Three Oaths

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The Three Oaths is the popular name for a midrash found in the Talmud,[1] which relates that God adjured three oaths upon the world. Two of the oaths pertain to the Jewish people, and one of the oaths pertains to the other nations of the world. The Jews for their part were sworn not to forcefully reclaim the Land of Israel and not to rebel against the other nations, and the other nations in their turn were sworn not to subjugate the Jews excessively.

Among Orthodox Jews today there are primarily two ways of viewing this midrash. Haredim who are strongly anti-Zionist often view this midrash as legally binding, and therefore the movement to establish the state of Israel and its continued existence would be a violation of Jewish Law, whereas Religious Zionists have the view that either the oaths are no longer applicable or that they are indeed binding, but the current movement is not a violation of them. Both buttress their positions by citing historic rabbinic sources in favor of their view.

The Midrash and the text upon which it expounds[edit]

The context of the Talmudic dialogue containing the Three Oaths is a discussion in which attempts are made to defend Rav Zeira's desire to leave Babylon and go to the Land of Israel. It begins on Ketubot 110b and continues on 111a (where the Three Oaths are plainly conveyed). The Gemara quotes R. Yossi ben R. Chanina:

ג' שבועות הללו למה אחת שלא יעלו ישראל בחומה ואחת שהשביע הקדוש ברוך הוא את ישראל שלא ימרדו באומות העולם ואחת שהשביע הקדוש ברוך הוא את אומות העולם שלא ישתעבדו בהן בישראל יותר מדאי.

Why/What are these Three Oaths? One, that Israel should not go up [to the land] in a wall {i.e. en masse, RaShI interprets: forcefully}. Two, the Holy One adjured Israel not to rebel against the nations of the world. Three, the Holy One adjured the nations that they would not oppress Israel too much.[1]

The Midrash is in large part an exegetical analysis of three separate verses in the Song of Songs, and naturally reflects the traditional interpretation, which sees the entire book as an allegory for the relationship between God and the Jewish people. The three verses are:[2]

  • Song of Solomon 2:7: הִשְׁבַּעְתִּי אֶתְכֶם בְּנוֹת יְרוּשָׁלִַם, בִּצְבָאוֹת, אוֹ, בְּאַיְלוֹת הַשָּׂדֶה: אִם-תָּעִירוּ וְאִם-תְּעוֹרְרוּ אֶת-הָאַהֲבָה, עַד שֶׁתֶּחְפָּץ., lit.'I adjure you, O daughters of Jerusalem, by the gazelles, and by the hinds of the field, that ye awaken not, nor stir up love, until it please.'
  • Song of Solomon 3:5: identical to 2:7.
  • Song of Solomon 8:4: הִשְׁבַּעְתִּי אֶתְכֶם, בְּנוֹת יְרוּשָׁלִָם: מַה-תָּעִירוּ וּמַה-תְּעֹרְרוּ אֶת-הָאַהֲבָה, עַד שֶׁתֶּחְפָּץ., lit.'I adjure you, O daughters of Jerusalem: Why should ye awaken, or stir up love, until it please?'

Other midrashim concerning the Three Oaths[edit]

There are several other midrashim that pertain to the Three Oaths and they are primarily recorded in Shir ha-Shirim Rabbah which is also known as Midrash Hazita:

  • "If it is a wall": if Israel had ascended like a wall from Babylon, the Temple would not have been destroyed during that period for a second time. Rabbi Zeira went to the marketplace to buy something. He said to the one who was weighing: that was weighed very fairly. He responded: Do not depart from here, Babylonian, because your ancestors destroyed the Temple. At that moment Rabbi Zeira said, are not my ancestors the same as the ancestors of this one?! Rabbi Zeira entered the house of study and heard the voice of Rabbi Sheila who was sitting and teaching: "'If it is a wall': if Israel had ascended like a wall from the Exile, the Temple would not have been destroyed a second time." He said: the unlearned person taught me well.[3]
  • R. Yossi bar Chanina said: "There are two oaths here, one for Israel and one for the nations. Israel swore not to rebel against the nations [R. Yossi bar Chanina views Israel's two oaths in Ketuvot as just one], and the nations swore that they would not overly burden Israel, for by doing so they would cause the end of days to come prematurely."[4]
  • Rabbi Chelbo says ... And do not ascend like a wall from the Exile. If so, why is the King Messiah coming? To gather the exiles of Israel.[5]
  • When Reish Lakish would see Jews from the Exile gathering in the marketplace in the Land of Israel he would say to them, 'Scatter yourselves.' He said to them: 'When you ascended you did not do so as a wall, and here you have come to make a wall.'[3]
  • "Rabbi Yitsḥak opened: Before the day breathes and the shadows flee (Song of Songs 4:6). Before the day breathes—the exile of Israel; that they would be subjugated in exile until the day when rule of the peoples is ended. For we have learned that Rabbi Yitsḥak said that the dominion of all peoples together over Israel would last one thousand years. There is no אוּמָה (ummah), people, that would not subjugate them. 'One day' corresponds to: But it shall be one day which shall be known to YHWH (Zechariah 14:7).

