May 16, 2024
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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

All over modern Israel, one finds miklat signs, directing passers-by to the nearest bomb shelter. They serve as a painful and poignant reminder of the hostile environment in which the Jewish people and Jewish state exists, “As a single lamb surrounded by 70 wolves,” (Yalkut Shimoni Tehillim 35). As we have been reminded so often of late, the longest hatred—antisemitism—endures and continues to plague our people in Israel and throughout the world.

There is, however, a fascinating history to those miklat signs that significantly predates the invention of aerial bombers and long-range missiles. The Torah requires the creation of arei miklat—cities of refuge, throughout Eretz Yisrael to serve as safe havens for those who had killed someone accidentally (Bamidbar 35:9). Recognizing the threat these individuals faced from angry grieving relatives, the Torah instructed us to designate six cities spaced equally throughout the land that would provide refuge and protection for the accidental killers. The cities were not only situated conveniently; in keeping with the Torah’s instruction of “tachin lecha haderech—prepare the way,” we were to post miklat signs at major intersections directing people to where they could take refuge (Devarim 19:3, Rashi).

While today’s miklat signs are a sobering and painful indication of our vulnerability and serve as a tool for self-preservation from an external enemy, the original miklat signs signaled an encouraging society where we build for each other a framework for forgiveness and understanding that allows people to move past their mistakes.

Signs of the times… The day that we—as a community—move to build forgiveness and mutual support into the internal fabric of our society; the day that we rid ourselves of our competition, infighting and baseless hatred, and dedicate ourselves, instead, to building safety and security for each other; the miklat road signs may remain but the arrows will point in a different direction. The safety and security we will build and provide for each other will provide the key to the ultimate dissolution of our many external threats.


Rabbi Moshe Hauer is executive vice president of the Orthodox Union (OU), the nation’s largest Orthodox Jewish umbrella organization.

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