The unintentional murderer is instructed to flee for the safety of the city of refuge, so that he may continue to live safely without fear of vengeance from the relatives of his victim. To “live” is not merely to exist, but rather, to continue his original life to which he had been accustomed. The Talmud in Makos (10a) states: “If a disciple was exiled to a city of refuge, they in turn exile his teacher with him, for it says, “and he shall live” which implies provide him with the proper arrangements to enable him to live, and a student cannot survive without the one who teaches him Torah.” The Rambam adds, that to be deprived of the opportunity for continued study for a Torah student is analogous to death. Furthermore, the Ran states that despite the great scholars and teachers in these cities, for they were home for the tribe of Levi, it is the teacher to whom this student has become accustomed who takes preference, for he will be able to study more proficiently under his tutelage. If this opportunity for spiritual growth is not afforded to the student, then it is regarded as if he is missing the vital force of life itself.
There is a great lesson to be derived from this halacha. If one who has studied and excelled, and still has the ability for continued growth and scholarship, is deprived of this chance to exceed his present status, then he is missing the very essence of life itself. Growth in Torah is not a lesson in academic and scholarly gymnastics, it is the lifeblood of one’s existence, the soul and spirit of a Jew’s survival.
We may note from here the sublime level of importance afforded to the Rebbe-Talmid relationship. A student inadvertently errs and must escape to the city of refuge. Is it the teacher’s responsibility to forsake everything and join his student? Indeed, this is what is expected of a Torah teacher. He must realize that he is the source of spiritual sustenance and nourishment, who has a reciprocal relationship with his student. Just as a talmid cannot grow without his Rebbe, the Rebbe requires the presence of his Talmid.