2 “Speak to the Israelites: Designate the cities of refuge—about which I commanded you through Moshe
20:2 Designate the cities of refuge
The cities of refuge are places where people who are guilty of unintentional manslaughter must flee for protection from the relatives of their victims. The accidental killer must remain in the city of refuge until the death of the Kohen Gadol. This law, which subjects the unwitting murderer to exile from his home, teaches a powerful lesson. The section of the Torah which details these laws ends with words, “You shall not pollute the land in which you live; for blood pollutes the land… You shall not defile the land in which you live, in which I Myself abide, for I Hashem abide among B’nei Yisrael” (Numbers 35:33-34). Bloodshed, even unintentional, defiles the sanctity of the land. Therefore, the perpetrator must undergo a symbolic exile from the land which he has defiled. He can return only once atonement is achieved through the death of the Kohen Gadol. Similarly, the Jewish people were exiled from the Land of Israel because of their collective desecration of the land. And just as the unwitting murderer eventually returns home from the city of refuge, the People of Israel are now also returning home from their long and painful exile, to Eretz Yisrael.