Rambam - 3 Chapters a Day
Melachim uMilchamot Chapter 7, Melachim uMilchamot Chapter 8, Melachim uMilchamot Chapter 9
In both a milchemet mitzvah and a milchemet hareshut, a priest is appointed to address the nation before the battle. He is anointed with the oil of anointment and is called, the meshuach milchamah.
The meshuach milchamah speaks to the nation twice: Once, at the border, as the army is leaving before they assume battle positions. At that time, he tells the nation: 'Is there a man who has planted a vineyard and has not redeemed his first crop?...' (Deuteronomy 20:6). When these individuals hear his words, they should retreat from the battlefront.
He speaks a second time when the army has assumed battle positions: Then, he declares: 'Do not be afraid. Do not panic...' (ibid. 20:3).
When the armies assume battle positions and will shortly join in war, the meshuach milchamah stands in an elevated place before the array of the entire army. He addresses them in Hebrew:
Listen, Israel, today you are about to wage war against your enemies. Do not be faint-hearted. Do not be afraid. Do not panic and do not break ranks before them. God, you Lord, is the One accompanying you to do battle for you against your enemies to deliver you (ibid. 20:3-4).
These words are related by the meshuach milchamah. Afterwards, another priest of a lower rank, proclaims them to the people in a loud voice. Then, the meshuach milchamah announces:
Is there a man who has built a new house?... Let him go home...
Is there a man who has planted a vineyard?... Let him go home...
Is there a man who has consecrated a woman?... Let him go home... (ibid. 20:5-7).
These words are related by the meshuach milchamah. Afterwards, an officer proclaims these words to the nation in a loud voice. the officer announces on his own initiative: 'Is there a man who is afraid or faint-hearted? Let him go home...' (ibid. 20:8). Another officer proclaims these words to the people.
After these individuals depart from the battlefront, the army is arrayed again and commanding officers are appointed at the head of the nation.
Powerful officers with iron axes in their hands are placed in the rear of each array of troops. If a person wants to leave the battle, they have permission to chop off his legs, for flight is the beginning of defeat.
In which instances are the above-mentioned individuals sent away from the battlefront? In a milchemet hareshut. By contrast, in a milchemet mitzvah, the entire nation must go out to war, even a groom from his chamber, and a bride from her pavilion.
Those who leave the battlefront include a person who builds:
a house to dwell in,
a barn for his cattle,
a woodshed, or
a storage house.
A person who builds one of the latter is deferred because those structures are also fit for dwelling.
Just as a person who builds a home is deferred from military service; so, too, one who buys a home, receives one as a present, or inherits one should also return from the front.
However, one who builds (a silo,) a gatehouse, an excedra, a porch, or a house that is less than four cubits by four cubits, and similarly, a person who steals a house does not return from the war.
Just as a person who plants a vineyard is deferred from military service; so, too, one who plants five fruit trees, even though they are of five different species recieves a similar deferment.
This applies to one who plants a vineyard, one who extends, one who grafts, the extensions and graftings must be significant enough to obligate the vine in orlah, one who buys, one who inherits, and one who received one as a present.
However, one who plants four fruit trees or five trees that do not bear fruit and similarly, one who steals a vineyard does not return from the battlefront because of it. Also, when a vineyard is planted by two partners, neither may return from the battlefront because of it.
Just as a man who consecrates a virgin is deferred from military service; so, too, a deferment is granted to one who consecrates a widow and similarly, to a man to whom a yevamah becomes obligated. Even if there are five brothers and one of them dies, all should return from the battlefont.
If a man consecrates a wife on the condition that the Kiddushin take effect retroactively from the day they were given after a year has passed and that time period is completed during a war, he should return from the battlefield.
A person who remarries his divorcee and one who consecrates a woman whom he is forbidden to marry, for example, a widow for a High Priest, a divorcee or a woman who has undergone chalitzah for a common priest, or a mamzer or a natinah to an Israelite, or an Israelitess to a mamzer or natin, should not return from the battlefield.
