Monday, July 07, 2008

Women in Battle

The Mishna (Daf Yomi: Sotah 44b) had stated: When do these words (the exemptions mentioned in the Mishna) apply? It is only with respect to a voluntary war; however, with respect to wars of mitzvah, everyone is required to go out, even a bridegroom from his chamber and a bride from her chupah.

Rabbi Yehudah says: These words were only said with respect to wars of mitzvah; however, with respect to an obligatory war, everyone is required to go out, even a bridegroom from his chamber and a bride from her chupah.

The commentators ask: What does the Mishna mean whit it says, “even a bride from her chupah”? Women are not obligated to go to war! The Chinuch (§ 403) writes with respect of the mitzvah of erasing Amalek’s name that it is only applicable to men, but not to women, for it is the practice of men to wage war against their enemies, not women. The Radvaz on the Rambam also rules like that, and he bases it upon the verse: The complete glory of the princess is within. Accordingly, he asks from our Mishna, which would seem to indicate that they do go out for war! They also ask from the Gemora in Nazir (59a) which states: Rabbi Eliezer ben Yaakov said: How do we know that a woman shall not go out wearing weapons of war? It is because it’s written: A man’s attire shall not be on a woman.

The Radvaz answers: The Mishna simply means that when the bridegroom goes to fight, the bride will leave the chupah, but not to go to war.

Alternatively, he answers that she does go to war, but not to fight. They provide water and food for their husbands. The Reshash adds that they go to the battlefield to cook and to bake for the soldiers. (The Tzitz Eliezer understands that the Radvaz and the Reshash are arguing if the women supply food only to their husbands or to all men.)

The Ben Yehoyadah writes that she goes out to war to guard the weapons.

In the sefer Hon Ashir, he writes that even if a woman is confident that she can stand up to the enemy and she will not back down; we do not allow her to fight.

The Minchas Chinuch writes that according to our Gemora, a woman would be obligated to fight in all wars of mitzvah and to wage war against Amalek. Evidently, this mitzvah overrides the prohibition of wearing weapons of war.