War, neither a milchemet hareshut or a milchemet mitzvah, should not be waged against anyone until they are offered the opportunity of peace as Deuteronomy 20:10 states: "When you approach a city to wage war against it, you should propose a peaceful settlement."

If the enemy accepts the offer of peace and commits itself to the fulfillment of the seven mitzvot that were commanded to Noah's descendents, none of them should be killed. Rather, they should be subjugated as ibid.:11 states: "They shall be your subjects and serve you."

If they agree to tribute, but do not accept subjugation or if they accept subjugation, but do not agree to tribute, their offer should not be heeded. They must accept both.

The subjugation they must accept consists of being on a lower level, scorned and humble. They must never raise their heads against Israel, but must remain subjugated under their rule. They may never be appointed over a Jew in any matter whatsoever.

The tribute they must accept consists of being prepared to support the king's service with their money and with their persons; for example, the building of walls, strengthening the fortresses, building the king's palace, and the like as I Kings 9:15-22) relates: "This is the tribute which Solomon raised to build the House of God, his own palace, the Milo, the wall of Jerusalem,... and all the store-cities which Solomon had... All the people that remained from the Amorites... upon them did Solomon lay a tribute of bondservice until this day."

In contrast, "Solomon did not make bondsmen out of the children of Israel. They were men of war, his personal servants, his princes, his captains, the officers of his chariots, and his horsemen."


אֵין עוֹשִׂין מִלְחָמָה עִם אָדָם בָּעוֹלָם עַד שֶׁקּוֹרְאִין לוֹ שָׁלוֹם (נ"א לשלום). אֶחָד מִלְחֶמֶת הָרְשׁוּת וְאֶחָד מִלְחֶמֶת מִצְוָה. שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (דברים כ, י) "כִּי תִקְרַב אֶל עִיר לְהִלָּחֵם עָלֶיהָ וְקָרָאתָ אֵלֶיהָ לְשָׁלוֹם". אִם הִשְׁלִימוּ וְקִבְּלוּ שֶׁבַע מִצְוֹת שֶׁנִּצְטַוּוּ בְּנֵי נֹחַ עֲלֵיהֶן אֵין הוֹרְגִין מֵהֶן נְשָׁמָה וַהֲרֵי הֵן לְמַס. שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (דברים כ, יא) "יִהְיוּ לְךָ לָמַס וַעֲבָדוּךָ". קִבְּלוּ עֲלֵיהֶן הַמַּס וְלֹא קִבְּלוּ הָעַבְדוּת אוֹ שֶׁקִּבְּלוּ הָעַבְדוּת וְלֹא קִבְּלוּ הַמַּס. אֵין שׁוֹמְעִין לָהֶם עַד שֶׁיְּקַבְּלוּ שְׁנֵיהֶם. וְהָעַבְדוּת שֶׁיְּקַבְּלוּ הוּא שֶׁיִּהְיוּ נִבְזִים וּשְׁפָלִים לְמַטָּה וְלֹא יָרִימוּ רֹאשׁ בְּיִשְׂרָאֵל אֶלָּא יִהְיוּ כְּבוּשִׁים תַּחַת יָדָם. וְלֹא יִתְמַנּוּ עַל יִשְׂרָאֵל לְשׁוּם דָּבָר שֶׁבָּעוֹלָם. וְהַמַּס שֶׁיְּקַבְּלוּ שֶׁיִּהְיוּ מוּכָנִים לַעֲבוֹדַת הַמֶּלֶךְ בְּגוּפָם וּמָמוֹנָם. כְּגוֹן בִּנְיַן הַחוֹמוֹת. וְחֹזֶק הַמְּצוּדוֹת. וּבִנְיַן אַרְמוֹן הַמֶּלֶךְ וְכַיּוֹצֵא בּוֹ. שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (מלכים א ט, טו) "וְזֶה דְבַר הַמַּס אֲשֶׁר הֶעֱלָה הַמֶּלֶךְ שְׁלֹמֹה לִבְנוֹת אֶת בֵּית ה' וְאֶת בֵּיתוֹ וְאֶת הַמִּלּוֹא וְאֵת חוֹמַת יְרוּשָׁלָםִ" (מלכים א ט, יט) "וְאֵת כָּל עָרֵי הַמִּסְכְּנוֹת אֲשֶׁר הָיוּ לִשְׁלֹמֹה" (מלכים א ט, כ) "כָּל הָעָם הַנּוֹתָר מִן הָאֱמֹרִי" (מלכים א ט, כא) "וַיַּעֲלֵם שְׁלֹמֹה לְמַס עֹבֵד עַד הַיּוֹם הַזֶּה" (מלכים א ט, כב) "וּמִבְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל לֹא נָתַן שְׁלֹמֹה עָבֶד כִּי הֵם אַנְשֵׁי הַמִּלְחָמָה וַעֲבָדָיו וְשָׂרָיו וְשָׁלִישָׁיו וְשָׂרֵי רִכְבּוֹ וּפָרָשָׁיו":


