Parashat Masei (Journeys) Numbers 33:1-36:13
Haftarah: Jeremiah 2:4-28, 3:4; 4:1-2
In this Torah reading, one learns that having a great deal of money does not change the judgment that one receives. In chapter 35, there is a section concerning the cities of refuge. The cities were for a person who killed another without intent of killing, but still was responsible for the death. During this discussion, one reads about the situation where one kills another with intent and therefore he is not allowed to stay in the city of refuge; rather he must receive the death penalty. In this section, HaShem commands,
“And you shall not take a ransom (payment) for the life of the murderer, who is wicked (and is worthy) for death, for he shall surely be put to death.”
Likewise, one cannot receive a payment to allow the one who has escaped to the city of refuge, to leave before the death of the high priest (See verse 32). In other words, one cannot purchase a different type of judgment, no matter how rich he may be. The word ransom כופר is used in these two verses (verses 31-32). The idea here is similar to one who makes restitution. The lesson for us is that sometimes there is no fix to a situation; one must suffer the consequences of his actions. This is a very important truth for children to learn.
A frequent question concerning the laws of the cities of refuge is why must the one who kills without intent, but is still responsible, stay to the death of the high priest and not some specific time? What happens if after only a day the high priest should die and the punishment then would be so little? This is simply another example of how justice is not measured according to our perspective. Instead of thinking of how small the punishment might be in this scenario, why did not the person who raises this question think about the role of the high priest and the significance of his death? Too often we evaluate things from what we think is important, rather than from the theological truth of the text.
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