Thursday, July 19, 2007

The connection between the Kohen Gadol and the Manslayer

(you can order your kohen gadol cake at:

What is the connection between the manslayer and the death of the Kohen Gadol?

(This study session is based on "The reason for refuge cities" by Menachem Ben Yashar 1998.)

Here are the sources for our discussion last week-- For some reason, the blog isn't taking the hebrew font from Davka writer. If you want the Hebrew sources, and don't feel like looking into them yourself, just come into the office and I will give them to you.

The most compelling connection between the manslayer and the kohen gadol is that which is understood by Ibn Ezra. See if you can figure out why according to Ibn Ezra the manslayer goes free when he dies. It has nothing to do with protection, because presumably the family would still be upset with him even after the Kohen Gadol died.

Also take note of how amazing the connection is, according to the Mishnah in Makkot, between the manslayer and the mother of the Kohen Gadol.

July 14, 2007

Numbers 35: 9-34

And the Lord spoke to Moses saying; 10. Speak to the people of Israel, and say to them; When you pass over the Jordan into the land of Canaan, 11. Then you shall appoint you cities to be cities of refuge for you; that the man slayer who kills any person unawares may flee there. 12. And they shall be to you cities for refuge from the avenger; that the man slayer should not die, until he stands before the congregation in judgement. 13. And the cities which you shall give shall be six cities for refuge. 14. You shall give three cities in this side of the Jordan, and three cities you shall give in the land of Canaan. They shall be cities of refuge. 15. These six cities shall be a refuge, both for the people of Israel, and for the stranger, and for the sojourner among them, that everyone who kills any person without intent may flee there. 16. But if he hits him with an instrument of iron, so that he dies, he is a murderer; the murderer shall surely be put to death. 17. And if he hits him by hand with a stone, whereby he may die, he is a murderer; the murderer shall surely be put to death.18. Or if he hits him with a weapon of wood in his hand, whereby he may die, and he dies, he is a murderer; the murderer shall surely be put to death.19. The avenger of blood shall himself slay the murderer; when he meets him, he shall slay him. 20. And if he stabbed him out of hatred, or hurled something at him while lying in wait, that he died; 21. Or if in enmity he hits him with his hand, so that he dies; he who hit him shall surely be put to death, for he is a murderer. The avenger of blood shall slay the murderer when he meets him. 22. But if he stabbed him suddenly without enmity, or hurled upon him anything without lying in wait; 23. Or with any stone, whereby a man may die, without seeing him, and cast upon him, that he died, and he was not his enemy, nor sought his harm;

Then the congregation shall judge between the man slayer and the avenger of blood, according to these judgments. 25. And the congregation shall deliver the slayer from the hand of the avenger of blood, and the congregation shall restore him to his city of refuge, where he had fled; and he shall live there until the death of the high priest, who was anointed with the holy oil. 26. But if the man slayer shall at any time go outside the border of the city of his refuge, where he had fled. 27. And the avenger of blood finds him outside the borders of the city of his refuge, and the avenger of blood kills the slayer, he shall not be guilty of blood. 28. Because he must remain in his city of refuge, until the death of the high priest; but after the death of the high priest the man slayer may return to the land of his possession. 29. And these things shall be for a statute of judgement to you throughout your generations in all your dwellings. 30. Whoever kills any person, the murderer shall be put to death by the evidence of witnesses, but one witness shall not testify against any person to cause him to die. 31. Moreover, you shall take no ransom for the life of a murderer, who is guilty of death, but he shall surely be put to death. 32. And you shall take no ransom for him who has fled to his city of refuge, that he should come back to live in the land, until the death of the priest. 33. So you shall not pollute the land in which you are, for blood pollutes the land; and the land can not be cleansed of the blood that is shed there, but by the blood of him who shed it. 34. And you shall not defile the land which you shall inhabit, in which I dwell; for I the Lord dwell among the people of Israel.

Rashi (a) Bamidbar 35:25-

Until the death of the Kohen - for he comes to cause the divine presence to abide in Israel and to prolong their days, while the manslayer comes to remove the divine presence from Israel and shortens the days of the living.

