This week’s Torah portion goes from Numbers 33:1 to 36:13. As the book of Numbers draws to a close, Moses maps out the boundaries of the land of their inheritance and he allocates the land portions set out for each of the tribes.
The tribes of Gad, Reuben, and Manasseh negotiate with Moses and agree to help fight for the conquest of the land but when the military campaign is over they intend to settle on the fertile east side of the Jordan, opposite the rest of their kinsmen. The Reubenites and Gadites had large flocks and they wanted for land more suitable for their livestock. The Levites, on the other hand, did not receive any allotment of land. The Bible notes that the “Lord is their inheritance,” the focal point of their devotion. As servants of the people, they will live in 48 towns scattered throughout the tribal territories.
In the midst of their community planning developments, something very unique is described. God instructs Moses to designate six of the 48 Levitical towns to be cities of refuge. In the case of accidental manslaughter, the accused could take asylum in the cities. Three of the cities of refuge were on the east side of the Jordan and three on the west.
An interesting take on accidental tragedy. My colleague’s wife hit and killed a child with her car many years ago, but from then on you could look in her eyes and see the sadness even when she was smiling at you.