Bamidbar 35:25 - 27 state that a person who inadvertantly kills someone must reside in the city of refuge until the Kohen Gadol dies. If that person leaves the refuge city, the "Go'el Hadam" (loose translation - "blood avenger") can kill the other person.

Suppose that after the Cohen Gadol dies, the indavertent killer decided to live in the refuge city, or, for that matter, go to one of the other 5 (there were 6 in total.) Can the Go'el Hadam kill him and be innocent?

In summary, when the Cohen Gadol dies, is the protection eliminated? If the protection is NOT eliminated, does he have to stay in the original refuge city (I state this because verse 25 uses the term "ir miklaTO" meaning HIS refuge city. Perhaps, a gemarrah uses this term for some point?) or can he go to another one?


1 Answer 1


The death of the Kohen Gadol absolved the accidental murderer of his need to remain in the city of refuge, and the avenger could no longer kill him. The avenger cannot kill him no matter where he is residing after the death of the Kohen Gadol. Thus, the accidental murderers would pray for the death of the Kohen Gadol, and his mother would try to appease them to not pray for his death (Makkos 11a) - because his death freed them.

In terms of switching cities of refuge (before the death of the Kohen Gadol - after, he no longer needs the city of refuge), a person would remain in the city of refuge to which they had initially traveled. The one exception was if they entered it not realizing that it was a city of refuge, and it was one of the 42 minor cities of refuge (those not of the 6 specified in the Torah) - then he could still go to another. However, in the 6 main cities of refuge, even if he entered by accident he could not subsequently switch, or he would lose its protection (Makkos 9b).

  • Very thorough. When I have the chance, B"N, I will look at Makkot. Thanks
    – DanF
    Jul 28, 2014 at 18:06

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