Another word: Before the day שֶׁיָּפוּחַ (sheyafuaḥ), breathes—before that day the peoples יָפוּחַ (yafuaḥ), expire. And the shadows flee—governments that dominate them. I will hurry to the mountain of myrrh, and to the hill of frankincense (Song of Songs 4:6). Said the blessed Holy One 'I will betake myself to shake the peoples from Jerusalem, the הַר הַמּוֹר (har ha-mor), the mountain of myrrh,' as is written, Jerusalem on הַר הַמּוֹרִיָּה (har ha-moriyah), mount Moriah (2 Chronicles 3:1). And to the hill of frankincense—the Temple that is in Zion, as it is written, Lovely in heights, all the earth's joy, Mount Zion (Psalms 48:3). And it is written, To seize the earth's corners, that the wicked be shaken from it (Job 38:13)—as one holds a garment to shake all the filth from it.

Rabbi Yose said, the blessed Holy One will eventually be revealed in earthly Jerusalem, and purify it from the filth of the peoples, before the day of the peoples is complete. For Rabbi Ḥiyya said: Dominion over Israel lasts only one day, and that is a day of the blessed Holy One which is one thousand years [cf. BT Sanhedrin 97a; Bahir §5: Each day of the blessed Holy One is a thousand years, as it is written, For a thousand years in Your eyes are like yesterday gone (Psalms 90:4)]. This is what is written, He has made me desolate, faint all the day (Lamentations 1:13)—one day, and no more.

Rabbi Yose said, If they are subjugated more than one thousand years, it is not because of the King's decree, but rather because they do not wish to return before Him [in repentance to the Land of Israel]. And it is written, And it shall be, when all these things come upon you, [the blessing and the curse that I have set before you, that your heart shall turn back among all the nations to which YHWH your God will make you to stray] (Deuteronomy 30:1–2), and, Should your strayed one be at the edge of the heavens, from there shall YHWH your God gather you. (ibid. 4)[6]

Viewpoint of the rishonim[edit]


Rambam cited the Three Oaths in his famous Epistle to the Jews of Yemen (Iggeret Teiman), written around 1173. In this letter, Maimonides attempted to strengthen the morale of the Yemenite Jews, who were suffering from a decree of forced conversion to Islam as well as a false messianic movement which led many Yemenite Jews away from traditional practice. In the letter he states:

ולפי שידע שלמה ע"ה ברוח הקדש שהאומה הזו כאשר תלכד בגלות תיזום להתעורר שלא

בזמן הראוי ויאבדו בכך וישיגום הצרות הזהיר מכך והשביע עליו על דרך המשל ואמר

השבעתי אתכם בנות ירושלים וכו

Solomon, of blessed memory, foresaw with Divine inspiration, that the prolonged duration of the exile would incite some of our people to seek to terminate it before the proper time, and as a consequence they would perish or meet with disaster. Therefore he warned them (to desist) from it and adjured them in metaphorical language, as we read, "I adjure you, O daughters of Jerusalem, by the gazelles and by the hinds of the field, that ye awaken not, nor stir up love, until it please."[8] Now, brethren and friends, abide by the oath, and stir not up love until it please.[9]

Bahya ben Asher[edit]

The 13th-century commentator Rabbeinu Bachya wrote in his commentary on Genesis 32:7:

... and it is written "And Hezekiah prayed before God".[10] So too we are required to follow in the way of the Patriarchs and to restore ourselves so that we may be graciously accepted and with our fine language and prayer before God, may He be exalted. However, to wage war is not possible, "you have been adjured daughters of Jerusalem, etc."[11] You have been adjured not to engage in war with the nations.[12]


Ramban did not explicitly discuss the Three Oaths, however he did maintain that it is incumbent upon Jews in every generation as a positive commandment to attempt to repossess the Land of Israel:

That we are commanded to take possession of the Land which the Almighty, Blessed Be He, gave to our forefathers, to Avraham, to Yitzchak, and to Yaakov; and not to abandon it to other nations, or to leave it desolate, as He said to them, "You shall dispossess the inhabitants of the Land and dwell in it, for I have given the Land to you to possess it,"[13] and he said, further, "To Inherit the Land which I swore to your forefathers (to give them)"; behold, we are commanded with the conquest of the land in every generation.[14]

This implies that the Three Oaths are not Halachically binding, as to treat them as binding would effectively nullify a biblical commandment.

