I am reading the "The Jewish State" by Theodor Herzl, he proposes the creation of a Jewish State through mostly financial means. I don't recall a war in recent (hundreds of years) where the Jewish people were the aggressors. Google points me to a couple of conflicts long ago which are arguably defensive rather than aggressive.

There are three existing questions that address participation in defensive, and/or integration as a soldier into wars of home countries. I don't find anything about aggressive acts being initiated with a Jewish religious rationale.

Is there a religious reason that prevents Jews from aggressive acts of war?

To Clarify: Aggressive as opposed to defensive. Where defensive acts are as defined 1. "the act of defending someone or something from attack" 2. "something that is used to protect yourself, your country, etc."

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    What exactly do you mean by aggressive? Not that the State of Israel is a halachic entity, but the 1967 Six Day War is an example where Israel attacked preemptively. You could say that's an example of Jews being the aggressor. If attacking first isn't what you mean, please clarify how time decide who the aggressor is.
    – Daniel
    Oct 28, 2014 at 11:16
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    Just because it's defensive doesn't mean it's not aggressive. And not everyone would agree it was defensive. I'm just pointing out that you haven't defined "being the aggressor" and until you do, the premise of the question is in doubt
    – Daniel
    Oct 28, 2014 at 12:12
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    @Daniel did you read Dave's answer before posting this comment? Oct 28, 2014 at 13:43
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    What does Dave's answer have to do with the comment? Dave has assumed an answer to my question (aggression means expanding territory) but it is not clear from the question that that's what you mean.
    – Daniel
    Oct 28, 2014 at 14:19
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    @JamesJenkins No one should ever need to read an answer to understand a question. Please clarify in the question what you are asking.
    – Double AA
    Oct 28, 2014 at 15:48

1 Answer 1


Milchemet Reshut, an optional and/or permitted war, is the term describing offensive wars. It stands in contrast to Milchemet Mitzvah, war by commandment, which describes defense war. The two terms are used to discuss past wars, since they are relevant only when the state have both a king and Sanhedrin in place. A king can go to a Milchemet Mitzvah based on his own judgment, without the Sanhedrin's approval, in order to defend the state or to fulfill a Mitzva like fighting Amalek.

A king needs the Sanhedrin's approval in order to start a Milchemet Reshut. When approval is given, the participation requirement is weaker than in case of Milchemet Mitzvah. Participation in Milchemet Mitzvah is general and there are no exemptions, while in Milchemet Reshut there are exemptions for various personal causes: engaged men, those who built a new house but haven't entered it and the like.

The related Wikipedia entry contains additional info and sources.

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    +1 There is some good stuff in that article, you should summarize it here in your answer, and include the link to Wikipedia as a reference. Oct 28, 2014 at 12:35
  • @JamesJenkins I added info from the article, let me know if you feel something important is still missing.
    – Dave's tux
    Oct 28, 2014 at 15:53
  • When you say, "the participation requirement," you are referring to the individual's requirement/conscription, correct?
    – Seth J
    Oct 28, 2014 at 15:58
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    +1, good answer. IMO it would be a great answer if you could incorporate traditional Jewish sources (Talmud, Rambam etc) rather than taking just from Wikipedia. [my guess is that some of those sources would be found on that page under "References"]
    – MTL
    Oct 28, 2014 at 16:54
  • Milchemet Mitzvah includes destroying the 7 nations. As such, it also includes offensive wars
    – Menachem
    Oct 28, 2014 at 19:51

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