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Rav Ahron Raps on Parshas Masei
The Kapparah of Galus
by Rav Ahron Rapps

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7/17/09

The posuk in Parshas Masei states, “You shall provide cities for yourselves, which shall serve as refuge cities for you, so that a murderer can flee there, one who (bishgogo) accidentally killed a person.” If a person kills b’mayzid – on purpose he is to be put to death. When one kills not on purpose, b’shogeg, he must run to one of the cities designated as one of the aurei miklat- cities of refuge and live there in exile. When one commits murder on purpose, our minds could fathom and relate to the murderer being condemned to death. In what way could we somewhat understand the meaning of a murderer b’shogeg being subject to galus- exile? In order to deal with this profound idea, we first must discuss the meaning of death.

Seforim explain that the moment of death is considered when the neshama- soul separates from the guf- body. The only way for the spiritual neshama to in a sense have a mokom- place and be revealed in the physical world is through its carrier the guf. Without the guf, the soul remains aloof within its purely spiritual state. When a brother refuses to perform the mitzvah of yivum- to marry his deceased bother’s widow when the marriage didn’t produce any children, the process of chalitzha is performed. The posuk in parshas Ki Seitzei says, “And his sister in law will approach him in the sight of the judges, and she will remove his shoe from upon his foot and spit before him; and she will say aloud, ‘This is done to the man who will not build his brother’s family.’” The Maharal explains that the spitting is a form of humiliation. Such is what should be done to one who won’t marry his dead brother’s wife and through the child that would be born provide a body for the soul of his dead brother. At death the soul loses its nosai- carrier and is left without a mokom in this world. The Rabbeinu Bechaya in parshas Masei adds an amazing point.

A person is composed of a body and a soul. The body is represented in the external organs while the soul is seen in terms of the lev- heart. When a person kills another unwittingly, only his external guf in a sense killed, while his soul- lev didn’t play any role in the murder at all. When a person kills b’mayzid, both the body and soul in a sense have sinned, therefore the punishment must mach the crime. By murdering another, the body of the victim as well as his soul have lost their place in the physical realm of Olam Hazeh, therefore the kaparah –framework for forgiveness must be in accordance with the chet. But since when one kills b’shogeg the lev isn’t guilty of wrongdoing, it doesn’t require any kapara. Only the guf that physically killed without the heart’s intent is guilty of a wrongdoing. Therefore through the death b’shogeg the victim’s soul lost its mokom in this world, therefore the kaparah is the wrongdoer- the body must lost its mokom and go into the exile of galus in a city of refuge. The Rabbeinu Bechaya compares it to the performance of mitzvos without the specific intent to do it l’sheim shamayim. Hashem wants our soul to be involved in the mitzvosour body performs and without the proper intent, the mitzvah is sorely lacking. The gemara in the beginning of mesechta Makos (2:) seems to be alluding to this point with regard to the punishment of galus.

The gemara discusses s person who killed b’mayzid but without hasrah- a warning, that he wouldn’t be exiled even though he couldn’t be killed. What purpose is there in going to galus when one killed on purpose? But since there wasn’t a warning, it cannot be considered that the person acted with full defiance and intention. Here again, the lev- soul cannot be absolutely condemned and the punishment is therefore left to the part of the person that was for sure responsible- the guf. Thus, the gemara entertains the idea that the punishment would be to go to exile.

The Rabbeinu Bechaya applies this idea to the performance of mitzvos. His words are a major challenge to us in terms of the dedication we usual portray when we do Hashem’s mitzvos. Rachmanah liba bauy- Hashem wants our hearts, for without our lev the mitzvah becomes the function of a human shell without any internal mechanism. Seforim explain that when a person prays without kavanah- concentration and instead of kavanah his mind and heart are actually somewhere else, in terms of Hashem relating to the person – he is somewhere else. A person is actually where his mind is. The lev needs no kaparahwhen the person killed unintentionally, similarly, when a mitzvah is performed in such a fashion the lev is banished to become a mere non participating observer. May we be zoche to remember this profound idea and live and pray accordingly.

Rabbi Rapps can be reached at: ahronrapps@yeshivanet.com



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