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Where to flee to?

Develop your potential through Exodus 21:12-13

A place to flee

מַכֵּ֥ה אִ֛ישׁ וָמֵ֖ת מ֥וֹת יוּמָֽת׃

וַאֲשֶׁר֙ לֹ֣א צָדָ֔ה וְהָאֱלֹהִ֖ים אִנָּ֣ה לְיָד֑וֹ וְשַׂמְתִּ֤י לְךָ֙ מָק֔וֹם אֲשֶׁ֥ר יָנ֖וּס שָֽׁמָּה׃

“An adult who strikes a man, woman or child so that he dies must be put to death. However, if he was not lurking or planning to kill, but God allowed it to happen to him, I will give you a place to which he must flee. During your journey through the desert, this place of refuge will be the camp of the Levites; when you enter the land of Israel, you will designate specific towns that will serve as cities of refuge.””

When someone accidentally killed someone, they could flee to one of the cities of refuge. One of the court’s obligations was to ensure that wide and well-paved roads would lead to the cities of refuge, with clear signposts along the way.

Helping another person escape

This teaches us that it is not enough to seek refuge in our own “city of refuge”; it is our responsibility and privilege to also help others reach their “city of refuge” through our own exemplary behaviour and helpful advice. When we help others, G-d also helps us reach our own “city of refuge”. This is alluded to in the wording of this verse. The verse begins in the third person (“happen to him”), and then switches to the second person (“I will provide for you”).When we notice a fault in a friend and see what “happens” to him, we should show him the way to repentance – to the city of refuge. When G-d sees this, He declares, “I will provide for you” – “I will ensure that you too will benefit.”

How to help others

Good example follows good practice. It is important to show others the right way by your behaviour. A good basis for this is “Zerizut” enthusiasm. We must be full of energy to do good and act right. It is not enough (although a good start) to do a mitzvah because we know it is right – helping someone, giving someone something, saying a blessing over food, praying, learning, etc. – but we have to show that we do it with enthusiasm, full of devotion.

That enthusiasm should also be there when we want to point out to others that they are making a mistake, but of course in a modest and honourable way.

If you want to give someone advice on how to fix a mistake, try to put yourself in that person’s shoes first. Or as it is said in Yiddish:

Men ken keyn mentsjin net derkenen, biz men zitst niet mit im oyf eyn foer
One does not know someone until one is in the same boat as them.

Why does someone act in a certain way and what is the right time and what are the right words to help someone. Are you the right person or is someone else better placed to get the message across. Your initial enthusiasm to help someone should take place in your own mind by examining the questions above.

Anyone who decides to give advice to a friend should do so privately, respectfully and gently, telling him that he is giving him the advice only for his own good, and to bring him to life in the World to Come.

By Angelique Sijbolts

Sources: Het Heilige in het Alledaagse door Alan Morinis, Kehot Chumash Parshah Mishpatim, Jiddische levenswijsheid door Hanan J.Ayalti.

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