Mishnah 2:6(b)

Therefore the mothers of the Kohanim would provide for them (the manslayers) food and clothing, so that they would not pray that their sons would die....

Makkot 11a
THEREFORE MOTHERS OF HIGH PRIESTS [WERE WONT TO PROVIDE FOOD AND RAIMENT FOR THEM THAT THEY MIGHT NOT PRAY FOR THEIR SON'S DEATH]. The reason [given] is that the banished might not pray [for the high priest's death]; but what if they should pray, [think you] he would die? [Surely the saying is,] As the flitting bird as the flying swallow, so the curse that is causeless shall [not] follow! Said a venerable old scholar: I heard an explanation at one of the sessional lectures of Raba, that [the high priests were not without blame, as] they should have implored Divine grace for [averting the sorrows of] their generation, which they failed to do. Others read in the Mishnah thus: THAT THEY MIGHT PRAY FOR THEIR SONS THAT THEY DIE NOT. The reason [given then] is that the banished should pray [for the high priest]; but, what if they did not pray [for him; think you] he would die?

Rashi (b) Bamidbar 35:25-

Another reason: Because the High Priest should have prayed that there should not occur such a calamity in Israel -- (This comes from the gemarah above. ed.)

Seforno 35:25-
Until the death of the Kohen Gadol. It has laready been explained that Galut (exile to a refuge city) is the punishment for one who kills in error. Now being that there are different kinds of unintentional sins shogeg, which are disparate because some a closer to being considered accidental while others are closer to being considered intentional, therefore there are varying periods of exile for one who kills unintentionally. For some, the unintentional act (of killing) is (punished by exile) for a brief period before the Kohen dies, while some murderers die in exile before the death of the Kohen. This occurs according to the judgment of God, blessed be he, the one who knows and is a witness, who punishes the unintentional sinner according to the degree of error, as it says, but God caused it to come to his hand (Ex. 21.13).

This is the source that is needed to understand the connection that Ibn Ezra sees between the KG and the manslayer:

Genesis 4:10-12

"Hark, your brother's blood cries out to Me from the ground... If you till the soil, it shall no longer yield its strength to you. You shall become a ceaseless wanderer on earth" (Gen. 4:10,12).

Ibn Ezra Num.35:25

There are some who say, “until death, witness his freedom” and with you dies wisdom (Job. 12:2) But this is not right because “with you dies wisdom” is as it says (in its context). But similarly, “Until the death of the Kohen Gadol”-- because he makes atonement for Israel and this is what occurs in his days.

Lev. 21. And Aaron shall lay both his hands upon the head of the live goat, and confess over him all the iniquities of the people of Israel, and all their transgressions in all their sins, putting them upon the head of the goat, and shall send him away by the hand of an appointed man into the wilderness; 22. And the goat shall bear upon him all their iniquities to a land not inhabited; and he shall let go the goat in the wilderness.

N.B. that the Refugee cities were places that were not farmed and not blessed-- therefore it did not matter that the manslayer who was in this quasi status of having shed blood but having not been a murderer would not affect the land. The blood was still on the land, but it could not be purified by the blood of the manslayer. Therefore, he had to be in a place where he would not affect the crops.

Menachem Ben Yashar's claim was that the Kohen Gadol would make atonement for all the sins of the community, intentional and unintentional and this would happen every Yom Kippur. However, we would not know when the land would return to its normal state having had blood in it. The manslayer could have been forgiven, but we do not have an "index" of when the land would return. His claim is that by the time that the Kohen Gadol died we would know that the land would have returned to its producing state. Therefore, the manslayer could come out of the city because the affect of his presence would no longer impede the land.

This was all alluded to by the ibn Ezra who pointed out the connection between the manslayer and the kohen gadol and the last verses of that chapter which highlight the agricultural warnings of having the refuge cities.

I think the weakest part of the argument is that the land would not return to its producing state after Yom Kippur when the sins were forgiven. What do you think?

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