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  • Settling the Land of Israel

The 3 Oaths & Palestinian State / Judea and Samaria


Rabbi Ari Shvat

Tammuz 14, 5775
Dear Rabbi, I’ve read recently about how the ’three oaths’ form the core of anti-Zionist halahic opposition to the State and the several possible responses to that claim (excess persecution by the nations breaking the contract ; Balfour Declaration equalling reshut, etc). Does the same difficulty not arise in relation to building in Judea and Samara whereby the nations of the world have collectively called our settlement there ’illegal’? Or the establishment of a Palestinian State which all major world powers call for. If the Jewish people is enjoined generally to not rebel against the nations why not in these cases also? Does the mitzvah to settle all of the Land simply override these concerns?
The main point regarding the aggadita of the 3 oaths, is that it’s only 1 among various possible explanations (the Satmar Rebbe’s, see other alternative commentaries on Ktuvot 111b) of 1 possible midrash (there are contradicting midrashim on this issue, e.g. Shir HaShirim Rabba 8, 9, 3). Like all midrashim, it too is subject to many explanations, because it’s aggadita (midrashic legends) and not meant to be halachically practical [when and where exactly did Israel and all (!) of the nations supposedly get together and swear these 3 (or some say 6!) oaths?!]. The universally accepted rule is that midrashim, by definition, are not meant to be taken literally nor practically (e.g. Rambam, Moreh N’vuchim end of intro.; Nodeh B’Yehuda, Y.D. 161, Maharal, Be’er HaGola, a significant part of the book). I don’t know anyone who thinks that Moshe Rabbenu was actually 5 meters tall (10 cubits), that he jumped 5 meters high, had an axe 5 meters long, and still barely reached the ankle of Og, as symbolically mentioned in the midrash! How much more so, regarding a midrash which is expressly rejected by the poskim [“all the poskim rishonim and achronim” hold the mitzvah to conquer and settle Eretz Yisrael in all generations, Pitchei Tshuva, Ev. H. 75, 5], and not cited in even 1 (!) code of Jewish law. [I’m not saying aggaditta shouldn’t be studied, but everyone agrees that you’re not allowed to deduct practical ramifications from it]. To the contrary, all of the leaders of Israel, from Moshe through David, from the Maccabees through R. Akiva and the Bar Kochva rebellion, never “worried” about “rebelling” against the nations of the world. Even 97% of those from Agudat Yisrael (basically all except Satmar and Neturei Karta) who remained in question after the Balfour and San Remo Declarations, changed their mind after the Holocaust and learned from experience not to listen to the nations and not to depend on them, when it comes to Am Yisrael. Whenever I’m asked about the Satmar Rebbe on this issue, I ask the questioner: On what other topics do you hold like his opinion? Do you also only daven (pray) in a shul where the mechitza is up to the ceiling, as the Satmar holds on that issue? In fact, I ask, do you even know, or care, about the Satmar’s opinion on any other issue? The answer is always “no”, which proves that the questioner isn’t really interested in the Satmar’s opinion, but in looking for an excuse to justify anti-Zionism. As we have seen (see, anyone who learns the issue in depth, will see that he must “search” elsewhere for a different excuse.
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