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July 19, 2014 / conservadox

Dvar Torah- Mattei

Numbers 35:19 says that in cases of murder “after the trial, a relative of the victim is allowed to kill the murderer wherever he finds him.”

Scharfstein writes that entrusting execution “to a family member will ultimately lead to eradication of blood feuds.”  I suppose this might be true in the long run- but in the short run it seems like institutionalizing blood feuds by giving the victim’s family a shot at revenge.   On the other hand, this rule does at least create some neutral supervision, and is thus a step in the right direction. 

One interesting passage Scharfstein does not focus on is the phrase “wherever he finds him.” I would have thought that normally a murderer would be in some form of custody, so that the avenger would not have to “find” him.  Does this mean that the murderer somehow gets a head start? Or does this language just cover the unusual cases where the murderer is never apprehended and is tried in absentia?  I would guess the latter, but never noticed the ambiguity before.

By the way, this linguistic quirk is not limited to the Scharfstein translation; Hertz says the relative can kill the killer “when he meeteth him”- language that seems to me to have the same problem.


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