This week, we will try and understand the rather strange opening of our parsha. We often learn something from the order of mitzvot, and which ones are next to others. Here the order is strange.
Parshat Shoftim ended with the law of the beheaded calf, and three parshiot that dealt with war. The phrase "כי תצא למלחמה " "And when you shall go out to war" doesn’t appear in our parsha for the first time, it appears in Shoftim, in the laws of the "war of choice". In these laws the police and anointed Kohen announce who will go to war and who not
מִֽי הָ אישׁ אֲ שׁר בָנָָ֤ה בִֽ ית חָדָשׁׁ֙ וְלֹ֣ א חֲנָכ֔וֹ יֵלֵֵ֖ךְ וְיָ ֹ֣ שׁב לְבֵית֑וֹ פן יָמוּתׁ֙ ב מלְחָמָ֔ה וְ אִ֥ישׁ אחֵֵ֖ר יחְנְ כִֽנּוּ. וּ מִֽי הָ אישׁ אֲ שׁר נָ טִ֥ע
כ רםׁ֙ וְלֹ֣ א חלְל֔וֹ יֵלֵֵ֖ךְ וְיָ ֹ֣ שׁב לְבֵי תוֹ פן יָמוּתׁ֙ ב מלְחָמָ֔ה וְ אִ֥ישׁ אחֵֵ֖ר יְ חלְ לִֽנּוּ. וּ מִֽי הָ אישׁ אֲ שׁר אֵ רָ֤שׂ אשָהׁ֙ וְלֹ֣ א לְקָחָ֔הּ יֵלֵֵ֖ךְ וְיָ ֹ֣ שׁב
לְבֵית֑וֹ פן יָמוּתׁ֙ ב מלְחָמָ֔ה וְ אִ֥ישׁ אחֵֵ֖ר יקָ חִֽנָּה.
Then the officials shall address the troops, as follows: “Is there anyone who has built a new house but has not dedicated it? Let him go back to his home, lest he die in battle and another dedicate it.
Is there anyone who has planted a vineyard but has never harvested it? Let him go back to his home, lest he die in battle and another harvest it.Is there anyone who has paid the bride-price for a wife, but who has not yet married her? Let him go back to his home, lest he die in battle and another marry her”.
כִֽי תקְ רֹ֣ב אל עיר לְ הלָחֵֵ֖ם עָ ל֑יהָ וְקָרִָ֥אתָ אֵ לֵ֖יהָ לְשָׁלִֽוֹם.
When you approach a town to attack it, you shall offer it terms of peace.
כִֽי תָצֹ֣וּר אל עיר֩ יָ מים ר בִּ֜ים לְִֽ הלָחֵֵ֧ם עָ לֹ֣יהָ לְ תפְשָָׂׂ֗הּ לִֽ א תשְׁ חָ֤ית את עֵצָהּׁ֙ לנְ ד ח עָלָיׁ֙ו גרְ זן כי מ מֹ֣נּוּ ת אכֵ֔ל וְ אתֵ֖וֹ לֹ֣ א תכְ רת
כָ֤י הִָֽאָדָםׁ֙ עֵֹ֣ץ השָ דה …
When in your war against a city you have to besiege it a long time in order to capture it, you must not destroy its trees, wielding the ax against them. You may eat of them, but you must not cut them down. Are trees of the field human to withdraw before you into the besieged city?