The Murderer and the Gossip

 Parshas Masei

One who inadvertently kills another Jew, is exiled to a City of Refuge. These cities were inhabited by Levites, the Torah teachers of the nation. In the desert with no cities to flee to, one in this situation would run to the Levite Camp. This is not the only instance of banishment recorded in the Torah. The Metzorah was similarly punished with exile, and left civilization completely. Despite both suffering exile, there was a marked difference in direction: the leper must leave the community whereas the erstwhile murderer must connect with the community of Levites.


What is the reason for this conspicuous distinction between the murderer and the leper?


These two sinners differ vastly in their root. The accidental murderer is guilty in his action, not in his thinking. On the other hand, the gossip’s negative mindset causes him to pass along harmful or derogatory news. When one’s actions need refining and mindfulness, one requires a mentor. The killer therefore flees to the City of Refuge where he is under tutelage of the Levites, the Torah teachers of the nation. Conversely, the gossip needs to reset his patterns of thought. He is banished outside the camp where he has no contact with society. There, in his loneliness, he can realize the damage he has caused in separating another from society. There too, he becomes aware of his own need for community, and prepares to strenghten his bonds to civilization by thinking well of others. 


Introspection is the way to change thought patterns, role models are the way to change patterns of action.


The Shapira brothers owned and operated a printing house (Slavita, circa 1850). One day, an employee of theirs was found dead on their premises. He had committed suicide, nevertheless the Shapira’s were tried for murder. It became painfully obvious that the ensuing trial was rigged, and the brothers decided to appeal to the Czar. For ten rubles, they could contact the Czar with a letter stating their plea for fair trial. For twenty rubles, their letter would be delivered immediately – even to the point of waking the Czar. The brothers agreed that their plight was urgent, and sent a twenty ruble missive to the Czar. Their dispatch reached the Czar mid-afternoon, and upon researching the Shapira’s case, the Czar ruled them innocent. Still, the Czar did not deem their circumstance important enough to be woken for. Therefore, he ordered them to run the gauntlet of one hundred brutal club-wielding soldiers.  Disregarding the fact that he was not called from sleep, the Czar focused on the intention of the brothers to wake him.

Weekly Halacha

One is allowed to make the beds on Shabbos, so that the room will look tidy.


  1. Very ‘thoughtful’ dvar torah. Puzzled that introspection alone will create improved thought patterns, what, without outside direction? Can i ask for your source?

    As for the halocho….Great. Now i have to make the beds on Shabos too? 🙂

  2. I will be honest, that I have always been under the impression that is the idea behind the isolation of the Metzora. I just took a glance at Rabbi Elie Munk’s “Call of the Torah”, and in Vayikra 14:3 He Writes: “Hopefully, his isolation will induce him to repent and return to a better way of life”. So I have good company. Furthermore the Chinuch writes שיקח דמיון בנפשו בהרחקתו מבני אדם, כי בסיבת החטא ירוחק אדם מכל טוב, למען ישוב מדרכו הרעה. So it does seem that the isolation induces introspection which will lead to change.

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