All those who return from the army camp, return when they hear the proclamation of the priest. They must supply food and water to their brethren in the army and fix the roads for them.
The following should not go out to the army camp at all and should not be bothered for any obligation whatsoever:
one who builds a house and dedicates it;
one who marries the woman he consecrated or his yevamah;
one who redeems his vineyard.
They are not conscripted until the completion of one year as Deuteronomy 24:5 states: 'He must remain free for his home for one year and rejoice with the bride he took.' The Oral Tradition teaches that the one-year deferment applies whether he purchased a house, married a woman, or began to benefit from the fruit of his vineyard.
During this entire year, he is not obligated to supply the troops with food or water. He should not fix the roads, guard the walls or pay the levy for beams for the gates of the city, as ibid. states: 'He shall not enter military service or be assigned any duties.'
The repetition of the prohibition teaches that the transgression of two prohibitions are involved. He is not obligated to his city, nor to the army.
If a person builds a house and rents it to others, in the event the tenants pay the rent beforehand, it is considered as if he has already benefited from it. If they do not pay him rent until after twelve months have passed, it is considered as if he has not yet derived benefit.
The following rules apply when a man built a house, placed his belongings inside, and locked them within: If he has to spend time guarding them, it is considered as if he derived benefit from the home and began dwelling there. If he does not have to sit and guard them, he is considered as one who has derived no benefit from his home as of yet.
Anyone that builds a house or plants a vineyard outside of the land of Israel, is not sent back [from the battlefront].
To whom does the phrase 'Is there a man who is afraid or faint-hearted]?' refer? The phrase should be interpreted simply, as applying to a person whose heart is not brave enough to stand in the throes of battle.
Once a soldier enters the throes of battle, he should rely on the Hope of Israel and their Savior in times of need. He should realize that he is fighting for the sake of the oneness of God's Name. Therefore, he should place his soul in his hand and not show fright or fear.
He should not worry about his wife or children. On the contrary, he should wipe their memory from his heart, removing all thoughts from his mind except the war.
Anyone who begins to feel anxious and worry in the midst of battle to the point where he frightens himself violates a negative commandment, as it is written (Deuteronomy 20:3): 'Do not be faint-hearted. Do not be afraid. Do not panic and do not break ranks before them.'
Furthermore, he is responsible for the blood of the entire Jewish nation. If he is not valiant, if he does not wage war with all his heart and soul, it is considered as if he shed the blood of the entire people, as ibid. 20:8 states: 'Let him go home, lest he demoralize the hearts of his brethren like his own.' Similarly, the prophetic tradition explicitly states: 'Cursed be he who does God's work deceitfully. Cursed be he who withholds his sword from blood.' Jeremiah 48:10
In contrast, anyone who fights with his entire heart, without fear, with the intention of sanctifying God's name alone, can be assured that he will find no harm, nor will bad overtake him. He will be granted a proper family in Israel and gather merit for himself and his children forever. He will also merit eternal life in the world to come as I Samuel 25:28-29 states: 'God will certainly make my lord a faithful house, for my lord fights the wars of God and evil will not be found with you... and my lord's soul will be bound in a bond of life with God.'
When the army's troops enter the territory of gentiles, conquering them and taking them captive, they are permitted to eat meat from animals that died without being ritually slaughtered or which were trefe, and the flesh of pigs and similar animals, if they become hungry and can only find these forbidden foods.
Similarly, they may drink wine used in the worship of idols. This license is derived by the Oral Tradition which interprets Deuteronomy 6:10-11: 'God... will give you... houses filled with all the good things' as 'pigs' necks and the like.'
Similarly, a soldier may engage in sexual relations with a woman while she is still a gentile if his natural inclination overcomes him. However, he may not engage in sexual relations with her and then, go on his way. Rather, he must bring her into his home as Deuteronomy 21:11 states 'If you see a beautiful woman among the prisoners...You shall bring her into the midst of your home...'
