In Devarim 20:2-4, the Cohen speaks to the people and gives an general comment not to fear the enemy.

Then, in verse 5, the judges speak to the people and exempt 4 groups of people from the army, and finally appoint army leaders.

Why are these roles apportioned to these specific people? I.e. - why does the Cohen make a general declaration and the judges make the army exemptions? Why not one person / group perform everything or have the roles switched?

  • Sota perek mashuach milchama
    – kouty
    Commented Aug 15, 2018 at 21:47
  • I think they are called officers, not judges. Commented Aug 16, 2018 at 0:05

1 Answer 1


It is taught in one baraita: A priest speaks, and an officer calls out his words; and it is taught in another baraita: A priest speaks and a priest calls out. And it is taught in yet another baraita: An officer speaks and an officer calls out.

Abaye said: How can these texts be reconciled? From the words: “That the priest shall approach” (Deuteronomy 20:2), until the words: “And the officers shall speak” (Deuteronomy 20:5), which consist of words of encouragement and inspiration, a priest speaks and another priest calls out. From the words “and the officers shall speak” until the words: “And the officers shall speak further” (Deuteronomy 20:8), which list various people who are to return home from the battle front because of happy occasions, a priest speaks and an officer calls out. From the words “and the officers shall speak further” and on, which address those who are fearful and fainthearted, an officer speaks and another officer calls out.

(Talmud Tractate Sotah 43a using Sefaria (with their comments))

It is appropriate that the people hear the initial spiritual talk, from the mouth of the Annointed Cohen repeated by junior Cohanim, because of their spiritual stature.

Then, the Annointed Cohen states the exemptions, while officers repeat it. Once we are speaking of an exemption with down to Earth issues, it suffices that the Cohen state it once and then regular laymen in charge can issue the repeat for all the people.

However, the exemption of fearfulness, should not be mentioned by the Annointed Cohen, since he himself just finished promoting the fact that one should never be afraid! Therefore, the officers say it and repeat it to the people without Cohanim.

(Sifri D'Vei Rav on this parshah, as explained by the Artscroll English notes)

  • I'll need to view Mas. Sotah. Very interesting.
    – DanF
    Commented Aug 16, 2018 at 3:10

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