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.


אֶחָד מִלְחֶמֶת מִצְוָה וְאֶחָד מִלְחֶמֶת הָרְשׁוּת מְמַנִּין כֹּהֵן לְדַבֵּר אֶל הָעָם בִּשְׁעַת הַמִּלְחָמָה. וּמוֹשְׁחִין אוֹתוֹ בְּשֶׁמֶן הַמִּשְׁחָה וְזֶהוּ הַנִּקְרָא מְשׁוּחַ מִלְחָמָה:


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).


שְׁתֵּי פְּעָמִים מְדַבֵּר מְשׁוּחַ מִלְחָמָה אֶל הָעָם. אַחַת בַּסְּפַר בְּעֵת שֶׁיּוֹצְאִין קֹדֶם שֶׁיַּעַרְכוּ הַמִּלְחָמָה. אוֹמֵר לָעָם (דברים כ, ו) "מִי הָאִישׁ אֲשֶׁר נָטַע כֶּרֶם וְלֹא חִלְּלוֹ" וְגוֹ'. כְּשֶׁיִּשְׁמַע דְּבָרָיו יַחְזֹר מֵעוֹרְכֵי הַמִּלְחָמָה. וְאַחַת בְּעוֹרְכֵי הַמִּלְחָמָה אוֹמֵר (דברים כ, ג) "אַל תִּירְאוּ וְאַל תַּחְפְּזוּ":


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, your 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.


עֵת שֶׁעוֹרְכִין הַמַּעֲרָכוֹת וְהֵם קְרֵבִים לְהִלָּחֵם. מְשׁוּחַ מִלְחָמָה עוֹמֵד בְּמָקוֹם גָּבוֹהַּ וְכָל הַמַּעֲרָכוֹת לְפָנָיו. וְאוֹמֵר לָהֶם בִּלְשׁוֹן הַקֹּדֶשׁ (דברים כ, ג) "שְׁמַע יִשְׂרָאֵל אַתֶּם קְרֵבִים הַיּוֹם לַמִּלְחָמָה עַל אֹיְבֵיכֶם". (דברים כ, ג) "אַל יֵרַךְ לְבַבְכֶם אַל תִּירְאוּ וְאַל תַּחְפְּזוּ וְאַל תַּעַרְצוּ מִפְּנֵיהֶם". (דברים כ, ד) "כִּי ה' אֱלֹהֵיכֶם הַהלֵךְ עִמָּכֶם לְהִלָּחֵם לָכֶם עִם אֹיְבֵיכֶם לְהוֹשִׁיעַ אֶתְכֶם". עַד כָּאן אוֹמֵר מְשׁוּחַ מִלְחָמָה וְכֹהֵן אַחֵר תַּחְתָּיו מַשְׁמִיעַ אוֹתוֹ לְכָל הָעָם בְּקוֹל רָם. וְאַחַר כָּךְ מְדַבֵּר מְשׁוּחַ מִלְחָמָה (דברים כ, ה) "מִי הָאִישׁ אֲשֶׁר בָּנָה בַיִת חָדָשׁ" וְגוֹ' (דברים כ, ו) "וּמִי הָאִישׁ אֲשֶׁר נָטַע כֶּרֶם" וְגוֹ' (דברים כ, ז) "וּמִי הָאִישׁ אֲשֶׁר אֵרַשׂ" וְגוֹ'. עַד כָּאן מְשׁוּחַ מִלְחָמָה מְדַבֵּר וְהַשּׁוֹטֵר מַשְׁמִיעַ לְכָל הָעָם בְּקוֹל רָם. וְאַחַר כָּךְ מְדַבֵּר הַשּׁוֹטֵר מֵעַצְמוֹ וְאוֹמֵר (דברים כ, ח) "מִי הָאִישׁ הַיָּרֵא וְרַךְ הַלֵּבָב" וְשׁוֹטֵר אַחֵר מַשְׁמִיעַ לְכָל הָעָם:


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.


