The accidental killer speaks to the elders when he gets to the city. The gemara derives a number of halachot from here. The section in Yehoshua when he sets up cities of refuge is discussed. The accidental killer leaves the city of refuge at the death of the Kohen Gadol. Who qualifies as a Kohen Gadol? If there are multiple Kohanim Gedolim, do they all need to die or just one of them. Out of concern that the people in the city may pray for the death of the Kohen Gadol, their mother’s would provide food and clothing for the accidental killers. The gemara then discusses prayers that have no basis (like praying for the Kohen Gadol to die)- do they come true? Different scenarios are brought regarding the timing of the death of the Kohen Gadol – after the killing but before the court determined that the killer needs to go to the city of refuge or after the court’s ruling but6 before the killer got to the city, etc. and the halacha in each case is determined.
Where were the cities set up? They were chosen for geographical reasons. There are certain criteria for the cities that they not be too small, too large, they have a water supply, a shuk, etc. to allow for proper protection and so that one does not need to leave the city for anything – even one’s rabbi needs to go to the city with him. Weapons can’t be sold there and other implements that could be used to kill the killer. The gemara digresses to discussing the importance of learning Torah and learning as part of a community. Reish Lakish explains a verse in the Torah that God orchestrates things from above that one who kills accidentally and no one knows, and one who kills on purpose without witnesses, will both end up in the same place and the murderer will get killed accidentally by the one who killed accidentally before and each will then get their punishment they are deserving of. If the relative kills the killer on the way to the city of refuge, does he receive a death penalty?
Does a child go to a city of refuge for killing a parent? Can a slave or a Cuti (Shomronim) go to a city of refuge? Does a Jew go for killing a slave or a Cuti? For what cases does a ger toshav allowed to go? For all these cases, contradictory sources are brought and the contradictions are resolved. In the context of this, a debate ensues regarding the excuse “I thought it was allowed” – is it valid or not? Potential proofs are brought from the Torah regarding Avimelech when he took Sarah from Avraham. Does a blind person go to a city of refuge? What is the halacha for one who hates the one who was killed? The setting up of a system to help those who killed accidentally seems to be a uniquely Jewish concept. See a recent article relating to the struggled of those who kill accidentally.
There is further discussion of what types of cases would be considered accidental death that would get one sent to a refuge city and what would not fall into that category. Various exceptions are brought and derived from the verses.
The mishna and gemara discuss issues relating to the courts – upholding decisions by the same court after the prosecuted person has run away, a court upholding the decision of a different court, and others. Should the courts be using capital punishment? If so, how often? The new chapter starts with laws of the city of refuge. Who goes there? Who does not? For what reason do they not go? Is it because they are not deserving of the punishment or is it because they are not deserving of receiving protection from the relative of the one who was killed?
The basics of conspiring witnesses are discussed. What is the difference between conspiring witnesses and contradictory testimony? When the witnesses pay/lashes do they split the amount or do they each have to pay the full amount/get the full amount of lashes? What happens in a case every group that comes is turn into conspiring witnesses by the same group of witnesses – do we assume the group saying “you were with us” to every group of witnesses is lying? Would it be the same if someone keeps bringing false witnesses and then brings ones who can’t be proven to be false. Do we suspect they are just because they were brought by someone proven to bring false witnesses? There is a basic argument between the Perushim and Tzedukim – do the conspiring witnesses get killed only if they succeeded in convicting the person but didn’t succeed in getting them killed (Perushim) or only if they actually succeeded in getting him killed?
Dedicated in memory of Shimon ben Yehuda Yirmiyahu.
Different statements of Rabbi Yehuda in the name of Rav are brought regarding mikvaot. The mishna brings a basic argument between Rabbi Meir and the Rabbis about whether or not conspiring witnesses getting the punishment of what they conspired to do and also get lashes for the negative commandment of testifying falsely. The gemara discusses their opinions.
Witnesses testify falsely that one divorced his wife and didn’t’ pay the ketuba – how is the damage they were trying to cause him evaluated (since there was a chance he would have had to pay that money anyway – if he did divorce her down the road or in the event of death). Likewise, if they claimed a10 year loan was due in 30 days, how is the payment assessed?
There are certain exceptions to the rule when false witnesses do not receive the punishment “that they tried to do to their brother.” In those cases, they get lashes instead. For example, if they testify about the status of a person (about a kohen that his father married a divorce) or that he killed accidentally and should go to the refuge city. The gemara looks for the source that in these cases one doesn’t get the punishment “as he tried to do to his brother” and also looks for the source that one can derive the lashes punishment for these crimes.
Michael Rosen shares some insights comparing a few issues in Sanhedrin with contemporary legal systems in American and in Israel.