My grandson came to visit me. He is 12* years old. So, I asked him: “How he is doing? And what is he learning at school?”
Ah, he said, “We are learning about killing inadvertently, it is very boring, has no practical application, I’m not planning to kill anyone.”
‘The second chapter of the Tractate Makkos deals with the laws of exile to the city of refuge, decreed by the Torah for one who kills another person inadvertently (Exodus 21:12-13: Numbers 35:9-34; Deuteronomy 4:41-43; 19:1-13).’
I told my grandson: “I hear your point. I would be disappointed as well if Torah was taught to me this way. However, the Torah is a “book of life, for those who grasp it.” Every lesson in the Torah should be applicable to us now. To give it a practical application, whenever we are learning Torah, we should ask four questions:
- What does it teach me to do, that I’m not doing, or what should I change about what I am doing?
- How should I do it?
- Why do I need to do it?
- What will I do about it? Lamaysa, do it at least once.
- What – I would suggest that the second chapter of the Tractate Makkos teaches one or more possible forms of ‘killing’ below:
- Do not embarrass people (Chazal says that embarrassing people is like killing them).
- Do not waste other people’s time (Chazal says that wasting people’s time is like killing them).
- Do not waste your time (Chazal says that wasting your time is like killing yourself slowly on an installment plan).
- Do not destroy property and/or do not waste money (Chazal says that a poor person is like a dead person).
- Do not ‘take long steps or walk fast on Shabbos’ (Chazal says that ‘taking long steps or walking fast on Shabbos’ blinds you. The blind person is like dead). To me, that seems like a very strange Gemara by itself. Exercising on Shabbos will make me blind? Milllions, if not more, people exercise of Saturday and they seem to still have their vision intact. To make it more peculiar, the Gemara continues and states that to restore your vision you should make Kiddush on Shabbos and watch the Shabbos candles. This seems to be a very strange Gemara. What should we do to understand this Gemara? Of course, utilize the four questions above. Below are my answers (your answers could be different):
- What – If one finds himself/herself taking long steps or walking fast on Shabbos it is because of lack of time, anxiety, and trying to control the situation. ‘Anxiety’ – can physically hurt one’s vision. ‘Trying to be in control’ – is breaking the basic quintessential understanding that Shabbos is set apart to recognize that Hashem is in control. Thus, causing a spiritual blindness. Therefore, one need to restore the physical and spiritual vision.
- How – When one makes Kiddush and watches the Shabbos candles it can restore vision by recognizing that Hashem is in charge. Once it is acknowledged that He is in charge, the anxiety will dissipate and then disappear. One should trust in Hashem. (that is the city of refuge).
- Why – Without trust in Hashem one will never be happy and constantly anxious.
- What will I do – Next Shabbos, time should be dedicated to understanding what trust in Hashem means.
- How – When you inadvertently “kill” someone, you should go to the ‘city of refuge’. It is a humbling event. The person gives up a level of comfort to go to exile in the city of refuge. Imagine, you are pushing a roller to plaster a roof and it slips from your hand and falls on a bystander and kills him. You are then, have to run to a ‘city of refuge’. This is not only because one must avoid getting ‘caught’ by the relatives, but because there are consequences for one’s actions. Leaving your house, your city, your job, your family is uncomfortable. Within our cases of inadvertent ‘killing’, we must find similar consequences:
- If you embarrass someone inadvertently, you should amend the embarrassment and ask for forgiveness (that is your city of refuge).
- If you waste someone’s time inadvertently, you should ask for forgiveness and teach him/her Torah (that is your city of refuge).
- If you waste your time inadvertently, you should ask for forgiveness (do teshuva – return) and learn Torah (that is your city of refuge).
- If you destroy property and/or waste money inadvertently, you should give tzedaka: food, items, money, and time (that is your city of refuge).
e When you make Kiddush and watch the Shabbos candles you restore your vision by recognizing that Hashem is in charge. You should trust in Hashem. (that is the city of refuge)
- Why – It is vital to develop the understanding that living is precious and meaningful and killing life is wrong; this needs to be rectified with practical actions and not just “I’m sorry.”
- What will I do – Make a list of at least 5 possible violations of the cases above and make amendments (‘cities of refuge’) for those actions.
For any questions, please contact Joseph Kon (303) 246-0380, firstname.lastname@example.org