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Daily Mitzvah

Negative Commandment 46; Positive Commandment 190; Negative Commandment 56, 57; Positive Commandment 192, 193

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Negative Commandment 46 (Digest)
Settling in Egypt

"You shall never again return that way"Deuteronomy 17:16.

We are forbidden from dwelling in the land of Egypt, so that we do not learn their heretical ways nor their depraved lifestyle that the Torah decries. Alexandria, too, is part of the boundaries of Egypt that we may not live in. From the Sea of Alexandria we measure 400 parsah [a parsah is approximately four kilometers] to the length and breadth—and that is the boundary of the Land of Egypt that we may not dwell in.

The prohibition only applies to settling in Egypt. It is, however, permitted to travel to Egypt for business purposes, or to annex [parts of it to Israel].

Positive Commandment 190 (Digest)
Proposing Peace before Waging War

"They shall be your subjects and shall serve you"Deuteronomy 20:11.

When embarking upon an "optional war" [for the sake of expanding the borders of Israel, as opposed to the "mitzvah wars" waged against Amalek and the Seven Canaanite Nations], we are commanded to first offer the opponent a peace settlement. If the opponent accepts the terms of the peace proposal – i.e., the nation accepts upon itself Jewish sovereignty and agrees to pay an annual tax to the Jewish monarch – then we do not wage battle against them.

If they do not accept the terms of the peace proposal, then we go to battle and kill the male population, and the women and property are taken as spoils.

[With regards to "mitzvah wars," we also first offer a peace proposal, but in the event that the enemy doesn't accept the terms, then the entire population – male and female – are not allowed to live.]

Negative Commandment 56 (Digest)
Offering Peace to Amon or Moab

"You must not seek their peace or prosperity"Deuteronomy 23:7.

Normally, when embarking upon a battle, we are commanded to first offer the enemy terms for a peace proposal (see Positive Commandment 190). Not so with the nations of Amon and Moab, whom we may not offer a peace proposal. [Though if they, of their own volition, offer to make peace, we do accept their proposal—provided it meets the conditions outlined in the positive commandment referenced above.]

Negative Commandment 57 (Digest)
Wanton Destruction

"You shall not destroy its trees"Deuteronomy 20:19.

In the course of battle, while besieging an enemy city, it is forbidden to cut down fruit-bearing trees in order to cause distress and pain to the city's inhabitants.

Included in this mitzvah is the prohibition against any wanton destruction; for example, cutting down a fruit-bearing tree [even not in time of battle], or needlessly burning a garment or breaking a utensil.

Positive Commandment 192 (Digest)
Hygiene in the Army Camp

"You shall have a designated place outside the camp"Deuteronomy 23:13.

When going out to war, we are commanded to designate a place outside the army encampment where the soldiers can relieve themselves; so that they do not relieve themselves wherever they wish or between the tents, as is the practice amongst the nations.

Positive Commandment 193 (Digest)
Hygiene Equipment for Soldiers

"And you shall have a spade among your weapons"Deuteronomy 23:14.

Together with all the other weaponry each soldier carries around, he should also be equipped with a spade, so that when he needs to relieve himself he can dig a small hole, relieve himself there, and then cover up his defecation—so that there remains no exposed excrement on the grounds of the battle camp.


Translation of (the unabridged text of) Sefer Hamitzvot by Rabbi Berel Bell, member of the Rabbinical Court of Montreal and director of Teacher Training for the Jewish Learning Institute.

From "Sefer Hamitzvot in English," published by Sichos in English.
Daily Quote
And Moses returned to G‑d and said: “I beseech You: this nation has sinned a great sin, and have made themselves a god of gold. Now, if You will forgive their sin—; and if You will not, erase me from the book that You have written.”
  –Exodus 32:31–32
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