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Where to Flee to?

Updated: Feb 20, 2023

Develop Your Potential from Exodus 21:12-13

A Place to Flee

מַכֵּ֥ה אִ֛ישׁ וָמֵ֖ת מ֥וֹת יוּמָֽת׃

וַאֲשֶׁר֙ לֹ֣א צָדָ֔ה וְהָאֱלֹהִ֖ים אִנָּ֣ה לְיָד֑וֹ וְשַׂמְתִּ֤י לְךָ֙ מָק֔וֹם אֲשֶׁ֥ר יָנ֖וּס שָֽׁמָּה׃

"An adult who strikes a man, woman, or child so that the latter dies must be put to death. If, however, he did not lie in wait or intend to kill, but God caused it to happen to him, then I shall provide you a place to which he shall flee. During your trek in the desert, this place of refuge will be the Levite camp; when you enter the Land of Israel, you will designate specific cities to serve as cities of refuge."

When someone accidentally killed someone he could flee to 1 of the cities of refuge. One of the court's obligations was to ensure that there were wide and well-paved roads leading to the cities of refuge, with clear signposts along the way.

Help Another to Flee

One of the court's obligations was to ensure that there were wide and well-paved roads leading to the cities of refuge, with clear signposts along the way.This teaches us that it is not enough to take refuge in our own "city of refuge"; it is our responsibility and privilege to also help others reach their "city of refuge" through our own exemplary behavior and helpful advice. When we help others, G-d helps us reach our own "city of refuge" as well. This is alluded to in the wording of this verse. The verse begins in the third person ("to happen to him"), and then switches to the second person ("I shall provide you").When we notice a fault in a friend and see what is "happening to him," we must steer him toward the path to repentance—to the city of refuge. Upon seeing this, G-d declares, "I shall provide for you"—"I will ensure that you, too, benefit as a result."

How to help others

Good example follows good practice. It is important to show others by your behavior the right way to walk. A good foundation for this is "Zerizut" enthusiasm. We must be full of energy to do good and act right. It is not just enough (although a good start) to do a mitzvot because we know it is right - helping someone, giving someone something, saying a blessing over food, praying, learning, etc. - but we must show that we are doing it with enthusiasm, full of dedication.

That enthusiasm should also be there when we want to point out to others that they are making a mistake, but of course in a modest and honourable way.

If you want to give advice to someone to correct a mistake try to put yourself in the person's shoes first. Or as it is said in Yiddisch:

Men ken keyn mentsjin net derkenen, biz men zitst niet mit im oyf eyn foer
One only knows a man when one is in the same boat with him.

Why is someone acting in a certain way and what is a right time and what are the right words to help someone. Are you the right person or is someone else better able to get the message across. Your initial enthusiasm to help someone should take place in your own mind by examining the questions above.

One who decide to give advice to a friend must do so privately, respectful and gently, and must tell him that he is only giving him the advice for his own good, and to bring him to life in the World to Come.

Sources: Het Heilige in het Alledaagse by Alan Morinis, Kehot Chumash Parshah Mishpatim, Jiddische levenswijsheid by Hanan J.Ayalti


Angelique Sijbolts is one of the main writers for the website. She contributes for the admin of the website in English and Dutch. She teaches Hebrew to beginners and intermediate students at the Academy.

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