Judges and officers, kings and battles. There’s an expression that “all is fair in love and war.” While I’m not sure who made up that statement, let’s see if it holds true for this week’s parasha. Regarding war, we see clearly that the is not the case. The Torah provides exemptions for various situations, including someone who betrothed a woman and did not marry her. So much for all is fair in war. Now for the love part. The Torah is worried that someone who goes out to war and has not married his betrothed will die in battle and this is deemed disheartening to the person. Although the person is dead and we should no longer be concerned for his feelings, the Torah is concerned for his feelings from the time that he becomes engaged until he goes out to battle. So we see that all is not fair in love either. Now that we have debunked the expression, let us briefly examine the Torah’s concern here.
What is war all about anyway? In some cases a war is to secure the homeland and to deter enemies from invading. In other instances war is to conquer other lands and to benefit from the spoils. The Torah’s approach is that only the righteous should go out to battle, and someone who fears for his sins must return. In order to camouflage the sinners, the Torah instructs the warriors to examine their different situations and determine if they will feel and going out to war. This is truly incredible. Even at a time of war we are concerned with the feelings of a Jew. We can now understand better why preceding and following the laws of the battlefield the Torah discusses the role of the judges, the kings and the elders.
Regarding Eglah Arufah, where someone dies between cities and the murderer is not known, the elders of the city must declare that they did not spill the deceased’s blood. The Gemara states that this means that the elders declare that they did not allow the deceased to leave the city without food and without escorting him. Yes, indeed, the Torah is concerned for the feelings of every person, and we express these feelings even after someone is already dead and the elders had nothing to do with his death. Ultimately, we are responsible for each other in life and after life.
HaShem should give us all long and healthy lives with the opportunities to study Torah, perform mitzvos and really and truly care about our fellow Jews.
Have a joyous Shabbos!