger, despite her great esteem, would make sure that their needs in the city of refuge were cared for…After developing an awareness of life, they would never be able to pray for the death of anyone, even if it meant their own freedom.”

As parents, we must constantly demonstrate to our children our care and concern for others. We should make kiddushei hashem (sanctifications of G-d’s name) by reaching out non-judgmentally to people society often neglects. In caring for others, we may change people’s lives and positively influence their impression of Jewish people.

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