Thursday, November 6, 2014

War is for enemies


Devarim 23:10 begins, "When you go to war against your enemy". On this, a midrash (Sifri Devarim 190) comments, "You wage war against your enemies."

Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch explains:
"The Torah establishes that you will battle only those who show themselves to be your enemy, from whose enmity you have suffered, and from whom you anticipate acts of enmity. Therefore, even should you attack them, you shall only defend yourself. This message rejects all wars of conquest."

(Commentary of Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch to Devarim 23:10)

Have a great day,


  1. How does this match history, such as David's conquest of Suria, or match halakhah's permitting the milkhemes reshus? We do allow wars for the sake of living-space even when the enemy does not pose a threat.

    I am not thrilled with the idea. I would think the urim vetumim would limit such wars to cases where more would die from the economic failure of trying to manage without sufficient space for the population than would die in the war. But that's just me throwing out guesses; bottom line is, there are halachically permissible non-defensive wars.

  2. Hello R' Micha,
    I am also uncertain about the historicity of the sentiment, but as I understand it, Surya was a response to aggression (Shemuel II 10). I think Berachos 3-4 with פשטו ידיכם בגדוד is more problematic, but perhaps that meant among the 7 nations. The definitions of milchemes hareshus are most unclear to me; I find the wealth of debate surrounding Sotah 44 very confusing.