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Shoftim Question 1

Weekly Parsha Questions

Shoftim Question 1

Yechiel Shaffer

Towards the conclusion of Shoftim we read of the reassurance of God:

דברים פרשת שופטים פרק כ

א) כי־תצא למלחמה על־איבך וראית סוס ורכב עם רב ממך לא תירא מהם כי־יקוק אלהיך עמך המעלך מארץ מצרים

1. When you go out to war against your enemies, and you see horse and chariot, a people more numerous than you, you shall not be afraid of them, for the Lord, your God is with you Who brought you up out of the land of Egypt.

There is an explicit instruction to not fear the enemy, even if they are greater and stronger then your forces, for the Lord, your God, is with you. This is the God who destroyed the Egyptian super power to bring you out of slavery. Remember the past and have no fear! Just a few Pesukim later the Torah says the following:

דברים פרשת שופטים פרק כ

ח) ויספו השטרים לדבר אל־העם ואמרו מי־האיש הירא ורך הלבב ילך וישב לביתו ולא ימס את־לבב אחיו כלבבו

8. And the officers shall continue to speak to the people and say, “What man is there who is fearful and fainthearted? Let him go and return to his house, that he should not cause the heart of his brothers to melt, as his heart.”

ט) והיה ככלת השטרים לדבר אל־העם ופקדו שרי צבאות בראש העם

9. And it shall be, that when the officials finish speaking to the people, they shall appoint officers of the legions at the edges of the people.

How is one to understand the phrase ‘מי־האיש הירא ורך הלבב’, ‘who is fearful and fainthearted’?

Why would the Torah repeat two very similar sentiments (fear and faintheartedness)?

Are there different traits in a person who is fearful vs. one who is fainthearted (see Torah Temimah ad loc. for further discussion)?

How do these words shape our attitude towards war? What is the Jewish attitude on waging war?

See here for further discussion: IDF Code of Ethics