Judaism is all about how to live a meaningful good life, through the Torah. One of the most revolutionary concepts innovated by the Torah is that everyone is special and important, and not just a ruling elite.
Beyond this empowering belief, is that the door is never closed to people who lose their way. There is always room for the wayward to come back. No matter what they’ve done, people can find peace and redemption.
One of the absolute worst things a human can do is to take a life. Murder, which means to kill another, with intent, is so bad that the murderer is subject to capital punishment:
מַכֵּה אִישׁ וָמֵת מוֹת יוּמָת – One who strikes and kills a man, must absolutely be put to death. (21:13)
Yet someone who kills another inadvertently, manslaughter through negligence or some other tragic mistake, has a different remedy:
וַאֲשֶׁר לֹא צָדָה וְהָאֱלֹהִים אִנָּה לְיָדוֹ וְשַׂמְתִּי לְךָ מָקוֹם אֲשֶׁר יָנוּס שָׁמָּה – But if you didn’t stalk him, yet God brought it about by his hand, I will make a place for you to flee. (21:14)
The straightforward meaning of this cumbersome construction is that this killer must flee to a city of refuge.
Yet the words lend themselves to a deeper interpretation as well. The Arizal teaches that אִנָּה לְיָדוֹ וְשַׂמְתִּי לְךָ is the acronym of Elul, the month that culminates in the days of atonement. This law also contains an aspect of teshuva: the impetus to do teshuva at all.
R’ Moshe Einstadter beautifully reads this back into the words.
אִנָּה לְיָדוֹ – Something awful has happened. Running away is part of the process, but once the killer gets there, he must live with his conscience for the rest of his days. How can the guilty person live with himself?
וְשַׂמְתִּי לְךָ מָקוֹם – Hashem reassures us that there is nothing irredeemable; there remains a place for all of us. There is hope; there is a future.
Perhaps it is worth nothing that אִנָּה לְיָדוֹ is a matter of passive inaction, and the solution is one of action –
וְשַׂמְתִּי לְךָ. It takes real action to make a change.
But if we do, there is a place for all of us.