Nachmanides continues to say this command applies in every generation, even during exile:

[The sages] made many other such emphatic statements regarding this positive commandment that we are commanded to possess the Land and settle it. It is therefore an eternal positive command, obligating every single individual even during the time of Exile as is known from the Talmud in many places.[15][16]

Anti-Zionist responses[edit]

In general, the counts of 613 commandments excludes one-time commandments (such as God's command to count the Jews in Numbers 1:2).[17] According to Rabbi Joel Teitelbaum, Nachmanides' words "we are commanded with the conquest of the land in every generation" mean only the generations until the era of exile, not all generations. Nevertheless (according to Teitelbaum's understanding of Nachmanides) since the commandment applied for multiple generations and not just at one moment, it qualifies to be listed among the 613 commandments.[18]

Other attempts to reconcile Nachmanides with the Three Oaths[edit]

Rashbash (himself a descendant of Nachmanides) understood this particular biblical obligation to be binding on the individual level but not on the collective:

In truth, this commandment is not a commandment which includes the entirety of Israel in the Exile which now exists, but it is a general principle as our Sages stated in the Talmud in Ketubot, that it stems from the Oaths which The Holy One, Blessed be He, made Israel swear not to rush the End, and not to ascend like a wall.[19]

Rabbi Chaim Zimmerman distinguished between settling the land and conquering the land. He said the commandment is realized by settling the land, and conquering is merely a preparation for the core obligation of settlement. The obligation to settle the land does not necessarily violate the Three Oaths. Rabbi Zimmerman adds that the Three Oaths only apply to invading the land from the outside, and once Jews have arrived in the land with the permission of non-Jews, they may then fight for control of the land. He writes:

... the difficulty in the Ramban which says that the mitzva of kibush prevails in our time against the oath, dissolves. The oath, shelo yaalu bechoma means explicitly that we cannot storm eretz-Yisrael from chutz-laaretz. But when the Jews are in eretz-Yisrael, there is surely a hechsher mitzva of kibbush-haaretz. How can the Jews be in eretz-Yisrael without the aliyah "bechoma"? The answer is very simple. If many Jews came to eretz-Yisrael individually, or by permission of the nations, then once they are there, there is a command of kibbush.... There was never an oath upon the people who were in eretz-Yisrael.[20][21]

Viewpoint of the early Acharonim[edit]


Maharal discussed the Three Oaths in two locations, in his work Netzach Yisrael and in his commentary to Tractate Ketubot.[22] In his work Netzach Yisrael he wrote:

כי פירוש 'בדורו של שמד' היינו במדה שהיה לדורו של שמד, שהיו דביקים בה דורו של שמד, ובאותה מדה השביע אותם שלא ישנו בענין הגלות. כי דורו של שמד, אף על גב שהגיע להם המיתה בגלות, לא היו משנים. ועוד פירוש 'בדורו של שמד', רוצה לומר אף אם יהיו רוצים להמית אותם בעינוי קשה, לא יהיו יוצאים ולא יהיו משנים בזה. וכן הפירוש אצל כל אחד ואחד, ויש להבין זה

Another explanation of the Midrash's statement (he is speaking of Shir Ha-Shirim Rabba 2:20 that begins "ורבנן אמרי השביען בדורו של שמד") that God adjured the Jewish people in a generation of Shmad (religious persecution Jews, or decrees against Jews): that even if they will threaten to kill them with difficult torture, they will not leave [the Exile] nor will they change their behavior in this manner[23]

Rabbi Chaim Vital[edit]

The 16th Century Kabbalist, Rabbi Chaim Vital expressed the view that the Three Oaths were only binding for the first thousand years of Exile. He wrote:

'I made you swear, daughters of Jerusalem...' this great oath to God was that they should not arouse the Redemption until that love will be desired and with good will, as it is written 'until I desire,' and our Sages already said that the time of this oath is a thousand years, as it is written in the Baraita of Rabbi Yishmael in Pirkei Heichalot (in a comment on Daniel 7:25)..., and similarly in the Zohar II:17a...that it is one day of the Exile of the Community of Israel...[24]

Modern era[edit]

Debate on the appropriate understanding of Maimonides[edit]

Religious Zionists suggest that in Maimonides' Epistle to Yemen, he explicitly interprets the oaths metaphorically, and not literally. As it states there "Therefore he admonished and adjured them in metaphorical language (דרך המשל, lit. by way of metaphor) to desist." Therefore, they maintain, that Maimonides did not consider them to be Halachically binding.[25]

A member of the Haredi community, Rabbi Chaim Walkin points out in his book, Da'at Chaim, that Maimonides discussed the Three Oaths only in the Epistle to Yemen, but not in his Halachic work, the Mishne Torah. R. Walkin postulates that this is because while Maimonides saw these oaths as important, he did not consider them to be legally binding as Halacha, only that they serve as "warnings that these actions would be unsuccessful".[26]

Rabbi Joel Teitelbaum (the Satmar Rebbe) however, noted that Maimonides cites the Three Oaths in Iggeret Teiman, in a way that makes it appear that he is discussing binding Halachah. In using the description "metaphorical", Maimonides is referring to the nature of the text of the Song of Songs, and not to the Three Oaths themselves.[27] The Satmar Rebbe however did not consider the breaking of the oaths a halachic issue, but rather a form of heresy. He stated that "the oath was not given to heretics but to all Jewry; and even if the whole Government were pious like men of old, any attempt to take their freedom prematurely would be to deny the Holy Law and our faith."[28] As for Nachmanides' explicit statement that the commandment applies even during exile, Teitelbaum says this refers to living in Israel as an individual - not conquering, since that would conflict with the Three Oaths.[18] A variant of this approach says that Nachmanides' command to live in Israel even during exile applies only when living in Israel is consistent with exile, that is, when a non-Jewish government rules the land. But living under a Jewish government such as the State of Israel might itself constitute a violation of the oath. Nachmanides felt no need to mention this exception to the commandment because he did not foresee the rise of a Jewish government in the Holy Land before the messiah.[29]