It is forbidden for him to engage in sexual relations with her a second time until he marries her.
Relations with a yefat toar are only permitted while she is in captivity as the verse states ' If you see... among the prisoners.'
This license is permitted whether the woman is a virgin or not, even if she is married, for the gentiles' marriages are not recognized.
A number of laws are derived from the exegesis of the verse from Deuteronomy quoted above:
'And you desire' - even though she is not beautiful.
'Her' - and not another. He may not engage in sexual relations with two women. 'You may take her as a wife' - He may not take two women as captives with the intention of engaging in relations with one and saving the other for his father or brother.
What is the source which teaches that he may not pressure her in the midst of the war? Deuteronomy 21:12 states: 'You shall bring her into the midst of your home...' Thus, he must bring her into an (vacant) place and then, engage in relations with her.
A priest is also allowed relations with a yefat toar initially. For the Torah only permitted relations as a concession to man's natural inclination. However, he is not permitted to marry her afterwards, for she is a convert.
What is the procedure which a Jew must follow regarding a yefat toar after he had relations with her once while she is still a gentile? If she desires to enter under the wings of the Shechinah, he may have her immersed in a mikveh for the purpose of conversion immediately.
If she does not accept the Jewish faith, she should dwell in his house for thirty days, as ibid. 21:13 states: 'She shall mourn her father and mother for thirty days.' Similarly, she should mourn the abandonment of her faith. Her captor should not prevent her from crying.
She must let her nails grow and shave her head so that she will not appear attractive to him. She must be together with him at home. Thus, when he enters, he sees her; when he leaves; he sees her, so that he becomes disgusted with her.
He must be patient with her so that she will accept the Jewish faith. If she accepts Judaism and he desires her, she may convert and immerse herself in the mikveh for that purpose, like other converts.
A captor must wait three months before marrying his captive: the month of mourning and two months following it.
When he marries her, he must give her Kiddushin and a Ketubah. If he does not desire her, he must set her free. If he sells her, he violates a negative commandment, as Deuteronomy 21:14 states: 'You may not sell her for money.' Should a captor sell his captive, the sale is invalidated and he must return the money.
Similarly, if after having relations with her, he forces her to become a servant, he violates a negative commandment from the time he makes use of her as ibid. states: lo titamar boh. That phrase means 'he should not make use of her.'
Her captor must be patient with her for twelve months if she refuses to convert.
If she still refuses after this interval has passed, she must agree to accept the seven universal laws commanded to Noah's descendants and then, she is set free. Her status is the same as all other resident aliens.
Her captor may not marry her, for it is forbidden to marry a woman who has not converted.
If she conceives after the initial relations with her captor, the child has the status of a convert. In no regard is he considered as the captor's son, for his mother is a gentile. Rather, the court immerses him in the mikveh and takes responsibility for him.
Tamar was conceived from King David's initial relations with a yefat toar, but Avshalom was conceived after marriage. Thus, Tamar was only Avshalom's maternal sister and thus, would have been permitted to Amnon. This can be inferred from the statement II Samuel 13:13: 'Speak to the king, for he will not withhold me from you.'
A yefat toar who does not desire to abandon idol worship after twelve months should be executed. Similarly, a treaty cannot be made with a city which desires to accept a peaceful settlement until they deny idol worship, destroy their places of worship, and accept the seven universal laws commanded Noah's descendants. For every gentile who does not accept these commandments must be executed if he is under our undisputed authority.
Moses only gave the Torah and mitzvot as an inheritance to Israel, as Deuteronomy 33:4 states: 'The Torah... is the inheritance of the congregation of Jacob,' and to all those who desire to convert from among the other nations, as Numbers 15:15 states 'the convert shall be the same as you.' However, someone who does not desire to accept Torah and mitzvot, should not be forced to.
By the same regard, Moses was commanded by the Almighty to compel all the inhabitants of the world to accept the commandments given to Noah's descendants.