In the settlement he offers, the king may propose that he is entitled to take half their financial resources. Or he may propose to take all their landed property and leave them their movable property; or to take all their movable property and leave their land.


וְיֵשׁ לַמֶּלֶךְ לְהַתְנוֹת עִמָּהֶם שֶׁיִּקַּח חֲצִי מָמוֹנָם אוֹ הַקַּרְקָעוֹת וְיַנִּיחַ כָּל הַמִּטַּלְטְלִין אוֹ הַמִּטַּלְטְלִים וְיַנִּיחַ הַקַּרְקָעוֹת כְּפִי מַה שֶּׁיַּתְנֶה:


It is forbidden to lie when making such a covenant or to be untruthful to them after they have made peace and accepted the seven mitzvot.


וְאָסוּר לְשַׁקֵּר בִּבְרִיתָם וּלְכַזֵּב לָהֶם אַחַר שֶׁהִשְׁלִימוּ וְקִבְּלוּ שֶׁבַע מִצְוֹת:


If they do not agree to a peaceful settlement, or if they agree to a peaceful settlement, but refuse to accept the seven mitzvot, war should be waged against them.

All males past majority should be killed. Their money and their children should be taken as spoil, but neither women or children should be killed, as Deuteronomy 20:14 states: "But the women and the children... take as spoil." "The children" refer to males below the age of majority.

The above applies to a milchemet hareshut fought with other nations. However, if either the seven nations or Amalek refuse to accept a peaceful settlement, not one soul of them may be left alive as ibid. 20:15-16 states: "Do this to all the cities that ... are not the cities of these nations. However, from the cities of these nations,... do not leave a soul alive." Similarly, in regard to Amalek, Deuteronomy 25:19 states: "Obliterate the memory of Amalek."

How do we know that these commands are only referring to those who did not accept a peaceful settlement? Joshua 11:19-20 states: "There was no city which accepted a peaceful settlement with the children of Israel except the Chivites who lived in Gibeon. All the rest, they conquered in battle. This was inspired by God, Who strengthened their hearts to engage in battle against Israel so that they would be destroyed." From these statements, we can infer that a peaceful settlement was offered, but they did not accept it.


