Jewish Treats has addressed the issue of Arei Miklat, cities of refuge, in prior Treats. The cities of refuge were intended for individuals who accidentally killed another person. The perpetrators may run to an Ir Miklat (singular of Arei Miklat) where they will be safe from the possible vengeance of the victim’s family as long as they remain in the city until the death of the High Priest. The Torah addresses this topic in this week’s Torah reading, Numbers (35:9-34) and in Deuteronomy (19:1-13).

A related story is told of a famed Torah scholar who needed to spend many months away from his yeshiva during the year raising money abroad. He finally went to see his teacher, the saintly Chofetz Chaim, Rabbi Israel Meir Hakohen, or Kagan in Russian, (1838-1933) to ask his mentor why he was fated to spend so much time away from his students, and why he needed to grovel for money?

The Chofetz Chaim asked his student why our sages explain that there were signs at crossroads in ancient Israel, indicating the direction of the closest Ir Miklat, yet, there is no indication that there were signs directing pilgrims how to travel to Jerusalem, to the Temple? The Chofetz Chaim said that without signs the traveler would need to stop at a house to ask for directions. Those answering the door and welcoming a guest to their home and family, would certainly prefer a Jew en-route to the Temple with a sacrifice, or someone lost, seeking to experience Jerusalem during holidays as opposed to someone involved with the death of a human being who was being pursued by the victim’s family. 

The Chofetz Chaim told his student that his frustrating need to travel was meant to expose him and his holy personality to individuals all over the world who relished to host such an individual in their home and city. His travels were part and parcel of his teaching, albeit through a different venue. The student found great comfort in his teacher’s words.

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