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Browse Torah Articles: Sefer Bemidbar: Parashat Maseh: Atonement in Demise

Contributed by: R. Ezra Mizrahi

In the Talmud Yerushalmi, R. Simon in the name of R. Yohanan said that there were two things that there was no kapara (atonement) for, but that the Torah established kapara for:

1. The one who speaks Lashon Hara
2. The one who kills beshogeg (by accident)

For the one who speaks Lashon Hara, the Torah established kapara in the bells of the Me'eel (large robe smock-like garment) of the Kohen Ha'Gadol. Those bells ring every time the Kohen walks by, as it is written: "And this for Aharon to serve, and he will be heard." The sound from these bells, will atone for the sounds made by those who spoke Lashon Hara.

The Torah also established atonement for the one who kills by accident, through the death of the Kohen Ha'Gadol. AS it is written:

"For he must dwell in his city of refuge until the death of the Kohen Ha'gadol, and after the death of the Kohen Ha'Gadol the killer shall return to the land of his possession."

We can ask: If one of the garments of the Kohen Ha'Gadol is enough to atone for Lashon Hara and another is enough to atone for killing (as R. Simon continues in the Talmud Yerushalmi and explains that the Kitonet, the tunic, atones for general killing), why then must the accidental killer wait for the death of the Kohen Ha'Gadol for atonement? Why not simply have the blood the killer spilled be atoned for in the Kitonet of the Kohen (learnt from Yosef, and the dipping of his Kitonet in blood, see Yerushalmi for more)?

The key difference in the two sins, is that Lashon hara is spoken and can therefore be atoned in the sound of the bells. The accidental killer actually killed, in action, unlike the speaker of Lashon Hara. And the Torah tells us that:

"...the Land will not have atonement for the blood that was spilled in it, except through the blood of the one who spilled it."

Going into exile does not meet this criterion, and neither does the tunic of the Kohen Ha'Gadol. Therefore the atonement for the accidental killer is set in the death of a righteous person, that everyone is dependant on his merits. His death effects all and will atone for an individual who killed by accident.
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