וְאִם לֹא הִשְׁלִימוּ אוֹ שֶׁהִשְׁלִימוּ וְלֹא קִבְּלוּ שֶׁבַע מִצְוֹת. עוֹשִׂין עִמָּהֶם מִלְחָמָה וְהוֹרְגִין כָּל הַזְּכָרִים הַגְּדוֹלִים. וּבוֹזְזִין כָּל מָמוֹנָם וְטַפָּם. וְאֵין הוֹרְגִין אִשָּׁה וְלֹא קָטָן שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (דברים כ, יד) "וְהַנָּשִׁים וְהַטָּף" זֶה טַף שֶׁל זְכָרִים. בַּמֶּה דְּבָרִים אֲמוּרִים בְּמִלְחֶמֶת הָרְשׁוּת שֶׁהוּא עִם שְׁאָר הָאֻמּוֹת. אֲבָל שִׁבְעָה עֲמָמִין וַעֲמָלֵק שֶׁלֹּא הִשְׁלִימוּ אֵין מַנִּיחִין מֵהֶם נְשָׁמָה שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (דברים כ, טו) "כֵּן תַּעֲשֶׂה לְכָל" וְגוֹ' (דברים כ, טז) "רַק מֵעָרֵי הָעַמִּים" (דברים כ, טז) "לֹא תְחַיֶּה כָּל נְשָׁמָה". וְכֵן הוּא אוֹמֵר בַּעֲמָלֵק (דברים כה, יט) "תִּמְחֶה אֶת זֵכֶר עֲמָלֵק". וּמִנַּיִן שֶׁאֵינוֹ מְדַבֵּר אֶלָּא בְּאֵלּוּ שֶׁלֹּא הִשְׁלִימוּ שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (יהושע יא, יט) "לֹא הָיְתָה עִיר אֲשֶׁר הִשְׁלִימָה אֶל בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל בִּלְתִּי הַחִוִּי ישְׁבֵי גִבְעוֹן אֶת הַכּל לָקְחוּ בַמִּלְחָמָה" (יהושע יא, כ) "כִּי מֵאֵת ה' הָיְתָה לְחַזֵּק אֶת לִבָּם לִקְרַאת הַמִּלְחָמָה אֶת יִשְׂרָאֵל לְמַעַן הַחֲרִימָם". מִכְלַל שֶׁשָּׁלְחוּ לָהֶם לְשָׁלוֹם וְלֹא קִבְּלוּ:


Joshua sent three letters to the Canaanites before entering the promised land: At first, he sent them: "Whoever desires to flee, should flee."

Afterwards, he sent a second message: "Whoever desires to accept a peaceful settlement, should make peace."

Then, he sent again: "Whoever desires war, should do battle."

If so, why did the inhabitants of Gibeon employ a ruse? Because originally, when he sent the message to them as part of all the Canaanite nations, they did not accept. They were not aware of the laws of Israel and thought that they would never be offered a peaceful settlement again.

Why was the matter difficult for the princes of Israel to accept to the point that they desired to slay the Gibeonites by the sword were it not for the oath they had taken? Because they made a covenant with them and Deuteronomy 7:2 states "Do not make a covenant with them." Rather, the laws governing their status would have prescribed that they be subjugated as servants.

Since the oath was given to them under false pretenses, it would have been just to slay them for misleading them, were it not for the dishonor to God's name which would have been caused.


שְׁלֹשָׁה כְּתָבִים שָׁלַח יְהוֹשֻׁעַ עַד שֶׁלֹּא נִכְנַס לָאָרֶץ. הָרִאשׁוֹן שָׁלַח לָהֶם מִי שֶׁרוֹצֶה לִבְרֹחַ יִבְרַח. וְחָזַר וְשָׁלַח מִי שֶׁרוֹצֶה לְהַשְׁלִים יַשְׁלִים. וְחָזַר וְשָׁלַח מִי שֶׁרוֹצֶה לַעֲשׂוֹת מִלְחָמָה יַעֲשֶׂה. אִם כֵּן מִפְּנֵי מָה הֶעֱרִימוּ יוֹשְׁבֵי גִּבְעוֹן. לְפִי שֶׁשָּׁלַח לָהֶם בַּכְּלָל וְלֹא קִבְּלוּ. וְלֹא יָדְעוּ מִשְׁפַּט יִשְׂרָאֵל וְדִמּוּ שֶׁשּׁוּב אֵין פּוֹתְחִין לָהֶם לְשָׁלוֹם. וְלָמָּה קָשָׁה הַדָּבָר לַנְּשִׂיאִים וְרָאוּ שֶׁרָאוּי לְהַכּוֹתָם לְפִי חֶרֶב לוּלֵי הַשְּׁבוּעָה. מִפְּנֵי שֶׁכָּרְתוּ לָהֶם בְּרִית וַהֲרֵי הוּא אוֹמֵר (דברים ז, ב) "לֹא תִכְרֹת לָהֶם בְּרִית" אֶלָּא הָיָה דִּינָם שֶׁיִּהְיוּ לְמַס עֲבָדִים. וְהוֹאִיל וּבְטָעוּת נִשְׁבְּעוּ לָהֶן בְּדִין הָיָה שֶׁיֵּהָרְגוּ עַל שֶׁהִטְעוּם לוּלֵי חִלּוּל הַשֵּׁם:

Mishneh Torah (Moznaim)

Featuring a modern English translation and a commentary that presents a digest of the centuries of Torah scholarship which have been devoted to the study of the Mishneh Torah by Maimonides.


