Makkot, Chapter Two, Mishnah Three



Mishnah three discusses categories of accidental killers who do or do not go into exile.


Mishnah Three

1)                     The father goes into banishment for [the death of] his son, and the son goes into banishment for [that of] his father.

2)                     All go into banishment for [the death of] an Israelite, and Israelites go into banishment on their account, except for a resident alien.

a)                                           And a resident alien does not go into banishment except for [the death of another] resident alien.

3)                     A blind person does not go into banishment, the words of Rabbi Judah.

a)                                           Rabbi Meir says:  “He goes into banishment.”

4)                     An enemy does not go into banishment.

a)                                           Rabbi Yose bar Judah says:  “An enemy is executed, for it is as if he has been warned.”

b)                                          Rabbi Shimon says:  “There is an enemy that goes into banishment and there is an enemy that does not go into banishment:  wherever it can be said that he had killed [his victim] wittingly, he goes not into banishment,  and where he had slain unwittingly, he goes into banishment.



Section one:  Although we learned in the previous mishnah that a father does not go into banishment if he accidentally kills his son while disciplining him, he nevertheless does go into banishment if he accidentally kills him under other circumstances.  So too a son goes into banishment if he accidentally kills his father.

Section two:  Anyone who accidentally kills an Israelite, meaning a Jew, is exiled, including a slave or a Samaritan (a sect that broke away from the Jews).  So too, any Jew who accidentally kills someone goes into exile, even if he accidentally kills a slave or a Samaritan.  The one exception is a resident alien, a person who lives in the Land of Israel and has accepted upon himself to perform the seven Noahide commandments (the prohibitions of idolatry, blasphemy, bloodshed, sexual sins, theft, and eating from a living animal, as well as the injunction to establish a legal system) but has not fully converted to Judaism.  If a Jew accidentally kills a resident alien he is not banished.  However, if a resident alien accidentally kills a Jew he is to be executed.  These laws are learned in the Talmud exegetically from Deuteronomy 19:5.

Section three:  Numbers 35:23 states that if a person drops a stone on someone else “without seeing” he is to be banished.  Based on this verse there is a dispute amongst the Sages with regards to the banishing of a blind person.  According to Rabbi Judah since a blind person can never see he is exempted from the laws of banishment.  According to Rabbi Meir, as long as the killing was accidental the killer is banished.

Section four:  A person who accidentally kills his enemy is understandably going to be looked at with some suspicion.  Deuteronomy 19:11 states that “If, however, a person who is the enemy of another lies in wait for him and sets upon him and strikes him with a fatal blow” this person is to be executed.  The question our mishnah asks is what to do with the an enemy who claims that he killed accidentally.  According to the first opinion, since he is an enemy, he is not banished.  Neither is he to be executed by a court.  Rather, the blood avenger is allowed to exact revenge upon this person and not be considered guilty of murder himself.  According to Rabbi Yose bar Judah he is to be executed, for we can assume that he murdered with intent, and it is as if he has already been warned not to murder such and such a person.  Rabbi Shimon states that not all situations in which a person kills his enemy are the same.  If it can be stated that the enemy killed with intent than he is not to be banished.  In other words, the cities of refuge will not offer him protection and the blood avenger will be permitted to exact revenge.  If, however, it cannot be stated that he killed with intent he is banished like all other accidental killers.


Questions for Further Thought:

·                      Section one:  Why would you think that a father doesn’t go into banishment for his son?  Why would you think that a son doesn’t go into banishment for accidentally killing his father?

·                      Section four:  There are three different opinions in this section.  Try to figure out how each opinion might be based on the verse in Deuteronomy.