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Shoftim

In this week's Parsha we read about the Cities of Refuge, and the individual who commits unintentional murder.

The verse tells us, (chapter 19:4-6) "Whoever strikes his fellow [to death] unintentionally... he shall flee to one of these cities... lest the avenger of the blood pursue the killer."

The Abarbanel, in analyzing this commandment, attempts to define the purpose of these cities.

He first rules out the possibility that it is a means of punishment.

Punishment, he tells us, is meted out for one of two purposes. To dissuade an offender from repeating his misdeed, or as an example to others, to deter them from following his example.

In our scenario, where someone killed by mistake, neither rationale would apply.

Instead, he continues, these cities were created solely as a haven, as their name indicates "Cities of Refuge." A place where an individual, who was just involved in a most unfortunate event, the taking of another life, can be safe.

This week, we began the Month of Elul, which leads up to the High Holidays of Rosh Hashnah and Yom Kippur.

The Lubavitcher Rebbe, in an address during the month of Elul in 1972, draws a comparison from the details of the City of Refuge to this time of year.

The month of Elul is the time of year to analyze the past year, and take time to fix what needs correcting. No matter what may have occurred during the past year, the month of Elul provides an escape, an opportunity to reset.

In imploring every Jew to capitalize during this special time, the Rebbe took this analogy one step further. The Cities of Refuge had to be clearly marked.  It was an obligation to make sure that when needed by others, these cities were easy to find. The same is true with regard to the month of Elul.

It is not only a time for personal introspection and accountability, but a time  to help others realize this opportunity as well. To make sure that anyone in need can find the "City of Refuge,"  that Elul provides, as they strive to be "inscribed and sealed" for a Sweet New Year. 

 

Portuguese Jewish history is a rich tapestry of accomplishment and challenge spanning the centuries.  Portugal's shores have produced and housed some of our greatest Rabbis and leaders.   From statesman, leader and scholar  Rabbi Don Yitzchak  Abarbanel to Shulchan Aruch author Rabbi Yosef Karo in the 15th century through to the Lubavitcher Rebbe's time in Lisbon in 1941, Portugal has enabled tremendous developments in strengthening community and Torah.  

It is in recognition of the timeless nature of these commitments, and in honor of all of those Jews who have called Portugal home through times of brilliance and darkness, that these Torah insight's from Portugal's great Rabbis is produced - here in Portugal. 

Special thanks to Rabbi Shlomo Pereira for the Portuguese translation.