20 Jul Parshas Matot – Masei; City of Refuge (and The 42 Encampments)
From Parsha Matot-Masei 35;9-12
9. The Lord spoke to Moses saying:
10. Speak to the children of Israel and say to them, When you cross the Jordan to the land of Canaan,
11. you shall designate cities for yourselves; they shall be cities of refuge for you, and a murderer who killed a person unintentionally shall flee there.
12. These cities shall serve you as a refuge from an avenger, so that the murderer shall not die until he stands in judgment before the congregation.
City of Refuge-
In the case of an unintentional killing of another Jew, a person who is guilty of manslaughter must flee to a ‘city of refuge – miklat’ where he remains his entire life. As long as he remains there he is safe. However, he may leave the city as a free man upon the death of the Chief Kohan, the Kohan Gadol. The Kohan Gadol (as is with a Tzadik) can carry the burden of ‘sins’ of others upon himself. In his death is the Tikun, the Rectification of deficient spiritual conditions. Thus the ‘accidents’ that existed during his charge as Kohan Godol become rectified. Until such time as the individual reaches the ‘city of refuge’, he may be killed by close relative of the victim.
Contrary to what we may think, the ‘city of refuge’ is not some kind of penal colony as we have become familiar with in our penal systems of the world today. It was a fully functioning city where people there were engaged in parnosa- livelihood like other cities.
A person who fled to a city of refuge did so to immerse themselves in Torah.
The set up of the Cities-
Six cities of refuge were to be set up, 3 on the East side of the Jordan , and 3 on the West side of the Jordan. This might seem disproportionate being that East of the Jordan was not included as ‘The Land of Israel” and had fewer inhabitants of Klol Yisroel. This is the land that the tribes of Reuben and Gad sought to posssess ,with 1/2 Menashe added by Moses . The bulk of the Jewish people resided in Israel.
We need to know however that…
- the land that Reuben and Gad were to occupy did not have the Kedusha of Israel
- the land that Reuben and Gad were to occupy even on the successful completion of the mission of their conquest of Canaan would not have the merit (kedusha) of the Land of Israel
- as part of the agreement to acquire the Land outside of Israel, the men tribes of Reuben and Gad were going to be away at war for some time. Therefore the families were going to be on their own without the benefit and direction of a head of household. There would be no Father figure in the homes and thus a potential breakdown of the family unit and a potential for the breakdown of the transmission of Torah and Torah values. As consideration to this, the ½ tribe of Menasha, descendant of Joseph and the future of Mashiach ben Yoseph, was placed amongst the tribes of Reuben and Gad for the spiritual benefit of those tribes because of Menasha’s inherent spiritual integrity. Arguably, Joseph’s greatest accomplishment was that he was able to (as chassidut refers to as) ‘hold opposites’ by maintaining being a Jew in a non Jewish land (in Mitzrayim -Egypt). This attribute of Joseph that was infused into the Jewish people and has been a necessary attribute to the Jewish Nation for the period of Mashiach ben Yosef to usher in Mashiach ben David and ultimately the Final Redemption, Mashiach. It is this quality that allows us to exist in Jews in the Exile of today. It was this quality that was strong in the tribe on Menashe (named for son of Joseph) and the reason that ½ Menashe was chosen for outside the Land of Eretz Yisroel, and ½ Menashe was to settle in the Land of Eretz Yisroel.
Where there is a lack of spiritual connection, there is the potential for physical consequences…and so it was there, outside of Eretz Yisroel that there was a greater potential for the need of 3 refuge city in the region east of the Jordan, even though appearing to be disproportionate. The land beyond Eretz Yisroel would never have the merit or kedusha of the Holy Land.
R. Ginsburgh brings down the Baal Shem Tov’ teaching as it relates to this topic that ‘Torah is relevant to all people at all times’. As such, there will be times where we all need to flee to a city of refuge, where we can protect ourselves and rectify transgression.
A refugee city is not only a physical city that is spoken about in the Torah, but also (as in our times) a state of mind…a spiritual city that we must flee to do T’shuva. In a contemporary context it may be tshuva on issues of addiction (or other). It may be a refuge to simply elevate yourself from your present state of being such as we may do during Elul.
In particular, the Baal Shem Tov relates the concepts Loshen Hora and the murdering of 3 people; the one who speaks it, the one who it is about and the one who hears it. Loshen Hora may be done intentionally as it would relate to murder, or unintentionally as it would relate to manslaughter. We must also never forget the need to deal with the root causes of baseless hatred of all kinds. Arguably the greatest obstacle of our day to bringing about Tikun Olam , Rectification and the Final Redemption.
The following idea is related to a refugee…
‘When our consciousness is totally in line with the Torah, we will no longer be vulnerable to harm, and more importantly, will no longer be in a state of mind that would allow us to hurt ourselves or another , even unintentionally’
Two stages of the City of Refuge;
On the luchot (tablets) of the 10 commandments, 5 commandments appear on 2 tablets (5+5=10). The work ‘miklat’ appears 10 times in the Torah in reference to the stages as 5 times+ 5 times as with the breakdown of commandments of the luchot.
There is the first stage, the process of absorption. The process of absorption begins when a person enters a new reality. One enters the Miklat and becomes consumed within his new, all encompassing environment. Slowly, he becomes acquainted with, and enamored of his new surroundings, and learns how to function happily and effectively. He has been absorbed into the surrounding light of his new reality. This absorption is relatively impersonal and general; corresponding to the first 5 (of 10 ) times (occurrences) the word miklat-refuge appears in the Torah. Ten (10) represents the complete and rectified unification of all the 10 emanations (sefirot) used to create the universe.