Neturei Karta stress what is said in the mussaf Shemona Esrei ("The Standing Prayer") of Yom Tov, that because of their sins, the Jewish people went into exile from the Land of Israel ("umipnei chatoeinu golinu meiartzeinu"). Additionally, they maintain the view – based on the Babylonian Talmud[30] – that any form of forceful recapture of the Land of Israel is a violation of divine will. They believe that the restoration of the Land of Israel to the Jews should happen only with the coming of the Messiah, not by self-determination.

James A. Diamond and Menachem Kellner argue that Maimonides not only left out any mention of the Three Oaths from his code of Halachic law, but that he actually argued that Jewish national independence would come about through human initiative and advocated political activism to try to restore Jewish independence in the Land of Israel. They write that Teitelbaum came up with twisted interpretations of Maimonides' writings to fit his own ideology, for example by claiming that Maimonides' silence on the oaths in his Halachic code was because they were supposedly of such great importance that they did not need to be mentioned. According to Diamond and Kellner, "there is simply no plausible reading of Maimonides’ activist realization of the Jewish return to and settlement of Israel as a necessary stage in bringing about the messianic period that would not run afoul of Teitelbaum’s “oaths” argument".[31]

Debate on the appropriate understanding of Maharal[edit]

Religious Zionists argue that Maharal considered the oaths to be a Divine decree (which has thus subsequently expired). They rely upon his commentary to Ketubot which more explicitly indicates that he understood the Oaths to be binding insofar as it is up to God to permit the circumstances wherein Jews can engage in said activities, but it is not binding insofar as Jews are not actually prohibited from engaging in the acts the Oaths are concerned with. They maintain that there is a certain degree of ambiguity in what he has written in Netzach Yisrael and therefore his position must be seen in such a manner, for "anything to the contrary yields a contradiction within the Maharal's own writings",[25] which would clearly be undesirable.

However, the position of Rabbi Joel Teitelbaum (the Satmar Rebbe) in respect to whether Maharal understood the Oaths as prohibitively binding upon Jews is based primarily upon what was written in Netzach Yisrael. It is uncertain whether he considered and factored in Maharal's position in his commentary on Ketubot. (Whether this is due to his not having had access to it, not having been aware of it, or having viewed the text as a forgery is unknown.) However, according to his understanding of the Maharal any violation of the Oaths is absolutely prohibited, even on pain of death.

In response to Zionists who quote the Maharal's commentary on Ketubot, anti-Zionist writers have said that even if the oaths are to be seen as decrees, it was obviously not God's intent that the Jewish people should keep trying to return to the Land of Israel and build a state until they hit the right moment. In view of the harsh consequences of failure ("I will declare your flesh ownerless like the gazelles and hinds of the field"), this would be as foolish as playing Russian roulette. Furthermore, the success of the State of Israel so far is not proof that the decree has been annulled, since the future of the state is still uncertain.[32]

Anti-Zionist arguments that consider the Three Oaths[edit]

An overview of some of the primary claims made by anti-Zionists concerning the Three Oaths:

Members of Neturei Karta Orthodox Jewish group protest against Israel
Neturei Karta members at an event in Boston, Massachusetts
Condemnation poster, or pashkvil
  • Although the Three Oaths are Aggadic in style, precedent shows when Aggadic material in the Talmud presents novel legal material (as opposed to punishments and rewards relating to legal material expounded elsewhere in the Talmud), that material is codified as halacha, unless there is a specific reason not to.[33]
  • Even if the oaths are to be seen as decrees, the existence of the modern State of Israel does not constitute proof that the decree has ended, because the state's future is still uncertain.[32]
  • The Satmar Rebbe, in his book Vayoel Moshe maintains that Maimonides spoke of the Three Oaths as binding. (See Modern Debate on the Appropriate Understanding of Maimonides above)
  • The oaths are between the Jewish people and God, and the gentiles and God respectively. The fact that the gentiles violated their oath does not tacitly mean that the Jewish people are free to do so as well. Historically, atrocities prior to the Holocaust have generally not prompted rabbinic encouragement of mass immigration to Israel, though there have been some notable exceptions.[34][35]
  • Living in Eretz Yisroel is not a general mitzvah for the Jews collectively, only individuals (see discussion of Rashbash (Solomon ben Simon Duran) in Nachmanides section above).
  • The Balfour Declaration never covered the Oaths.
  • The State of Israel has expanded its borders beyond the areas mandated by the UN and have thus expanded the borders without the permission of the nations.
  • The United Nations' approval of the establishment of the State of Israel does not constitute permission from the nations of the world. The Halacha attaches no significant value to the United Nations. The relevant approval should be that of some of the other people who live in the land (in this instance, the Palestinian Arabs).[36]
  • In response to the Zionists' use of Rabbi Chaim Vital (see below), the Satmar Rebbe argued that Vital's remarks refer not to the Three Oaths incumbent on the Jewish people, but to God's oath not to redeem the Jewish people unless they repent out of love. This oath lasts a thousand years; after that point even repentance out of fear can bring the redemption.[37]
  • In response to questions of why God would allow the Zionists some measure of success if Zionism is against the Talmud; anti-Zionist religious Jews respond with the following; "The fallacy of the argument lies in the undeniable fact that there is evil in this world. Hashem allows people free will to choose to do wrong, and even to be successful in doing wrong on a large scale.... Why Hashem decided to grant their efforts some degree of success is one of the mysteries of our era. But the fact that they succeeded is no more a proof that they were doing the right thing, than is the fact that the Germans succeeded in killing six million Jews a proof that they were doing the right thing."[38]