No offer of a peaceful settlement should be made to Ammon and Moav, as Deuteronomy 23:7 states: "Do not seek their peace and welfare for all your days." Our Sages declared: Although it is written: "Offer a peaceful settlement," does this apply to Ammon and Moab? The Torah states: "Do not seek their peace and welfare."

Although it is written Deuteronomy 23:17: "He must be allowed to live alongside you in you midst," does this apply to Ammon and Moav? No, the Torah also forbids "their welfare."

Even though we should not offer them a peaceful settlement, if they sue for peace themselves, we may accept their offer.


עַמּוֹן וּמוֹאָב אֵין שׁוֹלְחִין לָהֶם לְשָׁלוֹם שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (דברים כג, ז) "לֹא תִדְרשׁ שְׁלֹמָם וְטֹבָתָם כָּל יָמֶיךָ". אָמְרוּ חֲכָמִים לְפִי שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (דברים כ, י) "וְקָרָאתָ אֵלֶיהָ לְשָׁלוֹם" יָכוֹל עַמּוֹן וּמוֹאָב כֵּן. תַּלְמוּד לוֹמַר "לֹא תִדְרשׁ שְׁלֹמָם וְטֹבָתָם". לְפִי שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (דברים כג, יז) "עִמְּךָ יֵשֵׁב בְּקִרְבְּךָ" (דברים כג, יז) "בַּטּוֹב לוֹ לֹא תּוֹנֶנּוּ". יָכוֹל עַמּוֹן וּמוֹאָב כֵּן תַּלְמוּד לוֹמַר "וְטֹבָתָם". וְאַף עַל פִּי שֶׁאֵין שׁוֹאֲלִים בִּשְׁלוֹמָם אִם הִשְׁלִימוּ מֵעַצְמָם תְּחִלָּה מְקַבְּלִין אוֹתָן:


When a siege is placed around a city to conquer it, it should not be surrounded on all four sides, only on three. A place should be left for the inhabitants to flee and for all those who desire, to escape with their lives, as it is written Numbers 31:7: "And they besieged Midian as God commanded Moses." According to tradition, He commanded them to array the siege as described.


כְּשֶׁצָּרִין עַל עִיר לְתָפְשָׂהּ. אֵין מַקִּיפִין אוֹתָהּ מֵאַרְבַּע רוּחוֹתֶיהָ אֶלָּא מִשָּׁלֹשׁ רוּחוֹתֶיהָ. וּמַנִּיחִין מָקוֹם לַבּוֹרֵחַ וּלְכָל מִי שֶׁיִּרְצֶה לְהִמָּלֵט עַל נַפְשׁוֹ. שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (במדבר לא, ז) "וַיִּצְבְּאוּ עַל מִדְיָן כַּאֲשֶׁר צִוָּה ה' אֶת משֶׁה". מִפִּי הַשְּׁמוּעָה לָמְדוּ שֶׁבְּכָךְ צִוָּהוּ:


We should not cut down fruit trees outside a city nor prevent an irrigation ditch from bringing water to them so that they dry up, as Deuteronomy 20:19 states: "Do not destroy its trees." Anyone who cuts down such a tree should be lashed.

This does not apply only in a siege, but in all situations. Anyone who cuts down a fruit tree with a destructive intent, should be lashed.

Nevertheless, a fruit tree may be cut down if it causes damage to other trees or to fields belonging to others, or if a high price could be received for its wood. The Torah only prohibited cutting down a tree with a destructive intent.