The second stage, the process of integration is the opposite dynamic. To integrate a new reality is to absorb it into oneself, allowing it to penetrate and permeate one’s very being. Integration is a totally personal experience, entering into the person’s psyche and changing his way of life. It corresponds to the second personal set of 5 times (occurrences) the word miklat- refuge appears in the Torah.
The Road signs to the Refuge City;
We know that when there are common roots to words (3 common letters) and or numerical values of various understanding; there are relationships between the words and concepts.
The word for ‘miklat’ means refuge. It is also the word for ‘absorption’, and ‘integration’.
The signage however read miklat – miklat . The reason is that miklat has a numerical value of 179…miklat- miklat has a numerical value of 358…. and MASHIACH also has a numerical value of 358. The road sign pointing to the city of refuge point one to a city of refuge of absorption and integration of Torah and a Messianic consciousness.
‘When a person flees to the city of refuge, there is a new consciousness of Torah for him, particularly of the inner Messianic dimension of the Torah. He first must become totally absorbed in and enamored of it, never wanting to leave. In this beginning state, the Torah encompasses his entire being and consciousness, and it is not critically important to what extent he understands all that he studies. The most important inner sense for him to develop is that this Infinite, Divine Light and wisdom has been given to him as an undeserved gift. The more a person develops this sense, the more that he becomes absorbed into the Messianic Torah consciousness.’
Murder and speech-
In every Avera (transgression), whether intentional or unintentional there is a measure of death. It may not be apparent as physical death, but there is certainly a measure of spiritual death that may manifest also physically.
A person swinging an axe has no intention that his action may cause the head of the axe to accidentally fly loose and cause the death of another. A person driving a car has every intention to be a careful driver, but it’s not always without incident, and the mechanism of cause and effect…Providence.
As illuminate by the Bal Shem Tov and the Chofetz Chaim amongst others; loshen hora is murder to the soul, affecting the soul of 3 people directly, the person speaking it, the person listening to it and the person it is about (countless others may be unknowingly affected).
By this definition, each of us has committed possibly murder through intentional loshen hora, and we have certainly been guilty at some time of unintentional loshen hora or unintentional murder (manslaughter).
A person who has substance abuse is slowly, sometimes quickly causing him/herself very real physical and spiritual death. This also applies in the case of a person who has issues of anger, haughtiness, rage and confrontation.
In short anyone engaging in any act that removes themselves from G-ds light, is causing some level of death to exist in their own life, and others too.
Each of us has our own pekel (package) of issues to deal with. Each of us must do our own cheshbon hanefesh (personal inventory) to bring about our own rectification. As the Baal Shem Tov alludes to, the idea of a refugee city works not only in the specifics that the Torah reveals, but as a spiritual ‘cure’ to what ails us.
In Summary;When we absorb and integrate Torah the possibilities are infinite
Again, ‘When our consciousness is totally in line with the Torah, we will no longer be vulnerable to harm, and more importantly, we will no longer be in a state of mind that would allow us to hurt another.., even unintentionally’.
The idea of the city of refuge is to absorb and integrate Torah internally and externally, so it can remain an eternal part of his being. We must surround ourselves and internalize the Infinite Wisdom of Torah… This idea of the absorption and integration is the surrounding and internalizing of Torah.
We do not have ‘cities of refuge’ as the Torah describes, so we must make our own cities of refuge through the absorbing and integrating of Torah for ourselves, our families, our communities and the Jewish people.
Where there is a spiritual void, there is a physical consequence. We are dealing today with this consequence in the physical world; however, we must keep in mind the void that exists. We must fill this void with spirituality.
This is a very powerful concept for those who are dealing with difficult issues such as addiction. You must find your City of Refuge.
WE MUST HAVE A CONSCIOUSNESS TO FLEE TO A ‘CITY OF REFUGE’. WE MUST ABSORB AND INTEGRATE TORAH, AND BRING MASHIACH NOW.
Leib Getzel (Lawrence) Lax
Addictions and Counselling (Hnrs)
Additional Material ~
42 Encampments of Bamidbar –
There are 42 points on the journey of Bamidbar where the Klol stopped and camped . ‘The (un-namable) Name of G-d ‘Elokah (Kel)’ =42 is associated with chesed. It is one of the secrets of 42 in Kabbalah in relation to the Elokah as the ‘power of Creation of the Universe’ is that the Divine act of creation begins with God’s saying yehi (“let there be…”) = 25, and concludes with God’s seeing His creation to be tov (“good”) = 17. 25 (the beginning of the creative process) plus 17 (the conclusion of the creative process) = 42 (the all-inclusive power of creation). ‘(Rav Y. Ginsburgh – inner.org). As the ‘power of Creation’ Elokah (42) is the power of birth and re-birth.
It is understood that in Bamidbar at the 42 encampments they did a cheshbon (personal inventory), and integrated the experience of the journey in order to rectify their heart. The 42 encampments thus represent the interinclusion of 6 of the 7 lower emanations (emotive experiences) of the heart (6 x 7 = 42) ; chesed, gevurah, Tiferet, netzach, hod, yesod (these are aka zeir anpin) and the 7th Malchut(kingship- nukvah) . The culmination of all from above is the 7th experience is to receive the rectification from all above and elevate it heavenward. In the journey of Bamidbar, is then to manifest in Kingship-Malchut of the Land and Children of Israel, and Mashiach.
Each of these 42 encampments represents a rebirth of a new self and a new klol Yisroel. It is the same in our lives today. We ought not miss these opportunities, as we each have to stop at our unique individual (42) encampments to integrate change into ourselves… our hearts , in order to bring about our personal rectification-tikun , the rectification of the Jewish Nation…and the Final Redemption, Mashiach.
Leib Getzel (Lawrence) Lax
Addicitons and Counseling