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    Cities of refuge & the Messiah – Shof’tim

    Fleeing to a city of refuge

    Several times the Torah talks of the cities of refuge to which the non-deliberate killer could flee.

    This week’s portion introduces an additional feature when it tells us that three extra cities must be designated for this purpose (Deut. 19:9).

    According to Rashi, this applies to the days of the Mashi’ach, and we are immediately puzzled. Surely when the Mashi’ach comes everyone will live in harmony and there will not be any killings, inadvertent or deliberate. At that time there does not appear to be a need for three extra cities of refuge – or for any such cities at all!

    There is a view that this might be a provision in case the Messiah comes early when the world is not yet ready for him.

    Another possibility is that just before the messianic age people will commit extra crimes because they know that crime will soon come to an end.

    It recalls someone I knew who agreed to make their house kosher, “but not yet – I have a lot of non-kosher meat in the freezer which I want to use up first!”

    On that basis we possibly have a case of people saying, “Of course I want the Mashi’ach – but not yet: let me use up my negative instincts first!”

    The person who wants the messianic redemption has to make the philosophical decision that a messianic world is better than a non-messianic one, even if the price they have to pay is to put a decisive end to sinfulness in good time.

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