כ״ד במרחשון ה׳תשע״ח (November 13, 2017)

Makkot 8a-b: A Killer Sent Into Exile

The second perek of Massekhet Makkot focuses on the punishment of galut – exile – for a person who killed his fellow accidentally (see Bamidbar 35:24-29 and Devarim 19:2-7). According to the Mishna on today’s daf, any Jewish person may be sent into exile for accidentally killing his fellow; similarly, any Jewish person who is accidentally killed will cause the killer to be sent into exile.

Who might the Mishna be including when it uses the term “any Jewish person”?

The Gemara explains that this broad statement comes to include an eved – a slave – and a kuti – a Samaritan. These are two categories of people who were part of the Jewish community, even though their status was not considered to be fully Jewish.

The eved under discussion is an eved kena’ani – a Canaanite (or non-Jewish) slave – who is circumcised. Such an eved is not obligated in all commandments; generally speaking his obligation in mitzvot parallels that of women, who are, for example, free of the obligation to perform positive, time-bound commandments.

The term kutim refers to those people who were brought to Israel in a population exchange during first Temple times, when the kings of Assyria exiled the Northern kingdom and replaced them with other nations – not all of whom were truly kutim. They settled in the area around the city of Shomron (Samaria), which is why they are also called Shomronim or Samaritans.

In II Melakhim (chapter 17) the navi describes how these nations accepted upon themselves some of the Jewish laws and customs out of fear after they were attacked and killed by lions – which is why they are often called gerei arayot – converts because of lions. At the same time they did not renounce their own gods and religious traditions.

At the beginning of the second Temple period, when Jews of the Diaspora began returning to the land of Israel, the relations between the Jews and the Shomronim became tense, with the Shomronim trying to bring down the efforts to rebuild the wall surrounding the city of Jerusalem and the beit ha-mikdash. At the same time, there were Jewish families – including families of kohanim – who intermarried with the Shomronim and assimilated with them.

During some periods, the relations between the two groups reached levels of overt warfare; Yoḥanan Hyrcanus even attacked and destroyed their temple on Mount Gerizim. During other periods, however, there was cooperation between the groups – during the bar Kokheva rebellion, for example.

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