Special needs adoption from a Jewish perspective.

Special needs adoption from a Jewish perspective.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Torah Connection - Shoftim

Posting from Israel! Parshat Shoftim (Judges), read this past Saturday, discusses various issues in the application of justice: How judges are appointed and regulated, how crimes of various sorts are tried and prosecuted, etc.

One aspect of the biblical justice system was the use of Refuge Cities for accidental killers.  These are people who, without evil intent, caused the death of an innocent life.  They are not criminals, but friends and family of the victims would surely seek vengeance if they could.  The accidental killers are therefore given the option of fleeing to one of 6 Refuge Cities where they will be safe from their pursuers.

Rabbi Kamenetsky observes that in addition to building these Refuge Cities, the ancient Israelites were specifically commanded to put up directional signs towards them:

In an unprecedented command, it establishes a highway commission, telling us, "Prepare the way for yourself, … and it shall be for any murderer to flee there (ibid v.3) 
Rashi quotes the Talmud in Makos that there were signs posted at each crossroad pointing and declaring, "Refuge! Refuge!" each pointing the way to the nearest refuge city.

He then asks,
But, why? If road signs should be erected, shouldn't they be for Jerusalem, guiding the thousands of tri-annual travelers from the north and south who journeyed there for the shalosh regalim? Why should cities that house manslaughter offenders, get guideposts while the holiest city of Israel doesn't?
He concludes that the point is that people who would need directions, either to the Refuge Cities or to Jerusalem, would need to ask directions of other people, either residents or fellow travelers. Asking for directions to a Refuge City (with the implication that one is a killer, albeit accidentally) is demoralizing, both for the person asking and the person giving directions.  Making a pilgrimage, however, is uplifting -- perhaps the other person would be inspired to join along, or prepare for a future pilgrimage? So putting up signs towards the Refuge Cities spares those travelers the embarrassment of dredging up the past just when they need to turn over a new leaf, while having to ask directions to Jerusalem gives pilgrims an opportunity to spread the word.

This really resonated for me.  The internet provides a medium for people to offer their stories either openly or anonymously.  Both modes provide "directions" for others.  Doing so anonymously means that people can get the information they need with no embarrassment. On the other hand, doing so openly creates opportunities for people to connect more deeply, inspiring each other in ever-widening circles of FaceBook friends.

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