אֵין קוֹצְצִין אִילָנֵי מַאֲכָל שֶׁחוּץ לַמְּדִינָה וְאֵין מוֹנְעִין מֵהֶם אַמַּת הַמַּיִם כְּדֵי שֶׁיִּיבְשׁוּ. שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (דברים כ, יט) "לֹא תַשְׁחִית אֶת עֵצָהּ". וְכָל הַקּוֹצֵץ לוֹקֶה. וְלֹא בְּמָצוֹר בִּלְבַד אֶלָּא בְּכָל מָקוֹם כָּל הַקּוֹצֵץ אִילַן מַאֲכָל דֶּרֶךְ הַשְׁחָתָה לוֹקֶה. אֲבָל קוֹצְצִין אוֹתוֹ אִם הָיָה מַזִּיק אִילָנוֹת אֲחֵרִים. אוֹ מִפְּנֵי שֶׁמַּזִּיק בִּשְׂדֵה אֲחֵרִים. אוֹ מִפְּנֵי שֶׁדָּמָיו יְקָרִים. לֹא אָסְרָה תּוֹרָה אֶלָּא דֶּרֶךְ הַשְׁחָתָה:


It is permissible to cut down any non-fruit bearing tree, even if one has no need for it. Similarly, one may cut down a fruit bearing tree that has become old and produces only a slight yield which does not warrant the effort required to care for it.

What is the yield that an olive tree must produce to warrant that it should not be cut down? A quarter of a kav of olives. Similarly, a date palm which yields a kav of dates should not be cut down.


כָּל אִילַן סְרָק מֻתָּר לָקֹץ אוֹתוֹ וַאֲפִלּוּ אֵינוֹ צָרִיךְ לוֹ. וְכֵן אִילַן מַאֲכָל שֶׁהִזְקִין וְאֵינוֹ עוֹשֶׂה אֶלָּא דָּבָר מוּעָט שֶׁאֵינוֹ רָאוּי לִטְרֹחַ בּוֹ מֻתָּר לָקֹץ אוֹתוֹ. וְכַמָּה יְהֵא הַזַּיִת עוֹשֶׂה וְלֹא יְקֻצֶּנּוּ. רֹבַע הַקַּב זֵיתִים. וְדֶקֶל שֶׁהוּא עוֹשֶׂה קַב תְּמָרִים לֹא יְקֻצֶּנּוּ:


This prohibition does not apply to trees alone. Rather, anyone who breaks utensils, tears garments, destroys buildings, stops up a spring, or ruins food with a destructive intent transgresses the command "Do not destroy." However, he is not lashed. Instead, he receives stripes for rebellious conducts instituted by the Sages.


וְלֹא הָאִילָנוֹת בִּלְבַד. אֶלָּא כָּל הַמְשַׁבֵּר כֵּלִים. וְקוֹרֵעַ בְּגָדִים. וְהוֹרֵס בִּנְיָן. וְסוֹתֵם מַעְיָן. וּמְאַבֵּד מַאֲכָלוֹת דֶּרֶךְ הַשְׁחָתָה. עוֹבֵר בְּלֹא תַשְׁחִית. וְאֵינוֹ לוֹקֶה אֶלָּא מַכַּת מַרְדּוּת מִדִּבְרֵיהֶם:


We should lay siege to the gentiles' cities at least three days before the Sabbath. We may engage in battle with them every day, even on the Sabbath, as Deuteronomy 20:20 states: "against the city waging war with you until you subjugate it." Our Sages explain: this implies "even on the Sabbath." This applies to both a milchemet mitzvah and a milchemet hareshut.


צָרִין עַל עֲיָרוֹת שֶׁל עַכּוּ''ם שְׁלֹשָׁה יָמִים קֹדֶם הַשַּׁבָּת וְעוֹשִׂין עִמָּהֶם מִלְחָמָה בְּכָל יוֹם וְיוֹם וַאֲפִלּוּ בְּשַׁבָּת. שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (דברים כ, כ) "עַד רִדְתָּהּ" וַאֲפִלּוּ בְּשַׁבָּת. בֵּין מִלְחֶמֶת מִצְוָה בֵּין מִלְחֶמֶת רְשׁוּת:


The army may camp anywhere.

A person killed in the war should be buried where he falls. He acquires that place in the same manner as a meit mitzvah acquires his.


כְּשֶׁחוֹנִין חוֹנִין בְּכָל מָקוֹם. וּמִי שֶׁנֶּהֱרַג בַּמִּלְחָמָה בַּמָּקוֹם שֶׁיִּפּל שָׁם יִקָּבֵר. קוֹנֶה מְקוֹמוֹ כְּמֵת מִצְוָה:


Four leniencies are permitted in an army camp:

a) Demai may be eaten.

b) There is no requirement to wash one's hands before eating bread.

c) Wood may be gathered from anywhere. Even if one finds wood that has been cut down and dried, there is no objection to taking it for an army camp.

d) There is no obligation to make an eruv chatzeirot for an army camp. Rather, one may carry from tent to tent and from booth to booth.

