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Torah Portion of Shoftim, City of Refuge in the Messianic Age?

Topics in this week's portion include: Judges and Justice, "Sacred Trees and Pillars," Blemished Sacrifice, Penalties for Idolatry, The Supreme Court, The King, Levitical Priests, Priestly Portions, Special Service, Divination and Prophecy, Cities of Refuge, Murder, Preserving Boundaries, Conspiring Witnesses, Preparing for War, Taking Captives, Conducting a Siege and the Case of the Unsolved Murder.

This week we have the famous admonition: "Righteousness, Righteousness shall you pursue, so that you will live and possess the Land that the Almighty your God, gives you" (Deut. 16:20).

For Noahides

Reading through the list of topics, there is an enormous amount to choose from, as many of the above topics such as murder, divination, etc. also apply to bnei Noah. However, my eye fell on "cities of refuge."

These cities were meant for people who had intentionally or unintentionally killed someone. One fled there to avoid revenge from family members of the deceased person. One stayed in the town until a verdict had been handed down by the court.

Many prohibitions that apply to Jews also apply to Noachids if they are based on logic. The prohibition against hating or taking revenge on another applies to both, not only as a commandment from God but also based on normal human decency.

However if this is taught as a prohibition, see Leviticus 19:18, "You shall not take revenge, and you shall not bear a grudge against the members of your people; you shall love your neighbor as yourself."

So why is it necessary to create cities of refuge. From this we learn that God takes into account the human feelings and emotions that can come into play when a loved one is totally unexpected. And so also that we must take into account people's emotions and consider how to respond appropriately.

Cities of refuge were not intended as a place to escape punishment, for people there were eventually judged by their actions and condemned where necessary.

In the time of Messiah, 3 additional cities of refuge will be added. * There are several reasons why these (at least) 3 additional cities of refuge will be needed. 1 of those reasons is that embarrassing people, shaming them, is equivalent to murder. In the time of Messiah, Torah scholars will argue with each other to learn Torah.. As it goes in discussions, the 1 may "win" and the other "lose" The latter may feel embarrassed. Whereupon the former will have to go to one of the cities of refuge.

From this we can learn for today how important it is to be aware not to embarrass others or make them feel ashamed. Even if we are in our right.

I myself had the opportunity to experience this recently. In a conversation with someone I gave a "stupid" answer, although well-intentioned my knowledge was insufficient to come up with the right answer. Instead of that person immediately correcting me or telling me that I made a mistake, I was told that my answer was special and interesting. Then the person continued with his story and finally explained to the group as a whole what his vision and what his answer was. Much I learned from the answer, but still way from the way of correction.

*See Misneh Torah, Kings and Wars 11:2 – and Deutr. 12:20 en 19:8-9

Brought By Angelique Sijbolts


Angelique Sijbolts is one of the main writers for the Noahide Academy. She has been an observant Noahide for many years. She studies Torah with Rabbi Perets every week. Angelique invests much of her time in editing video-lectures for the Rabbis of the Academy and contributes in administrating the Academy's website in English and Dutch. She lives in the north of the Netherlands. Married and mother of two sons. She works as a teacher in a school with students with special needs. And is a Hebrew Teacher for the levels beginners en intermediate. She likes to walk, to read and play the piano.



Aish Articles: city of refuge and 392284811

With thank to dr. Michael Schulman and rabbi Baruch Simcha.


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