|[Editor’s note: As a memory of my beloved brother Shaya, I would like to continue sending out his pearls of wisdom that he has shared with all of you in the past. For some of you this may ring a bell and for others it may appear to be totally new. May the learning of Shaya’s Divrei Torah inspire us to change our ways and thereby give an Aliya to the neshama of our dear beloved Shaya whom we miss so much.]
This week’s Parsha contains the laws of the cities of refuge for a person who kills by mistake. There were six major cities of refuge: three in Eretz Yisroel proper, and three on the east side of the Jordan river. Rashi explains that the reason they had the same number of cities on the east side of the Jordan as in Eretz Yisroel, even though there were only two and a half Shvatim living there, was because the city of Gilad had many murderers.
The question the commentaries grapple with is that the cities of refuge were only for people who killed accidentally, so what difference does it make if there were a lot of intentional murderers in Gilad? Why would that be a reason to have cities of refuge for ACCIDENTAL killers?
The Maharal answers that since the people in Gilad were exposed to a lot of murderers, they lost some of their appreciation for the value of other people’s lives, and thus they were less careful when engaged in activities that could be hazardous to other people.
The lesson is clear: the people we are around have a major impact on our own character traits, personalities, and actions. Fortunate are the ones who stay away from the wicked, and rather maintain relationships with righteous upstanding Yidden.