Pisqa’ 203

Pisqa’ 2031


If you lay siege to a city” (Dt.20:19)—

This verse concerns an optional war

[of territorial expansion].2

“To a city” (Dt.20:19)—but not to a capitol;

“To a city” (Dt.20:19)—but not to a village.

“For many days” (Dt.20:19):

Days—this implies at least two days,

Many—adds a third.

On this basis they taught:

They do not lay siege to a gentile city,

Fewer than three days before the Sabbath.3

“To wage war against it, to seize it” (Dt.20:19)—

but not merely to take captives.


“You may not destroy a tree, wielding an ax against it” (Dt.20:19)—

I infer only that

one may not wield an ax.

How do I know that

one may not even divert its irrigation channel?

The Teaching states:

“You may not destroy a tree” (Dt.20:19)—

by any means.


Another word:

If you lay siege to a city” (Dt.20:19)—

this explains that you may sue for peace

two or three days before waging war against it.

And, similarly, He says:

“And David stayed at Tziqlag for two days” (2Sam.1:1).


They may not initiate a siege against a city on the Sabbath;

rather, at least three days before the Sabbath.

But if they surround it, and the Sabbath intervenes,

Sabbath-observance does not interfere with the war4.

This is one of three teachings

expounded by Shammai the Elder:

A ship does not embark on the Great Sea

unless there are three days left till the Sabbath.5  

Under what circumstances?

If it’s sailing to a distant port.

But if it’s sailing a short distance,

They permit the ship to embark.6


“For you must eat from it” (Dt.20:19)—

this is a prescription.

“But you may not chop it down” (Dt.20:19)—

this is a proscription.

“Now, is a tree of the field like a man” (Dt.20:19)—

this teaches that

human life is sustained only by trees.

R. Ishmael says:

On this basis we reason that

since the All-Present notes

the importance of the fruit of trees,

it stands to reason that

He cares for the tree itself.

For just as the verse warns you about the tree,

which yields the fruit,

all the more so should we protect the fruit itself!

“That must be besieged by you?” (Dt.20:19)—

well—if the tree is hindering the siege,

you may chop it down.

  1. H:219; JN2:95-96
  2. Cf. Pisqa’ 190.8
  3. Cf. T. Eruv.3:7.
  4. //T.Eruv.3:7.
  5. //T.Eruv.3:8.
  6. This material is lacking in many mss copies. See F:239, n.3,