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The Streets Will Not Be Safe For Them (Parshas Maatos-Maasei)

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This week’s Torah portion, Parshas Maatos-Maasei (in Numbers) talks about this commandment to the Jewish people to create these sanctuary cities. And I know as soon as we hear sanctuary cities, we think of illegal immigrants being protected from deportation.

But that’s not what it’s about at all.

There were these six sanctuary cities designated throughout the land of Israel, and if somebody negligently commits a murder, they go there.


The person is at risk of the family coming back and basically killing them in revenge for the death of their loved one.

So God says, make these six cities and the person who, who negligently commits murder can run there and be safe there. And they can’t be killed there by the vengeful family or friends.

This morning I thought about what Q said. He said, “the streets will not be safe for them.” Meaning when people become aware of the extent of the crimes that have been committed against humanity by the people we used to look up to and trust when we become aware of that, there will be no place that is safe for them.

Who is Q really talking about? So on one level we have the perpetrators. For them, it’s really simple. It’s really easy. I mean, I would say, you know, in my mind, someone’s a child trafficker, they should be executed immediately.

At the other extreme we have the person who says, well, it’s not my fault; who says, I don’t want to talk about it because I don’t want to lose my job; because my family won’t talk to me; because I’ll sound “crazy.”

Even though I don’t like that, I see it all the time and I can sort of understand how an individual powerless person who needs to keep their income might say that, even though it sort of bothers me.

But let’s say you have a person who runs a school or they run an adoption agency or they a camp, or they, um, they run a hotel.

What about that whole middle layer of society? What about the companies that aren’t, it’s not an individual person, it’s an organization and they go, “it’s not our fault. How could we have known?”

For example, let’s say you have a coffee shop and the people working in the coffee shop are actually slaves. You have a nail salon. And the people who are working in the nail salon are actually slaves. And more than that, the people who are constantly applying for jobs and saying that they’re willing to work for 3 cents are part of some sort of trafficking situation. And the company should have known better, but they didn’t do their homework. And they were negligent. And as a result, people were harmed because of them because they legitimized what was going on.

So, you know, what’s interesting is that we have these riots now about undoing racism and as relevant as those are, is it perhaps that certain people know that even worse, public anger is forthcoming about things happening right now is imminent.

Perhaps this is an attempt to divert the energy of anger so that when future things become known, it almost the effect would be to try to deflate that anger.

I think there’s something to this.

And so God in the Bible brings out this idea of the negligent homicide and the person who is forced to upend their life and flee—basically their life is finished.

So what’s happening in these sanctuary cities, okay? Because the Bible is not cruel. The Bible is God helping us to transform ourselves. Because in the end, as much as we may not like it, even the worst person is going to undergo some form of fiery healing. There are very few sins for which a person will never be brought back.

So what happens in the sanctuary cities is by virtue of living amongst the Levis whose entire life is service their entire life is and caring about others and considering others, this is intended to heal the soul of the negligent murderer.

The thinking in the Bible is that with this type of person, it’s only a matter of time. So they may have made a mistake once, but that mistake was long and coming because that’s how they were operating. And that if you’re really careful and you’re really intentional, you aren’t brought to such situations.

By Dr. Dannielle Blumenthal. All opinions are the author’s own. Public domain.

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