וְאַחַר שֶׁחוֹזְרִין כָּל הַחוֹזְרִין מֵעוֹרְכֵי הַמִּלְחָמָה. מְתַקְּנִין אֶת הַמַּעֲרָכוֹת. וּפוֹקְדִים שָׂרֵי צְבָאוֹת בְּרֹאשׁ הָעָם. וּמַעֲמִידִין מֵאָחוֹר כָּל מַעֲרָכָה וּמַעֲרָכָה שׁוֹטְרִים חֲזָקִים וְעַזִּים. וְכַשִּׁילִין שֶׁל בַּרְזֶל בִּידֵיהֶם. הָרוֹצֶה לַחְזֹר מִן הַמִּלְחָמָה הָרְשׁוּת בְּיָדָן לַחְתֹּךְ אֶת שׁוֹקוֹ. שֶׁתְּחִלַּת נְפִילָה נִיסָה. בַּמֶּה דְּבָרִים אֲמוּרִים שֶׁמַּחְזִירִין אֲנָשִׁים אֵלּוּ מֵעוֹרְכֵי הַמִּלְחָמָה בְּמִלְחֶמֶת הָרְשׁוּת. אֲבָל בְּמִלְחֶמֶת מִצְוָה הַכּל יוֹצְאִין וַאֲפִלּוּ חָתָן מֵחַדְרוֹ וְכַלָּה מֵחֻפָּתָהּ:


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.


אֶחָד הַבּוֹנֶה בַּיִת לִישִׁיבָתוֹ. וְאֶחָד הַבּוֹנֶה בֵּית הַבָּקָר. בֵּית הָעֵצִים. בֵּית הָאוֹצָרוֹת. הוֹאִיל וְרָאוּי לְדִירָה. וְאֶחָד הַבּוֹנֶה. וְאֶחָד הַלּוֹקֵחַ. וְאֶחָד שֶׁנִּתָּן לוֹ בְּמַתָּנָה אוֹ הַיּוֹרֵשׁ. הֲרֵי זֶה חוֹזֵר. אֲבָל הַבּוֹנֶה [בֵּית הַתֶּבֶן] וּבֵית שַׁעַר. אַכְסַדְרָה וּמִרְפֶּסֶת. אוֹ בַּיִת שֶׁאֵין בּוֹ אַרְבַּע אַמּוֹת עַל אַרְבַּע אַמּוֹת. אוֹ הַגּוֹזֵל בַּיִת. הֲרֵי זֶה אֵינוֹ חוֹזֵר:

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.


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.


אֶחָד הַנּוֹטֵעַ כֶּרֶם. וְאֶחָד הַנּוֹטֵעַ חֲמִשָּׁה אִילָנֵי מַאֲכָל. וַאֲפִלּוּ מֵחֲמֵשֶׁת מִינֵי מַאֲכָל. אֶחָד הַנּוֹטֵעַ. וְאֶחָד הַמַּבְרִיךְ וְאֶחָד הַמַּרְכִּיב הַבְרָכָה וְהַרְכָּבָה שֶׁהִיא חַיֶּבֶת בְּעָרְלָה. אֶחָד הַלּוֹקֵחַ. וְאֶחָד הַיּוֹרֵשׁ. וְאֶחָד שֶׁנִּתָּן לוֹ בְּמַתָּנָה. אֲבָל הַנּוֹטֵעַ אַרְבָּעָה אִילָנֵי מַאֲכָל. אוֹ חֲמִשָּׁה אִילָנֵי סְרָק. אוֹ שֶׁגָּזַל כֶּרֶם. אֵינוֹ חוֹזֵר עָלָיו. וְכֵן כֶּרֶם שֶׁל שְׁנֵי שֻׁתָּפִין אֵין חוֹזְרִין עָלָיו:


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.


אֶחָד הַמְאָרֵס אֶת הַבְּתוּלָה. וְאֶחָד הַמְאָרֵס אֶת הָאַלְמָנָה. וְכֵן אִם נָפְלָה לוֹ יְבָמָה אֲפִלּוּ חֲמִשָּׁה אַחִים וּמֵת אֶחָד מֵהֶן כֻּלָּן חוֹזְרִין. קִדֵּשׁ אִשָּׁה מֵעַכְשָׁו וּלְאַחַר שְׁנֵים עָשָׂר חֹדֶשׁ וְשָׁלַם הַזְּמַן בַּמִּלְחָמָה חוֹזֵר וּבָא לוֹ:


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.