Zionist arguments that consider the Three Oaths[edit]

An overview of some of the primary claims made by Religious Zionists concerning the Three Oaths:

  • The Three Oaths are an aggadic midrash, and therefore they are not Halakhically obligatory (Aggadic Midrashim, as opposed to Halachic Midrashim are not traditionally understood as a valid source for Halacha). Accordingly, Maimonides' Mishne Torah, the Arba'ah Turim, the Shulchan Aruch, and other halachic sources do not cite the Three Oaths or rule accordingly. They are not found there at all. Maimonides himself advocated the re-establishment of Jewish sovereignty in the Land of Israel through human initiative rather than waiting for the Messiah.
  • It is not clearly established in either the Gemara or the Halacha what precisely would constitute permission from the nations. As such, the Balfour Declaration, San Remo conference, United Nations General Assembly Resolution 181, and the League of Nations-issued Mandate for Palestine plan of July 24, 1922 is understood as representing permission and approval from the nations of the world. Accordingly, the Jewish people cannot be considered to have rebelled against the nations. This was the opinion of Rabbi Meir Simcha of Dvinsk regarding the Balfour Declaration.
  • The Balfour Declaration, San Remo Resolution, League of Nations Mandate of Palestine, and United Nations resolution recommending the establishment of a Jewish State fulfill the first condition of the oath to not rebel against the nations. Thus, when the United Nations told the Jews to go home, it was mandatory that they do so. Just as Cyrus instructed the Jews of Babylonia to construct the Second Temple. This position is held by Eliezer Waldenberg[39] and others.
  • The Three Oaths simply meant that God had decreed an exile for the Jewish people. The fact that the Jewish people have successfully returned to the Land of Israel, and that the State of Israel has survived, is evidence that the oath is void and the decree has ended.
  • The wording of Maimonides in his Epistle to Yemen specifically states that the Oaths are "metaphorical" (see Maimonides above), furthermore in his Halachic work he places great value upon living in the Land of Israel, and forbids leaving it.[40]
  • Although the Three Oaths were obligatory in the past, the gentiles violated their vow by excessively persecuting the Jewish people.[41] Therefore, the validity of the two other vows has been nullified. Religious Zionists point to a specific Midrash warning that if gentile nations violated this oath, then "they cause the End of Days to come prematurely.[42] This has been interpreted to mean that Israel's re-establishment would be implemented sooner than originally intended. With atrocities against Jews throughout history, and especially after The Holocaust, the Jewish people were absolved of their part of the Oaths. Those who hold this position often rely on the Shulchan Aruch which states: "two [persons] who have taken an oath to do a thing, and one of them violates the oath, the other is exempt [from it] and does not require permission."[43] As a result, the ban on mass-immigration to the Land of Israel became void,[44] and Zionism and the State of Israel arose as a direct result of the breach by gentile nations of the Oaths. The Holocaust was the greatest violation of the 3 oaths[45]
  • Religious Zionists often point to Israel's seemingly miraculous survival in the numerous Arab-Israeli wars, especially the 1948 Arab-Israeli War and Six-Day War, and interpret this as the State of Israel being preserved directly by God's hand.
  • The Jewish people did not return en masse to the Land of Israel, but rather through individual immigration as well as a series of five Aliyahs. Jews continue to individually immigrate to Israel today. There was never a point in history where a majority of world Jewry collectively migrated to the Land of Israel.
  • Many authorities understand the oath of "not ascending as a wall" as only including an immigration of the entire (or at least a majority of the) nation. Some of these authorities also require that this mass immigration be one of force in order for the oath to be considered violated. Among those who hold these positions are Isaiah Achron,[46] the Shittah Mekubetzet,[47] the Maharal,[48] Samuel Ben Isaac Jaffe Ashkenazi,[49] Jonathan Eybeschutz,[50] Yisroel ben Shmuel of Shklov and students of the Vilna Gaon,[51] Meir Blumenfeld,[52] Maimonides as understood by Joel Teitelbaum,[53] and Yonah Dov Blumberg.[54] Similarly, Baruch Epstein, in his Torah Temimah, understands the oath to only include a forceful mass immigration,[55] and Ishtori Haparchi in his Kaftor Vaferach[56] understands the oath to mean immigration with intent to conquer. Isaac Leon ibn Zur in his Megillat Ester on Nachmanides also understands the oath as prohibiting conquest.[57]

