Jewish Ideas of Peace & Nonviolence
Some People Don't Have to Fight
The laws of war listed in Deuteronomy include a list of those exempt from battle. The Talmud extends all these exemptions, and notes that they only apply to discretionary wars. In commanded wars, "all go forth, even a bridegroom from his chamber and a bride from her canopy" (Sotah 44b).
Broadly speaking, exemptions were granted to those who were in the midst of a lifecycle event (those who have "built a new house but has not dedicated it…or planted a vineyard but has never harvested it…or spoken for a woman in marriage but has not married her" [Deuteronomy 20:5-7]). In addition, the Torah provides exemptions for the fearful and the tender-hearted. Most scholars and rabbinic authorities believe that these psychological exemptions were meant to exclude soldiers whose attitude would hurt the morale of the army.
However, others--such as Arthur Waskow--have suggested that this exemption is akin to an exemption for conscientious objectors.
Did you like this article? MyJewishLearning is a not-for-profit organization.