One of the more puzzling aspects of this week's Parsha, is referenced in a Gemarah in Makkos (daf 9b). Rashi notes that the number of "Cities of Refuge" on the other side of the Jordan is disproportionate to those in the Land of Israel. There are three cities on each side of the Jordan to accommodate eight and a half Sheva m in the Land of Israel and only two and a half Sheva m on the other side of the Jordan!?
To resolve this apparent inconsistency, the Gemarah explains that the people of Gilead, a city east of the Jordan, were murderers. The source for this is a verse in Hoshea (6:8), "Gilead is a city of evil filled with those who lay in wait for blood. The Gemarah asks, what does it mean "who lay in wait for blood?" The Gemarah answers that the verse refers to those who lay in ambush to murder. The Ramban points out that this sad condition in that city existed already in the lifetime of Moshe, hence his decision to establish the cities in this manner.
There are two questions to be asked. First, it seems from the above verse that the inhabitants of Gilead were intentional murderers. Aren't the "Cities of Refuge" intended only for those who kill inadvertently? Second, from the Ramban it appears that there is something inherent about the nature of Gilead that breeds murderers, without regard to the nationality of its inhabitants. How could this be?
To answer, the Maharal in Gur Aryeh (his commentary on Rashi in Chumash) tells us a fundamental concept. Just as Hashem created men prone to certain inclinations, so too, He created places prone to certain possibilities. One example of this is the case of the "rebellious sage" who issues a verdict contrary to one issued by the Sanhedrin. He is only executed if the Sanhedrin's verdict was issued from the "Chamber of Hewn Stone" in the Temple. If the verdict originated elsewhere, the rebellious sage is not executed. The Gemarah (Sanhedrin 14b) comments that we learn from this law "Shehamakom Gorem", that the "Place is the Cause". It is the locale of the Sanhedrin's ruling that makes the wayward sage's ruling a capital offense.
Another example of this is Yakov Avinu's startled realization upon awakening from his dream of the angels going up and down the ladder. As the verse states (Vayetzei 28:16) "Surely Hashem is in this place and I did not know." The Maharal goes on to explain that this is the reason why there are more accidental killings in Gilead than anywhere else. Unfortunately, there was a disproportionate amount of murders that took place in Gilead. This in turn was reflected in the greater number of accidental murders, given the overall lack of appreciation for human life. If one is truly concerned about his fellow human beings, mistakes are less likely to occur. Why was Gilead prone to such an attitude?
The answer can be found in the Kuzari. The Kuzari writes that it is not only our social environment that affects our thought processes. G-d created the world in such a way that even our physical environment can play role in who we are and the decisions we make. The land we live in can affect the way we act and think. In one place or time, one can find himself more likely to be successful - spiritual or physically. While in some other place or time, one seems to be in a never ending pattern of failure. This was the case with Gilead.
From the above, seemingly negative situation, we learn something positive that can affect out personal life. Rather than feel despondent when success seems to elude an individual, one should not take it personally. Either with time or by moving on to somewhere else, one will feel more capable in dealing with the tests that comes one's way. May we merit to reside permanently in Land of Israel, in the era of Mashiach. In a time and place that most definitely will spur us in the right direction, closer to G-d.