A man loses control of his car when his tire is punctured by a nail and blows out. Trying to regain control, he swerves and hits a pedestrian, who dies instantly. Is the driver of the car guilty of murder?
When a person dies under unusual circumstances, it is only natural for family and friends to feel both grief for their loss and anger at the person whom they perceive as having taken their loved one away. In fact, the survivors may be so upset that they feel a need to seek vengeance. For this reason, the Torah instructed the Children of Israel that when they are settled in the promised land they are to create six arei miklat, cities of refuge, cities to which a person who accidentally kills another might flee.
As soon as the accidental death occurs, the person responsible flees to the city of refuge. Once there, a trial is held to see if the perpetrator is truly innocent of negligence. A person who is found innocent of murder, but guilty of involuntary manslaughter, must remain in the city of refuge until the death of the High Priest, at which time the person may return home.
For a more detailed understanding of the arei miklat by Rabbi Ephraim Z. Buchwald, please click here.