When Jews are forced to go to war, the Torah prescribes some very unique steps that they must take in preparation for war. The Israelites are commanded that they must first seek peace with the enemy rather than engaging in battle;
There was also a special priest who was appointed to issue the following proclamations. “Do not fear…because G-d Himself is with you to battle for you and to save you!”
He then offered 4 different groups of soldiers an opportunity to return home and avoid battle. A) One who has built a house but has not yet dwelled in it, B) One who has married a woman and not yet consummated the marriage, C) one who has planted a vineyard and has not yet partaken of it, D) One who is afraid and soft of heart.
The Sages explain that in actuality there is no concern that the first 3 categories will die in war and not have a chance to complete what they’ve started. Rather, these are just a cover-up for those soldiers who are afraid to engage in battle. Their fear only stems from the fact that they bear sin and might not merit heavenly protection. In order not to expose who these sinners are, when they return home, the proclamation is given that he who built a house or got married or planted a vineyard are also excused from battle! Now, no one will know what is motivating each soldier who is turning back. If we are told to go to such lengths to avoid shaming a sinner how much more so must we refrain from shaming our fellow man for no reason at all!
A story is told of Rabbi Yehuda Zev Segal who was one of the foremost Torah leaders of our generation. He headed a Yeshiva in Manchester, England. One time, late at night, a group of teens from the Yeshiva went in to the library where many Sefarim (scholarly works) were kept. Not wanting to be disturbed, they locked the door. A while later there was a knock at the door. The fellow introduced himself as Rabbi Segal. Not really believing that Rabbi Segal would show up at that late hour they decided one of their fellow students was doing a great job imitating the venerable rabbi. They rudely told the person to go away but when he persisted thaey realized that their initial assumption was incorrect. It dawned on them that they had been incredibly rude to the dean himself! At that stage, they opened the door and they were shocked to see that the rabbi was shielding his eyes and giving them a chance to escape without him witnessing the culprits! Among the lessons they learned that night was how to go out of your way to avoid humiliating your fellow man.
By Rabbi Sharaga Thav