Matot-Masei: A Poisonous Miasma

“Blood pollutes the land.”  (Num 35:33).

While the cities of refuge are interesting from a historical perspective, there is, for me, no quick moral lesson here, no low-hanging fruit.  It is true that the Torah places a high value on human life, so that not even the city of refuge protects the intentional murderer.  Yet it does so by invoking capital punishment, which for me creates serious moral problems of its own.

The phrase that resonated most with me was the phrase “blood pollutes the land.”  It’s not that I see a vital connection between unpunished murder and blasted crops.   It’s that violence begets violence and casts a numbing shadow of sadness and fear.  I remember feeling after the Sandy Hook tragedy that there was something sinister in the air, a poisonous miasma, something that would not be remedied by bringing the killer to justice or even by the enactment of common sense, overdue gun laws.  Something like blood polluting the land.

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