| Parshah |

A Higher Haven

It’s fundamental to realize and internalize that everyone is influenced by his surroundings — for good or bad


“Then Moshe separated three cities on Ever HaYarden… so that a murderer can flee there….” (Devarim 4:41-42)

the pesukim preceding these, Moshe speaks to Bnei Yisrael about Hashem’s revelation at Har Sinai.  Then the Torah seems to interrupt this thought to relate that Moshe designated three cities as arei miklat — cities of refuge where someone who’d accidentally killed another could be safe from the avenging victim’s relatives. Afterward, the Torah returns to Moshe’s narrative and the Aseres Hadibros. Why the interruption? (Rabbi Dovid Hofstedter, Dorash Dovid).

As soon as the news of Rav Gershon Edelstein’s petirah spread throughout the morning,  my phone began ringing. My husband and sons were calling to update me about their plans to go to Bnei Brak for the levayah.

Naturally, I understood that they wanted the opportunity to accompany the gadol hador to his final resting place, but I couldn’t deny I was nervous… the crowds, the heat. “Please stick together,” I urged them. “Make sure you drink. And call me when you can!”

The older boys were going with their yeshivos, and Yitzi would accompany my husband. I sent them all with water bottles and chargers, and then opened my Tehillim to use my time wisely instead of worrying.

What is the purpose of the arei miklat? To punish the person who wasn’t careful enough? If so, wouldn’t it be wiser to place a prison in each city, rather than designate whole cities for these people?
Obviously, the purpose of the arei miklat wasn’t a punishment, but for the murderer to mend his ways. 
These arei miklat were also the dwelling places of Shevet Levi, the tribe whose mission it was to serve Hashem in the Beis Hamikdash and to devote themselves to studying Torah and teaching it. Consequently, the murderer was surrounded by pure, holy people, and was inspired to raise himself to the level of the city’s other residents.
This is the reason the Torah “interrupts” the events of Har Sinai with this discussion of arei miklat; because these cities center around Torah and ruchniyus, they perpetuate the spiritual influences of Har Sinai.

Hours later, my husband, Yitzi, and most of my sons walked in the door, tired but grateful they’d had this zechus. But Binyamin wasn’t with them.

My heart skipped a beat. “Did you see him? Have you heard from him?” It doesn’t take much for my imagination to rev into full gear.

Just then my phone rang. The line was choppy, like it usually is when so many people are using their phones in the same area. I could clearly hear that it was Binyamin, who told me he was on the bus heading home.

“But why are you so much later than everyone else?” I asked him. But the line had already gone dead.

It’s fundamental to realize and internalize that everyone is influenced by his surroundings — for good or bad.
The opportunity to live among genuine Torah scholars and tzaddikim is worth everything.  Nowadays, there are no arei miklat or arei Leviim. Instead, we must view the holy yeshivos as today’s substitute. The people who devote themselves entirely to Torah study and serving Hashem are the equivalent of the Leviim.
Anyone who wishes to elevate himself spiritually should follow the directive of Moshe Rabbeinu and attach himself to the cities of Leviim — the holy yeshivos whose raison d’etre is to cultivate a mindset of total devotion to Hashem.

I told myself to stay calm, since I knew he was on his way home, but that didn’t stop me from jumping up the minute Binyamin walked through the door.

“Are you okay? Why are you so much later than everyone else?” I asked.

“I’m sorry! Did you worry?” he asked, concerned. “I called to tell you I was on my way home.”

I pulled myself back. Binyamin was a good kid, but he was just a boy. He couldn’t comprehend that a mother worries anyway.

“I just stayed a bit longer, because I wanted to go into Ponevezh. I couldn’t get inside while the levayah was going on, but I went in afterward. I was so close… how could I not go inside the beis medrash and stand where Rav Gershon ztz”l once stood? How could I be in Bnei Brak and not go into Ponevezh?”

My worry turned to pride. Yes, my son had joined the thousands following this gadol to his final rest. But how vital to also try to follow in his footsteps in This World as well. Ashrecha, Binyamin!


(Originally featured in Family First, Issue 853)

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