Many Haredim who subscribe to the anti-Zionist view still immigrate to the Land of Israel. Their rationalization is that they do so only as individuals and families, but not as members of the organized mass-immigration, and that they come to the Land solely to live there, not in order to conquer it or rule over it. Such Haredim accordingly do not believe themselves to be in violation of the Three Oaths. Other Orthodox Jewish movements, including some who oppose Zionism, have denounced the activities of the radical branch of Neturei Karta. According to The Guardian, "[e]ven among Haredi, or ultra-Orthodox circles, the Neturei Karta are regarded as a wild fringe".[58] Neturei Karta is sometimes confused with Satmar, due to both being anti-Zionist; however, they are separate groups and have had disagreements. For example, Satmar criticized Neturei Karta for attending a 2006 Holocaust denial conference in Iran.[59] Neturei Karta asserts that the mass media deliberately downplays their viewpoint and makes them out to be few in number. Their protests in America are usually attended by, at most, a few dozen people. In Israel, the group's protests typically attract several hundred participants, depending on the nature of the protest and its location.[60]

Neturei Karta's website states that its members "frequently participate[s] in public burning of the Israeli flag." On the Jewish holiday of Purim, Neturei Karta members have routinely burned Israeli flags in celebrations in cities such as London, Brooklyn and Jerusalem.[61][62][63][64][65]

While many in Neturei Karta chose to simply ignore the State of Israel, this has become more difficult. Some took steps to condemn Israel and bring about its eventual dismantling until the coming of the Messiah. Chief among these was Moshe Hirsch, leader of an activist branch of Neturei Karta, who served in Yasser Arafat's cabinet as Minister for Jewish Affairs.[66]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Babylonian Talmud, Ketubot 111a
  2. ^ Translation: JPS 1917
  3. ^ a b Shir ha-Shirim Rabbah 8:11
  4. ^ Shir ha-Shirim Rabbah, 2:[7]1
  5. ^ Shir ha-Shirim Rabbah 2:18
  6. ^ Zohar 2:17a, Midrash ha-Ne'elam, cf. Zohar 3:270b.
  7. ^ Iggeret Teiman Ch. 4, Kafach Edition, p. 55
  8. ^ Song of Songs 2:7, 8:4
  9. ^ Maimonides. Epistle to Yemen. Ch. XX. 1952 English translation by Boaz Cohen, published in New York by American Academy for Jewish Research.
  10. ^ 2Kings 19:15
  11. ^ Song of Songs 2
  12. ^ Rabbeinu Bachya, Commentary to Genesis 32:7
  13. ^ Numbers 33:53
  14. ^ In his glosses to Maimonides' Sefer HaMitzvot, Positive Commandment #4. Translation from Torat Eretz Yisrael by David Samson p. 112
  15. ^ Nachmanides, Addendum to Maimonides' Book of Commandments (positive commandment #4)
  16. ^ Dr. Reuven Firestone, "Judaism – Medieval Period"
  17. ^ "שורשים וכללים".
  18. ^ a b Rabbi Joel Teitelbaum, Vayoel Moshe, Maamar Yishuv Eretz Yisroel, Chapter 2
  19. ^ Responsa Rashbash, 2
  20. ^ Zimmerman, Chaim (1986). Torah And Existence. A.A.E. Inc. U.S.A. p. 72.
  21. ^ See also Tzvi Magence (1914–1989) in his Magen Tzvi who writes that oaths only applies to those living outside the Land of Israel.

    שהשבועה שלא יעלו בחומה אין זה נגד מצות כבוש הארץ... כי השבועה שלא יעלו בחומה היתה על אלה שגלו וישבו בבבל או בכל מקום אחר בחו״ל, עליהם נאמר שלא יעלו בחומה ושפיר אתי הלשון שלא יעלו. אכל אלה היושבים בציון עליהם לא היתה כלל השבועה שלא ילחמו

