Sotah, Chapter Eight, Mishnah Two
The mishnah continues to expound upon Deuteronomy 20. Our mishnah deals with three exemptions which given to soldiers which allow them to return from war: to one who has built a house but not dedicated it; to one who has planted a vineyard but not harvested it; to one who has betrothed a woman but not married her. Our mishnah defines these three exemptions broadly, as we shall see.
1) Then the officers shall address the people saying: Is there anyone who has built a new house but has not dedicated it? Let him go back to his home (Deuteronomy 20:5).
i) It is the same whether he built a house for straw, a house for cattle, a house for wood, or a storehouse;
ii) It is the same whether he built, purchased, inherited or somebody gave it to him as a present.
2) Is there anyone who has planted a vineyard but has never harvested it? (vs. 6).
i) It is the same whether he planted a vineyard or planted five fruit-trees and even of five different species;
ii) It is the same whether he planted, bent or grafted it, or whether he purchased, inherited or somebody gave it to him as a present.
3) Is there anyone who has betrothed a woman [but who has not yet married her]? (vs. 7)
i) It is the same whether he had betrothed a virgin or a widow, or even a shomeret yavam, or even if a man heard that his brother had died in battle, he returns home.
4) All these hear the priests words concerning the battles of war and return home, and they supply water and food and repair the roads.
Section one: The first exemption is given to the person who built a house. The mishnah expands this to include any kind of house, even one not intended as living quarters. In tomorrows mishnah we shall see some exemptions to this category. It also expands the category to include those who acquired a house by a means other than building it themselves.
Section two: The second exemption is given to the one who planted a vineyard. Again, the mishnah expands the category to include planting an orchard, which is considered five or more trees, even if they are of different species. He need not plant it himself. Even if he bends a vine (this refers to bending a vine underground and starting a new vineyard elsewhere), or grafts a branch of one tree onto another, he is considered as having started a new vineyard. Similarly, he need not do the work himself, but may even buy the vineyard/orchard or receive it as a present.
Section three: The final category is betrothal. This includes one who betroths not only a virgin, but also a widow/divorcee or even one who betroths his dead brothers widow who is awaiting levirate marriage (a shomeret yavam). Even if he has heard that his brother died in battle and left a childless widow, he may return from battle in order to marry her.
Section four: The above list of people return from battle. However, they must offer support to the war effort, by supplying the soldiers with food and water and by repairing the roads which the soldiers will use to go out into battle.