The Torah says that when one person accidentally kills another, one of the places to go for refuge is the cities of the Levi’im. The simple understanding is that these cities do not belong to anyone in particular – sort of a “no-man’s land.” As such, they are a good choice for the public needs, such as to keep people who are dangerous out of trouble.
The Maharal teaches us that there were proportionately more cities of refuge in the Transjordan because murder was more common there. The Maharal asks: Why do we need more cities for accidental murderers, just because there are more intentional murderers?” He answers that people become desensitized and are not careful because of the fact that they are used to hearing about others being killed. This causes more accidents to happen.
Rav Yitzchak Isaac Sher offers a deeper understanding. Those who learn Torah – especially gemora – find it amazing how exact classifications must be. Things are checked and cross-checked to make sure to make sure that we have the exact understanding. There is no room for mistake. In fact, the Gemora in Avoda Zara 20b tells us “Learning Torah causes one to be careful”. This is easy to understand, for after a person sits in the Beis Medrash and carefully checks and rechecks and judges the text of the gemora, it will inevitably influence the way he acts in his daily life.
Therefore, there are two things that the Torah is looking to accomplish by sending the accidental killer to the cities of the Levi’im—who were the teachers of Torah to Klal Yisrael. Firstly, he will become more careful because of the sensitivity gained by learning, that one has to be very meticulous in one’s deeds. Secondly, Torah itself is the source of life and will, through it’s light, guide him down the right path. Though today we don’t have the cities of refuge, the cities of Levi’im – in the form of the Beis Medrash—are available to all of us.
During the three weeks, many people take an extra effort to work on their “bein adam l’chaveiro”. It is not easy work because we have habits that we have acquired over the course of time. During these times, when we are remiss, we feel very bad because we understand that this is not the proper behavior, especially at this time of year. We sometimes wonder what we can do to avoid this “falling”. It seems to me that if we use the idea of Rabbi Sher, if we strengthen our learning in Torah, not only will we have the segula of Torah to help us, but it will make us more conscious of every word and action that we say and do. This time of year is an opportune time to take advantage of the Beis Medrash, as a way of correcting our middos.