הַמַּחֲזִיר אֶת גְּרוּשָׁתוֹ. וְהַמְאָרֵס אִשָּׁה הָאֲסוּרָה עָלָיו. כְּגוֹן אַלְמָנָה לְכֹהֵן גָּדוֹל. גְּרוּשָׁה וַחֲלוּצָה לְכֹהֵן הֶדְיוֹט. מַמְזֶרֶת וּנְתִינָה לְיִשְׂרָאֵל. בַּת יִשְׂרָאֵל לְמַמְזֵר וּלְנָתִין. אֵינוֹ חוֹזֵר:


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.


כָּל אֵלּוּ שֶׁחוֹזְרִין מֵעוֹרְכֵי הַמִּלְחָמָה. כְּשֶׁשּׁוֹמְעִין אֶת דִּבְרֵי הַכֹּהֵן חוֹזְרִין. וּמְסַפְּקִין מַיִם וּמָזוֹן לַאֲחֵיהֶם שֶׁבַּצָּבָא. וּמְתַקְּנִין אֶת הַדְּרָכִים:


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.


וְאֵלּוּ שֶׁאֵין יוֹצְאִין לְעוֹרְכֵי הַמִּלְחָמָה כָּל עִקָּר. וְאֵין מַטְרִיחִין אוֹתָם לְשׁוּם דָּבָר בָּעוֹלָם. הַבּוֹנֶה בַּיִת וַחֲנָכוֹ. וְהַנּוֹשֵׂא אֲרוּסָתוֹ אוֹ שֶׁיִּבֵּם. וּמִי שֶׁחִלֵּל כַּרְמוֹ. אֵין יוֹצְאִין עַד תֹּם שָׁנָה. שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (דברים כד, ה) "נָקִי יִהְיֶה לְבֵיתוֹ שָׁנָה אֶחָת וְשִׂמַּח אֶת אִשְׁתּוֹ אֲשֶׁר לָקָח". מִפִּי הַקַּבָּלָה לָמְדוּ שֶׁיִּהְיֶה נָקִי שָׁנָה בֵּין לַבַּיִת שֶׁקָּנָה בֵּין לָאִשָּׁה שֶׁנָּשָׂא בֵּין לַכֶּרֶם שֶׁהִתְחִיל לֶאֱכל פִּרְיוֹ:


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.


כָּל הַשָּׁנָה אֵין מְסַפֵּק מַיִם וּמָזוֹן. וְלֹא מְתַקֵּן דֶּרֶךְ. וְלֹא שׁוֹמֵר בַּחוֹמָה. וְלֹא נוֹתֵן לְפַסֵּי הָעִיר. וְלֹא יַעֲבֹר עָלָיו שׁוּם דָּבָר בָּעוֹלָם. שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (דברים כד, ה) "לֹא יֵצֵא בַּצָּבָא וְלֹא יַעֲבֹר עָלָיו לְכָל דָּבָר" לַעֲבֹר בִּשְׁנֵי לָאוִין. לֹא לְצָרְכֵי הָעִיר וְלֹא לְצָרְכֵי הַגְּדוּד:


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.


בָּנָה בַּיִת וְהִשְׂכִּירוֹ לַאֲחֵרִים וְהִקְדִּים לוֹ שְׂכָרוֹ הֲרֵי זֶה כְּמִי שֶׁחֲנָכוֹ. נָתַן לוֹ שְׂכָרוֹ לְאַחַר שְׁנֵים עָשָׂר חֹדֶשׁ הֲרֵי הוּא כְּמִי שֶׁלֹּא חֲנָכוֹ עַד עַתָּה:


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.


בָּנָה בַּיִת וְנָתַן בּוֹ חֲפָצָיו וְנָעַל עֲלֵיהֶם. אִם הָיָה צָרִיךְ לְבַטֵּל עַל שְׁמִירָתָן הֲרֵי זֶה כְּמִי שֶׁחֲנָכוֹ וְהִתְחִיל לֵישֵׁב בּוֹ. וְאִם אֵינָן צְרִיכִין לֵישֵׁב וּלְשָׁמְרָן הֲרֵי זֶה כְּמִי שֶׁלֹּא חֲנָכוֹ:


Anyone that builds a house or plants a vineyard outside of the land of Israel, is not sent back [from the battlefront].