If one does not accept these commands, he should be executed. A person who formally accepts these commands is called a resident alien. This applies in any place. This acceptance must be made in the presence of three Torah scholars.
Anyone who agrees to circumcise himself and allows twelve months to pass without circumcising himself is considered as one of the nations.
Anyone who accepts upon himself the fulfillment of these seven mitzvot and is precise in their observance is considered one of 'the pious among the gentiles' and will merit a share in the world to come.
This applies only when he accepts them and fulfills them because the Holy One, blessed be He, commanded them in the Torah and informed us through Moses, our teacher, that Noah's descendants had been commanded to fulfill them previously.
However, if he fulfills them out of intellectual conviction, he is not a resident alien, nor of 'the pious among the gentiles,' nor of their wise men.
Six precepts were commanded to Adam:
a) the prohibition against worship of false gods;
b) the prohibition against cursing God;
c) the prohibition against murder;
d) the prohibition against incest and adultery;
e) the prohibition against theft;
f) the command to establish laws and courts of justice.
Even though we have received all of these commands from Moses and, furthermore, they are concepts which intellect itself tends to accept, it appears from the Torah's words that Adam was commanded concerning them.
The prohibition against eating flesh from a living animal was added for Noah, as Genesis 9:4 states: 'Nevertheless, you may not eat flesh with its life, which is its blood.' Thus there are seven mitzvot.
These matters remained the same throughout the world until Abraham. When Abraham arose, in addition to these, he was commanded regarding circumcision. He also ordained the morning prayers.
Isaac separated tithes and ordained an additional prayer service before sunset. Jacob added the prohibition against eating the sciatic nerve. He also ordained the evening prayers. In Egypt, Amram was commanded regarding other mitzvot. Ultimately, Moses came and the Torah was completed by him.
A gentile who worships false gods is liable provided he worships them in an accepted manner.
A gentile is executed for every type of foreign worship which a Jewish court would consider worthy of capital punishment. However, a gentile is not executed for a type of foreign worship which a Jewish court would not deem worthy of capital punishment. Nevertheless, even though a gentile will not be executed for these forms of worship, he is forbidden to engage in all of them.
We should not allow them to erect a monument, or to plant an Asherah, or to make images and the like even though they are only for the sake of beauty.
A gentile who curses God's Name, whether he uses God's unique name or one of His other names, in any language, is liable. This law does not apply with regard to Jews.
A gentile who slays any soul, even a fetus in its mother's womb, should be executed in retribution for its death. Similarly, if he slew a person who would have otherwise died in the near future, placed a person before a lion, or starved a person to death, he should be executed for through one manner or other, he killed.
Similarly, one should be executed if he killed a pursuer when he could have saved the latter's potential victim by maiming one of the pursuer's limbs. These laws do not apply with regard to Jews.
There are six illicit sexual relations forbidden to a gentile:
a) his mother;
b) his father's wife;
c) a married woman;
d) his maternal sister;
e) a male;
f) an animal.
These prohibitions are derived from the verse Genesis 2:24: 'Therefore, a man shall leave his father and his mother and cling to his wife and they shall become one flesh.'
'His father' - alludes to his father's wife;
'his mother' - is to be understood simply;
'cling to his wife' - and not his colleague's wife;
'his wife' - and not a male;
'They shall become one flesh' - this excludes a domesticated animal, beast, or fowl for man can never become 'one flesh' with them.
The prohibition against relations with a maternal sister is derived from the verse Genesis 20:13: 'She is my sister, my father's daughter, but not my mother's. Thus, she became my wife.'
A gentile is liable for relations with his mother even though she was seduced or raped by his father and never married to him. She is, nevertheless, his mother.
He is liable for relations with his father's wife even after his father's death.
He is liable for relations with a male whether a minor or an adult and with an animal whether young or old. In the latter instance, the gentile alone is executed and not the animal. We are only commanded to kill an animal with which a Jew engaged in relations.
