Rabbi Moshe Sofer (Schreiber), known as the Chatam Sofer, was one of the most influential rabbis of the last three centuries.

Studying in the city of Maintz as a youth, he became acquainted with a prince. The two bright scholars spent much time conversing, and the young aristocrat particularly enjoyed hearing his friend’s ingenious Torah insights.

Years passed and Rabbi Sofer was elected to the chief rabbinate of the populous city Pressburg (today Bratislava, Slovakia). The prince, meanwhile, had reached a high rank in the French military.

France was embroiled in a difficult war with its neighbors, and the military was constantly on the lookout for turncoats who were giving away French secrets or otherwise aiding the enemy.

It so happened that an innocent French Jew was suspected of providing munitions to the enemy and was sentenced to death. In an effort to save the innocent man from his unjust fate, Rabbi Sofer set out to plead the case before his old friend.

Although the general was delighted to see the friend of his youth, he was unmoved by the rabbi’s request. “We are at war,” argued the general, “and so many lives are being lost. Why should I invest my energy in saving the life of one individual, who may in fact be a traitor?”

Remembering the general's keen interest in the Torah, Rabbi Sofer asked permission to speak. He shared with the general a puzzling passage where, when discussing the protocols of engaging in warfare, the Torah interrupts the narrative with the mitzvah of eglah arufah. The law of eglah arufah is that if a person is found dead outside of a city, the leaders of the city are required to perform a ritual to atone for their possible wrongdoing in not properly caring for this individual, thereby causing his death. “What is the connection between this unfortunate event and war?” the rabbi asked.

Seeing the problem had intrigued the general, Rabbi Sofer pushed on: “The Torah put the mitzvah of eglah arufah in the middle of discussing war to teach us that even in chaotic times such as war, the life of each individual is precious and must be cared for.”

Rabbi Sofer’s words moved the general and he promised to intervene. Through his efforts, the truth was brought to light and the charges were ultimately dropped.