Parshas Shoftim - Without Eretz Yisroel, We are Incomplete

By BJLife/Reb Dovid Fink

Posted on 08/20/20

Parshas HaShavua Divrei Torah sponsored by
Dr. Shapsy Tajerstein, DPM - Podiatry Care.
(410) 788-6633

There are numerous places in the Torah where Chazal derive significant lessons from the placement of one Mitvzah or historical event directly opposite or next to another Mitzvah.  A classic example would be in next weeks Parsha where Rashi points out that the Halacha of Ben Tzorer Umoreh (the rebellious child) follows an Isha S’nuah (the despised wife), which follows Yifas To’ar. (the woman captured in battle) This teaches us that someone who marries a Yifas To’ar will eventually come to hate her and produce a rebellious child.   In this week’s Parsha, there is another set of Halachos directly juxtaposed, about which the commentaries seem strangely silent.

Six P’sukim are devoted to some of the particular Halachos of Arei’ Miklat or cities of refuge. (Shoftim 19:8-13)  Immediately thereafter, we are given the prohibition of  fraudulently moving a boundary or encroaching on someone else’s land. (19:14)  Perhaps the commentaries are silent because there does not seem to be any readily apparent connection between cities of refuge and laws against encroachment.  However, viewing the Parsha broadly, there do appear to be some lessons which leap out of the P’sukim and make a connection crystal clear. 

First, we are introduced to Arei Miklat with the words “prepare the way for yourself and divide into three parts the boundary of the land “ (19:3) Next, we are told “when Hashem expands your boundary….and gives you the entire land”. (19:8)  Interspliced with these references are the specific standards for who may seek refuge in the Arei Miklat.  Someone who struck someone without knowledge, did not hate him from before, or swung a defective axe whose head flew off and killed. Yet, after this we are told that the Arei Miklat may not be used as a place of refuge by someone who hates his friend and lay in ambush. (19:11)  In such a case the elders must deliver the murderer from the city into the hands of the avenger. (19:12)  It is after this pronunciation that we are given this apparent unrelated prohibition of encroaching on another’s land. 

A cursory review of our Parsha suggests that these ideas are not unrelated at all. Rather, much of the narrative is devoted to settling the land.  We are given specific instructions as to what the Kohen and Levi are entitled to, in lieu of a portion in the land. (18:6)  Additional P’sukim warn us not to adopt customs of the inhabitants of the land.  Indeed, we are told clearly that we are related to the land.  It cannot tolerate our behaving in certain ways.  Our connection to the land exists on multiple levels, even when we are physically removed from it.

This concept is even deeper when we are actually living there.  Our chelek is not some random piece of real estate.  It is a part of us. That is why property is returned to its original owner at Yovel.  When a Jew is forced to leave his land because of an accident he does not simply land in a city of refuge.  The city of refuge temporarily becomes his land.  This explains why someone who kills purposely must be ejected from the city of refuge – that is not his land.  The murderer is encroaching and moving his boundary into some else’s place.  The connection could not be more obvious. 

Our Torah teaches us, reminds us, warns us and explains to us how deeply and inseparably we are connected to Eretz Yisroel.  It is where we are supposed to be.  So much so that even one who kills by accident cannot be without his portion.  While he must endure an exile, he still must have a chelek, an exclusive chelek, in Eretz Yisroel.  For centuries of Galus, Jews have been drawn back to Eretz Yisroel.  Not by the promise of peace or prosperity, but by the land itself.  We are incomplete without it.