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During times when the Torah is the law of the land, if a Jew commits accidental murder against another Jew, he must flee to a Ir Miklat (City of Refuge) or else be subject to revenge killing by the Goel HaDam (Blood Avenger).

Is the Goel HaDam obligated to make a reasonable effort to kill the accidental murderer before he arrives in (or if he leaves) the Ir Miklat, or it is he simply allowed to do so if he wishes? For example, would it be a sin for him to forgive the killer or to decide not to attack despite the opportunity? Is it a mitzvah for the Goel HaDam to complete the act of revenge and/or make reasonable efforts to do so?

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This is the matter of a Tannaic dispute recorded in the Mishna (Makkot 2:7), Makkot (11a):

רוצח שיצא חוץ לתחום, ומצאו גואל הדם--רבי יוסי הגלילי אומר, מצוה ביד גואל הדם, ורשות ביד כל אדם; רבי עקיבה אומר, רשות ביד גואל הדם, וכל אדם אין חייבין עליו.

A murderer who left the bounds [of the city of refuge] R. Jose the Galilean says: it is a mitsvah for the goel hadam [to kill him] and permitted for everyone else. R. Akiva says: It is permissible [only] for the goel hadam, but anyone else would not be liable [for killing him].

Rambam (Hilkhot Rotseah 5:9) rules in accordance with Rabbi Akiva that it is merely permissible for the goel hadam to kill him; not an obligation:

רוצח בשגגה שהרגו גואל הדם חוץ לתחום עיר מקלטו--פטור..אחד ההורגו בדרך קודם שייכנס לעיר מקלטו... נכנס לעיר מקלטו, ויצא חוץ לתחומה בזדון--הרי זה התיר עצמו למיתה, ורשות לגואל הדם להורגו

If a goel hadam killed one who killed inadvertently outside of the bounds of the city, he is exempt...Whether he killed him on the way before he entered the city of refuge...[or] if he entered the city of refuge, and deliberately left its boundaries--he has made it permissible to kill him, and it is permissible to the goel hadam to kill him.

  • What about the Goel HaDam of a Meizid murderer? – Double AA Jun 27 '17 at 13:43
  • @DoubleAA does that exist? I thought a Goel HaDam was a special exception that only exists for a shogeg murder – alicht Jan 9 at 19:11
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    @alicht אוֹ בְאֵיבָה הִכָּהוּ בְיָדוֹ, וַיָּמֹת--מוֹת-יוּמַת הַמַּכֶּה, רֹצֵחַ הוּא: גֹּאֵל הַדָּם, יָמִית אֶת-הָרֹצֵחַ--בְּפִגְעוֹ-בוֹ Maybe you shouldn't be asking about female nazir :P – Double AA Jan 9 at 19:41
  • @DoubleAA haha true! Should put down my Makkos and pick up a Chumash :) – alicht Jan 9 at 19:43
  • @DoubleAA question: but if we say that a goel hadam (Reuven) can kill the intentional murderer (Shimon)- can't a karov from Shimon's now be a goel hadam and try and kill Reuven? (and this would back and forth 100x with everyone avenging everyone's death) – alicht Jan 10 at 3:25

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