Q & A


Why is the punishment for one who kills beshogeig, unintentionally, to have to go to golus?


 The posuk in Parshas Masei states, “Speak to the Bnei Yisroel and say to them, ‘When you cross the Yardein (River) to the land of Canaan, you shall designate cities for yourselves, cities of refuge shall they be for you, and a murderer shall flee there; one who takes a life unintentionally.’”

When one kills another beshogeig, the killer must run to one of these cities to save himself from being killed by the goel hadam, the blood relative of the victim, and to glean forgiveness for the death he caused, albeit unintentionally. When one murders bemeizid, with intention, the killer is put to death. Yet, here we see that golus serves as the prescription to deal with one who killed another beshogeig.

 The Avnei Neizer explains what occurs in the process of being exiled to live in another land.

A person is a composite of two diverse elements that are joined together in order to exist and function in Hashem’s world. Man is meant to serve Hashem and live a spiritual life within the confines of a physical existence, and such is the role of the neshamah when placed within the physical guf. The role of the neshamah is to represent the spiritual dimension of the person, providing the daas and intellect with which one can serve Hashem through the actions of the guf. Actions that the person performs are to be considered a function of the dual sense of one’s identity, his body and his soul. Yet, this statement can only be considered valid when one is performing an act in the state of mind of actually wanting to do the action. In a situation where one’s intention is not as the action reflects, then, in a sense, it is considered as if the person’s body was solely responsible for what occurred and the soul was in no way involved.

The Avnei Neizer explains that it is this point that serves as the foundation of what occurs with one who killed another beshogeig.

When one commits premeditated murder, the person’s daas and intellect function in unison with his guf to kill. The punishment for such a form of murder, the horrible act of severing the connection of another’s guf and neshamah by killing him, is that the connection of the rotzei’ach’s guf and neshamah are severed as well. He is thus put to death. Since both body and soul were active in the chet, both have forfeited their right to exist within the physical framework of the world. The totality of the person forfeits his “makom,” or place, on earth. When one kills another beshogeig, the party responsible is punished, and that which remained innocent is not held accountable at all.

By definition, beshogeig means unintentionally, and as such, the murderer killed without the input of his daas, his neshamah. It was purely a physical act, and thus only the guilty party is meant to be punished. The makom in the physical world that the neshamah is able to glean is solely through its guf, and thus were the body to be killed, the neshamah would in a sense be banished from its possibility of existing in the physical world as well. Since it wasn’t involved in the chet of the unintentional murder, it can’t suffer such a consequence. Thus, while the guf must lose its right to exist, it must not be in the total sense of death, but rather purely in terms of being removed from the makom that has served it until the time of the murder.

In Lashon Hakodesh, the word for place is “makom,” which comes from the word kiyum, meaning continued existence, for it is through the place where things are that the lifespan of anything is granted. This idea can be appreciated through the laws pertaining to hotza’ah, carrying an object from one reshus to another on Shabbos.

Hotza’ah occurs when one transports an object from one reshus to another, either from private to public or from public to private. In order to remove something from one place to another, it has to be in a significant makom from where it is being removed and placed again in a significant makom. There are certain requirements for the measurements of where it had to have been resting, and similar rules to move it to another place of rest. It is curious, for when I cook something or violate any of the other various melachos on Shabbos, I am clearly changing something from one state to another. Yet, in the issur of hotza’ah, what change am I fostering? Here lies the significance of the place where something is resting.

The makom of anything is part of its sense of identity. When it is changed, the sense of identity and existence of the object has been altered. Thus, when one kills beshogeig, the guilty party, the guf, has to be punished. It must lose an element of its sense of being. It cannot suffer capital punishment, for then the innocent soul and daas of the person would be unfairly affected. But the guf itself must go into golus, for the body has indeed destroyed and removed the makom of another and therefore must seek through golus its new sense of makom and kiyum. Just as meshaneh makom meshaneh mazel, when one changes his makom, his mazel is subject to change, similarly, by going to golus, there is now a sense of change in the guilty party, the guf, by being punished with its own sense of kapparah.

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