  22. ^ First published from original manuscripts in 1960. See R. Gil Student, Religious Zionism Debate p. 16
  23. ^ Netzach Yisrael, Ch. 24
  24. ^ R. Chaim Vital's Introduction to Sefer Eitz Chayim
  25. ^ a b R. Gil Student, The Religious Zionism Debate p. 18
  26. ^ Rebbetzin Dev orah Fastag, Zionism
  27. ^ Vayoel Moshe, Ma'amar Gimmel Shevu'os, ch. 36, p. 47
  28. ^ Lewis Glinert; Yosseph Shilhav (March 1991). "Holy Land, Holy Language: A Study of an Ultraorthodox Jewish Ideology". Language in Society. Cambridge University Press. 20 (1): 67. doi:10.1017/s0047404500016079.
  29. ^ Rabbi David Smith, Derech Hachaim, p. 25
  30. ^ Talmud, Tractate Kesubos, 111a
  31. ^ A Reply to Shaul Magid on Satmar Rebbe Yoel Teitelbaum’s Anti-Zionist Theology
  32. ^ a b "A Response to Rabbi Gil Student | Torah Jews".
  33. ^ "The Three Oaths are Agadah and therefore not binding. | Torah Jews".
  34. ^ Historically there have been some instances where persecution served as the impetus for Jewish migration to the Land of Israel, even prior to WWII. Due to a wave of pogroms "the students of Rabbi Elijah of Vilna, the Gaon of Vilna, left Lithuania and immigrated to Safed and Jerusalem in Eretz Israel. The available evidence strongly indicates that the Gaon not only condoned their aliya; he actually decreed it, because he was convinced that the year 1840 was to be the year of 'atchalta degeulah', 'the beginning of the redemption'. Chaim I. Waxman (May 1987). "Messianism, Zionism, and the State of Israel". Modern Judaism. Oxford University Press. 7 (2): 176.
  35. ^ Rabbi Hile Wechsler (1843–1894) strongly encouraged emigration to Palestine to avoid anti-Semitism which he predicted would engulf Germany and most of Europe. Kirsch, James (1973). The Reluctant Prophet. Los Angeles: Sherborne Press, Inc. ISBN 0-8202-0156-1. ISBN 385630519X
  36. ^ The Satmar Rebbe viewed the UN as imbued with strength and actual power, regardless of whether he saw it as a Halachically recognized organization. He states: "Even according to the natural order, were they to yield their government and Zionist State, there is no doubt that the United Nations could make arrangements to prevent war and bloodshed." Rabbi Joel Teitelbaum, Al Ha-Geulah ve-al Ha-Temurah, pp. 85–86.
  37. ^ "Rabbi Chaim Vital wrote that the oaths were in effect only for the first thousand years after the destruction of the Second Temple. | Torah Jews".
  38. ^ "If the state is against Hashem's will, why did He give them success? | Torah Jews".
  39. ^ ציץ אליעזר, חלק ז, סימן מח. Tzitz Eliezer 7:48.
  40. ^ Hilchos Melachim 5:9 "It is forbidden to leave Eretz Yisrael for the Diaspora at all times except: to study Torah; to marry; or to save [one's property] from the gentiles. [After accomplishing these objectives,] one must return to Eretz Yisrael."
  41. ^ Kahane, Rabbi Meir. "Three Oaths".
  42. ^ Shir HaShirim Rabba, 2[7]1)
  43. ^ Shulchan Aruch, Yoreh De'ah 236:6
  44. ^ Zionists claim that this position was maintained by Shlomo Kluger in his Maasei Yedei Yotzer. However, Rabbi Joel Teitelbaum argued that Kluger used this argument only to permit excessive prayer for the redemption, not action. (Vayoel Moshe, Maamar Shalosh Shevuos, ch. 79, p. 98) It was also maintained by Rabbi Meir Kahane in Or Hara'ayon
  45. ^ Response of Simcha Bart [Chabad Ask A Rabbi] July 9,2021
  46. ^ In his Piskei Ri'azאין להם לישראל לעלות יחד וביד חזקה כעין קיבוץ גלייות...שנאמר אם תעירו ואם תעוררו את האהבה עד שתחפץ .Cited in קובץ שיטות קמאי ,כתובות – ח"ג.
  47. ^ Shittah Mekubetzet, Ketubot 110b. בחומה: שלא יעלו מאליהם ויעלו כולם ביחד בחזקה
  48. ^ Netzach Israel, Chapter 24.דהיינו שיקבצו מן הפיזור ויעלו בחומה לשוב מן האומות...וכנגד שאני מפזרן גזר עליהן שלא יעלו בחומה שזהו קיבוץ גליות, והוא בטול הפיזור. Here, the Maharal equates violating the oath with the in-gathering of exiles.
  49. ^ In his Yefeh Kol on Shir HaShirim Rabbah: אין לנו רשות להתקבץ ולהיות בחומה לעלות יחד לא״י עד יקבצנו ה׳ ע״י משיח... הא דאמ׳ לקמן בפ׳ אם חומה היא... והתם לא מיירי ביד רמה.
  50. ^ אהבת יהונתן, ואתחנן: דכנסת ישראל צוחה באלה ובשבועה אם תעירו ואם תעוררו את האהבה נגד קיבוץ ישראלי באם שהכל נועדו יחדיו לילך לירושלים וכל האומות מסכימים אפ״ה צווחה שחלילה שתלך שמה.
    While he insists that oaths applies even when the nations of the world agree to the restoration of Israel, he addresses his position in regards to a gathering of the exiles, and not some other mass immigration.
  51. ^ Morgenstern, Arie. Hastening Redemption. Oxford University Press, 2006. "Israel of Shklov's messianic worldview ... was shared, at least in part, by all of the Vilna Ga'on's disciples. He rejects the prohibition, which underlies the traditional concept of the Three Oaths, against 'scaling the wall' or hastening the redemption; he claims that "1even if all of them [the Jews] or even most of them are not authorized to scale the wall to the Land of Israel, there is no prohibition against individuals."
