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The Three Oath Excuse

By Tzvi Fishman
8/15/2011, 9:08 PM

Since there still seems to be some confusion surrounding the “Three Oaths,” let’s have Rabbi Meir Kahane explain the matter, by posting another one of his essays from the incredible seven-volume set, “Beyond Words,” which is like an encyclopedia of the major Jewish Issues of our times, as seen through the laser-true vision of the holy Rabbi.


But first, I would like to say a huge “yasher koach” to the initiater, compiler, and editor of this monumental publication, Mr. David Fein, who labored for a decade to bring it to pass. All too often, the people behind the scenes go unnoticed. But the truth is that the Jewish People wouldn’t have achieved such grandeur without all of the silent heroes who have contributed whatever they could to the overall good of the nation. A person should never say, “Who am I to think that I can contribute something substantial to the betterment of Am Yisrael?” The Creator has blessed everyone with his, or her, personal unique gifts. When a person focuses his talents and powers, bolsters his willpower, and rises up from his own individual concerns to devote himself to the “Clal,” to the all-encompassing community of Israel, then he becomes a partner with our holy Forefathers, and with the chain of Jewish builders throughout history, so that in carrying out his righteous contribution, he has a full share in all of the work that has gone into preserving and building our nation throughout all of its generations. To him comes G-d’s promise, “And as for you, I will bestow upon you great reward, as if you yourselves had done it all” (Avot, 2:2).


And now, to the matter of the “Three Oaths,” through the vast Torah scholarship and crystal-clear prism of Rabbi Meir Kahane:


The Three Oaths”


  “‘And you shall inherit them and you shall dwell in their land’ (Deuteronomy 12:29). The dwelling in the Land of Israel is equal to all the mitzvot in the Torah.” (Sifri, Re’eh 80)

  “A man should dwell in the Land of Israel, even in a city with a majority of non-Jews, rather than outside of the land, even in a city of Jews.” (Tosefta, Avoda Zara 5:2)


  “What are these three oaths? One that Jews should not go up to the land as a wall (together with force — Rashi); one that Jews should not rebel against the nations of the world; and one that the Holy One, Blessed Be He, made the nations swear not to enslave the Jews too much.” (Ketuvot 111a)


  “It is a sin to go live in Israel! It was a sin to create the state!” For the Talmud clearly tells us that the Jews were sworn not to go up “as a wall,” by force, and not to rebel against the nations! Our opposition to a state? Our refusal to go live in Israel? Far from a sin, we are the upholders of Torah! Such is the argument of some of our people . . . .


Once and for all, let them be answered because failure to do so convincingly cost us the lives of countless Jews who might otherwise have attempted to go up to the land in the years before World War II.

  “V’hu yachel l’hoshiya et Yisroel m’yad Plishtim. And he [Samson] will begin to save Israel from the hand of the Philistines.” (Judges 13:5)

  “Rabbi Chama, son of Rabbi Chanina, said: ‘The oath of Avimelech was violated [by the Philistines].’” Meaning: the word yachel can also come from the root meaning ‘to violate.’ And so Rabbi Chama says that the meaning here is as follows: Abraham and the king of the Philistines, Avimelech, swore unto each other that, for the length of the lives of their children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren, each people would not harm the other. Rabbi Chama says that the Philistine’s oath was violated, and thus no longer in force — it was annulled. Why? Rashi says: “Because they broke the oath first [by persecuting the Jews]” (Sotah 9b-10a).

  And so we have a rule laid down here. Where a Jew and a gentile are both bound by an oath, the violation by the gentile frees the Jew from his obligation! And more, even when there is no explicit obligation on the part of the gentile, a violation of his implicit obligation is enough to free the Jew from his. And this is seen in the words of the Ramban (Nachmanides) on the commandment (Deuteronomy 23:7), “You shall not seek their peace and their good [the Ammonites and the Moabites] all your days, forever.” Says the Ramban: “And the verse (also says, ibid., 2:9): ‘You shall not distress Moab, nor provoke war with them’ (and there appears to be a contradiction between the commandment not to go to war with them and not to seek their peace). If so, the verse ‘do not seek their peace’ commands us if we are fighting for a city that they themselves conquered (and which was not originally theirs) — or if they come to fight in our land then we are allowed to pursue them and capture their territories . . . and thus did David do to all the Ammonite cities because they broke the obligation first and fought us and therefore we are not obligated to call out in peace.”

  Again, the rule is clear. The Jew is obligated by an oath? Fine; of course he must obey it — as long as the gentile obeys his oath. But when the gentile violates his obligation, the Jew is similarly freed from his.

  Yes, there was an oath that the Jew was sworn to uphold — neither to go up by force en masse nor to rebel against the nations. But the All Mighty gave the nations their own oath, their own limitation: Do not enslave my people too much! What happened to this oath? It went up in flames in Auschwitz and in Kishinev and in the Crusades and with Chmielnicki and with the millions of Jewish dead and tortured and martyred. Every Jewish woman who was violated was a violation of the gentile’s oath. It went up in smoke in the gas chambers of every generation. The gentiles sneered at the oath and annulled it. The Jewish oath was tied to that of the gentile’s. When the one was ripped to shreds, the other died too.

  There is no oath that the All Mighty forces on a people that suffered as we did at the hands of murderers and liars, too. Those who stay in the Galut are the hypocritical Pharisees of which the Talmud (Sotah 22) speaks. They are not in the impurities of America because of piety and sworn obligation. All these wrap themselves in an oath that died long ago in the blood of Jews. There is no oath except the one at Sinai that gave us a land of our own in which to live.


March 1978


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