“And when the officers had finished” (Dt.20:9)—
after their charge to the people,
they set up guards in the front
and rear of the troops,
with iron mallets in their hands.
And if anyone wanted to leave,
the guards had the right to
break their shins,
for the beginning of defeat is retreat.
And, furthermore, it is said:
“So Israel retreated from the Philistines
and then a great plague afflicted the people” (1Sam.4:17).2
Under what circumstances
[do these exemptions from battle apply]?
In optional wars.
But if it is an obligatory war,
[in defense of the borders of the Land],
everyone must go—
even a bride-groom from his bedroom
and a bride from her wedding-canopy3