וְכָל הַבּוֹנֶה בַּיִת אוֹ נוֹטֵעַ כֶּרֶם בְּחוּצָה לָאָרֶץ אֵינוֹ חוֹזֵר עֲלֵיהֶן:


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.'


(דברים כ, ח) "מִי הָאִישׁ הַיָּרֵא וְרַךְ הַלֵּבָב" כְּמַשְׁמָעוֹ. שֶׁאֵין בְּלִבּוֹ כֹּחַ לַעֲמֹד בְּקִשְׁרֵי הַמִּלְחָמָה. וּמֵאַחַר שֶׁיִּכָּנֵס בְּקִשְׁרֵי הַמִּלְחָמָה יִשָּׁעֵן עַל מִקְוֵה יִשְׂרָאֵל וּמוֹשִׁיעוֹ בְּעֵת צָרָה וְיֵדַע שֶׁעַל יִחוּד הַשֵּׁם הוּא עוֹשֶׂה מִלְחָמָה וְיָשִׂים נַפְשׁוֹ בְּכַפּוֹ וְלֹא יִירָא וְלֹא יִפְחָד וְלֹא יַחְשֹׁב לֹא בְּאִשְׁתּוֹ וְלֹא בְּבָנָיו אֶלָּא יִמְחֶה זִכְרוֹנָם מִלִּבּוֹ וְיִפָּנֶה מִכָּל דָּבָר לַמִּלְחָמָה. וְכָל הַמַּתְחִיל לַחְשֹׁב וּלְהַרְהֵר בַּמִּלְחָמָה וּמַבְהִיל עַצְמוֹ עוֹבֵר בְּלֹא תַּעֲשֶׂה. שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (דברים כ, ג) "אַל יֵרַךְ לְבַבְכֶם אַל תִּירְאוּ וְאַל תַּחְפְּזוּ וְאַל תַּעַרְצוּ מִפְּנֵיהֶם". וְלֹא עוֹד אֶלָּא שֶׁכָּל דְּמֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל תְּלוּיִין בְּצַוָּארוֹ. וְאִם לֹא נִצֵּחַ וְלֹא עָשָׂה מִלְחָמָה בְּכָל לִבּוֹ וּבְכָל נַפְשׁוֹ. הֲרֵי זֶה כְּמִי שֶׁשָּׁפַךְ דְּמֵי הַכּל. שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (דברים כ, ח) "וְלֹא יִמַּס אֶת לְבַב אֶחָיו כִּלְבָבוֹ". וַהֲרֵי מְפֹרָשׁ בַּקַּבָּלָה (ירמיה מח, י) "אָרוּר עשֶֹׁה מְלֶאכֶת ה' רְמִיָּה" וְאָרוּר מֹנֵעַ חַרְבּוֹ מִדָּם. וְכָל הַנִּלְחָם בְּכָל לִבּוֹ בְּלֹא פַּחַד וְתִהְיֶה כַּוָּנָתוֹ לְקַדֵּשׁ אֶת הַשֵּׁם בִּלְבַד. מֻבְטָח לוֹ שֶׁלֹּא יִמְצָא נֵזֶק וְלֹא תַּגִּיעֵהוּ רָעָה. וְיִבְנֶה לוֹ בַּיִת נָכוֹן בְּיִשְׂרָאֵל וְיִזְכֶּה לוֹ וּלְבָנָיו עַד עוֹלָם וְיִזְכֶּה לְחַיֵּי הָעוֹלָם הַבָּא. שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (שמואל א כה, כח) "כִּי עָשֹׂה יַעֲשֶׂה ה' לַאדֹנִי בַּיִת נֶאֱמָן כִּי מִלְחֲמוֹת ה' אֲדֹנִי נִלְחָם וְרָעָה לֹא תִמָּצֵא בְךָ" וְגוֹ' (שמואל א כה, כט) "וְהָיְתָה נֶפֶשׁ אֲדֹנִי צְרוּרָה בִּצְרוֹר הַחַיִּים אֵת ה' אֱלֹהֶיךָ":