The latter is only permitted when the entire camp is surrounded by a barrier at least ten handbreadths high, for as explained in Hilchot Shabbat, a barrier must be at least ten handbreadths high.

Just as these leniencies apply when the army goes out to war, they apply when it returns.


אַרְבָּעָה דְּבָרִים פָּטְרוּ בַּמַּחֲנֶה. אוֹכְלִים הַדְּמַאי. וּפְטוּרִים מֵרְחִיצַת יָדַיִם בַּתְּחִלָּה. וּמְבִיאִין עֵצִים מִכָּל מָקוֹם. וַאֲפִלּוּ מְצָאָן תְּלוּשִׁים וִיבֵשִׁים אֵין מַקְפִּידִין עַל כָּךְ בַּמַּחֲנֶה. וְכֵן פְּטוּרִין מִלְּעָרֵב עֵרוּבֵי חֲצֵרוֹת בַּמַּחֲנֶה אֶלָּא מְטַלְטְלִין מֵאֹהֶל לְאֹהֶל וּמִסֻּכָּה לְסֻכָּה וְהוּא שֶׁיַּקִּיפוּ כָּל הַמַּחֲנֶה מְחִצָּה גְּבוֹהָה עֲשָׂרָה טְפָחִים כְּדֵי שֶׁתִּהְיֶה רְשׁוּת יָחִיד כְּמוֹ שֶׁנִּתְבָּאֵר בְּהִלְכוֹת שַׁבָּת. וְאֵין מְחִצָּה פְּחוּתָה מֵעֲשָׂרָה. וּכְשֵׁם שֶׁפְּטוּרִין מִכָּל אֵלּוּ בַּהֲלִיכָתָן כָּךְ פְּטוּרִין בַּחֲזִירָתָן:


It is forbidden to defecate in an army camp or in an open field anywhere. Rather, it is a positive commandment to establish comfort facilities for the soldiers to defecate as Deuteronomy 23:13 commands: "Designate a place outside the camp to use as a lavatory."


וְאָסוּר לְהִפָּנוֹת בְּתוֹךְ הַמַּחֲנֶה אוֹ עַל פְּנֵי הַשָּׂדֶה בְּכָל מָקוֹם. אֶלָּא מִצְוַת עֲשֵׂה לְתַקֵּן שָׁם דֶּרֶךְ מְיֻחֶדֶת לְהִפָּנוֹת בָּהּ. שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (דברים כג, יג) "וְיָד תִּהְיֶה לְךָ מִחוּץ לַמַּחֲנֶה":


Similarly, it is a positive commandment for every single soldier to have a spike hanging together with his weapons. When he goes out and uses those comfort facilities, he should dig with it, relieve himself, and cover his excrement as ibid.:14 states "You must keep a spike among your weapons."

They must follow these practices at all times, whether the ark accompanies them or not, as ibid.:15 states: "God walks among your camp,... therefore, your camp shall be holy."


וְכֵן מִצְוַת עֲשֵׂה לִהְיוֹת יָתֵד לְכָל אֶחָד וְאֶחָד תְּלוּיָה עִם כְּלֵי מִלְחַמְתּוֹ. וְיֵצֵא בְּאוֹתָהּ הַדֶּרֶךְ וְיַחְפֹּר בָּהּ וְיִפָּנֶה וִיכַסֶּה. שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (דברים כג, יד) "וְיָתֵד תִּהְיֶה לְךָ עַל אֲזֵנֶךָ" וְגוֹ'. וּבֵין שֶׁיֵּשׁ עִמָּהֶן אָרוֹן וּבֵין שֶׁאֵין עִמָּהֶן אָרוֹן כָּךְ הֵם עוֹשִׂים תָּמִיד. שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (דברים כג, טו) "וְהָיָה מַחֲנֶיךָ קָדוֹשׁ":