A gentile is not executed for adultery with his colleague's wife unless they engage in relations in the normal manner after she had engaged in relations with her husband at least once. However, if she was merely consecrated or had undergone a wedding ceremony, but had never engaged in relations with her husband, one is not liable for engaging in relations with her, as Genesis 20:3 states: 'For she has been possessed by her husband.'
When does the above apply? When a gentile engages in relations with a gentile woman. However, a gentile who engages in relations with a married Jewess is liable whether their relations were carried out in a normal or abnormal manner.
Similarly, a gentile who engages in relations with a Jewish maiden who has been consecrated is stoned to death because of her as is the law regarding Jews. If he engages in relations with her after she has undergone the wedding ceremony, but has not engaged in relations with her husband, he is strangled to death as is the Jewish law. However, if he engages in relations with a Jewish woman after she engaged in relations with her husband once, he is sentenced to be executed by decapitation as if he had engaged in relations with a gentile woman.
A gentile who singles out one of his maid-servants for one of his slaves and, afterwards, engages in relations with her is executed because of her for violation of the prohibition against adultery. However, he is not liable for relations with her until the matter has become public knowledge and everyone refers to her as 'the wife of X, the slave.'
When do relations with her become permitted again? When he separates her from his slave and uncovers her hair in the market-place.
When is a gentile woman considered divorced? When her husband removes her from his home and sends her on her own or when she leaves his domain and goes her own way. They have no written divorce proceedings.
The matter is not dependant on the man's volition alone. Whenever he or she decide to separate, they may and then, are no longer considered as married.
A gentile is liable for violating the prohibition against theft whether he stole from another gentile or from a Jew.
This applies to one who forcefully robs an individual or steals money, a kidnapper, an employer who withholds his worker's wages and the like, even a worker who eats from his employer's produce when he is not working. In all such cases, he is liable and is considered as a robber. With regard to Jews, the law is different.
Similarly, a gentile is liable for stealing an object worth less than a p'rutah. Thus, if one gentile stole an object worth less than a p'rutah and another gentile stole it from him, they are both executed because of it.
Similarly, a gentile is liable for violating the prohibition against eating a limb or flesh from a living creature. This applies regardless of the amount involved, for the specification of minimum amounts only applies to Jews.
A gentile is permitted blood from a living creature.
The prohibition applies to a limb or flesh that is separated from either a domesticated animal or a beast. However, it appears to me that a gentile is not executed for eating a limb taken from a living bird.
Though one slaughters an animal, even if one severs the two signs that distinguish it as having been slaughtered in a kosher manner, as long as the animal moves convulsively, the limbs and meat which are separated from it are forbidden to a gentile because of the prohibition against a limb from a living creature.
All prohibitions that apply to a Jew regarding a limb from a living creature also apply to gentiles. Furthermore, there are instances where a gentile would be held liable and a Jew will not for a gentile is liable for a limb or flesh from a living creature whether from a domesticated animal or a beast, whether from a kosher or non-kosher species.
Similarly, a gentile is forbidden to partake of a limb from a living creature for a limb or flesh which is separated from an animal that is moving convulsively even though a Jew has already severed the two signs.
How must the gentiles fulfill the commandment to establish laws and courts? They are obligated to set up judges and magistrates in every major city to render judgement concerning these six mitzvot and to admonish the people regarding their observance.
A gentile who transgresses these seven commands shall be executed by decapitation. For this reason, all the inhabitants of Shechem were obligated to die. Shechem kidnapped. They observed and were aware of his deeds, but did not judge him.
A gentile is executed on the basis of the testimony of one witness and the verdict of a single judge. No warning is required. Relatives may serve as witnesses. However, a woman may not serve as a witness or a judge for them.
Published and copyright by Moznaim Publications, all rights reserved.
To purchase this book or the entire series, please click here
The text on this page contains sacred literature. Please do not deface or discard.
He who fulfills one mitzvah, acquires for himself one angel-advocate; he who commits one transgression, acquires against himself one angel-accuser
–Ethics of the Fathers 4:11