  52. ^ Blumenfeld maintains that the Oaths are in fact binding upon the Jewish people despite the nations of the world having violated it. However, the Zionists have not violated the Oaths because firstly there was no rebellion against the nations of the world (as they have consented to it), and furthermore "ascending as a wall" refers to the immigration of the majority of the Jewish people to the Land of Israel at once. Rabbi Blumenfeld bolsters his position by pointing towards a comment made by Rashi (on BT Yoma 9b) that defines the differentiation between the phrase "like a door" and "like a wall". The former refers to part, or half of the population and the latter to the majority of it. "There is no comparison between oaths between two individual and the oaths adjured by God.... The [Three] Oaths were unconditional obligations between Israel and the nations. If there is a possibility that we may ascend to the Land of Israel, it would only7 be because we wouldn't be ascending like a wall ... and wouldn't be rebelling against the nations, because the nations of the world themselves have agreed that this portion of land shall belong to the Jews.... The intent [of the phrase 'ascend like a wall' is the ascent of the people all at once, or certainly more than half [the people], as is explained in Yoma 9 ... and explained by Rashi." See Ohr HaTorah (1962), and "Concerning the Oath That They Not Ascend as a Wall" (in Hebrew) in Shana be-shana (Jerusalem 1974), pp. 148–53.
  53. ^ VaYoel Moshe. Chapter 80. Here the Satmar Rebbe offers an explanation why Maimonides didn't include the Three Oaths in his code. Maimonides in Laws Of Repentance 7:5 states that "Israel shall only be redeemed through repentance." The Satmar Rebbe explains that denial of this statement of Maimonides is heresy. Hence, any redemptive action taken before Israel repents is considered heretical. Immigration of a large, but minority, group wouldn't be considered a redemptive attempt and would not be a heretical action. Such immigration would not violate Laws Of Repentance, and if forbidden would have to be mentioned elsewhere in Maimonides' code. Immigration of the majority of Jews, however, would be a redemptive attempt. Without repentance, such immigration would be heretical and forbidden by the Laws Of Repentance. Since, by implication, it has already been forbidden by Laws Of Repentance, there would be no need for Maimonides to mention it explicitly elsewhere in his code.
  54. ^ Blimberg, קונטרס מצות ישיבת ארץ ישראל. Published 1898. On page 42, he writes: אלא ודאי צ״ל דמשום שאז בימי עזרא ע״י שהיתה העליה ברשיון כורש, עי״ז הותרה השבועה מפני שאז אין מקום לשבועה זו שהיא רק כשאין לזה רשיון המלכות ... לעלות ״כחומה״ פי׳ כלם יחד בבת אחת "In the days of Ezra, since the immigration was with permission of Cyrus... the oath was lifted since then there was no relevancy of the oath which only applies when there isn't permission from the government ... 'to ascend as a wall' means all together at once."
  55. ^ Torah Temimah, Song of Songs 2:7, footnote 83: "[That means] to gather and go up to the Land with force. As it states in Yoma 9b, 'If you were to make yourselves as a wall and ascend all together as in the days of Ezra.' And this is the language that's used in Joel 2:7, 'they climb the wall like men of war.'"
  56. ^ Chapter 10. מיהו לא יעלו על מנת לכבוש
  57. ^ נצטוינו בכתובות דף קי״א. שלא נמרד באומות ללכת לכבש הארץ בחזקה ... שלא יעלו בחומה. We are commanded in Ketubot 111a not to rebel against the Nations by going and conquering the land by force....
  58. ^ In a state over Israel by Simon Rocker (The Guardian) November 25, 2002
  59. ^ Alan T. Levenson (12 March 2012). The Wiley-Blackwell History of Jews and Judaism. John Wiley & Sons. p. 455. ISBN 978-1-118-23293-4. Retrieved 7 January 2013.
  60. ^ Connections Magazine "In 'Honor' of Yom Haatzmaut: A Few RBS Haredim Wore Sackcloth and Hung Palestinian Flags" Temura, 1 May 2006
  61. ^ Public burning of the Israeli flag at NKI International website.
  62. ^ neturei karta photos by Sebastian Scheiner, Associated Press, November 20, 2007, available at USA Today Photos.
  63. ^ Neturei Karta burn Israeli flags in Jerusalem by Kobi Nahshoni, Ynet news, March 2, 2010.
  64. ^ Conference of Presidents: Time to cut off Neturei Karta by Ron Friedman, Times of Israel, April 4, 2012.
  65. ^ Neturei Karta Spy for Iran Sentenced to Four Years in Jail by Tzvi Ben-Gedalyahu, Jewish Press, January 28, 2014.
  66. ^ J. Gordon Melton; Martin Baumann (21 September 2010). Religions of the World, Second Edition: A Comprehensive Encyclopedia of Beliefs and Practices. ABC-CLIO. p. 2066. ISBN 978-1-59884-204-3. Retrieved 7 January 2013.

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