Do Not Ascend Like A Wall
by Rabbi Shlomo Aviner
Rabbi of Beit El and Rosh Yeshiva of Ateret Cohanim, Yerushalayim
translated by Rabbi Mordechai Friedfertig
printed with permission
(continued from here)
12. The wall is a homiletic (aggadic) and not a legal (halachic) issue
1. Our Rabbi Ha-Rav Tzvi Yehudah wrote: "Is it not revealed and clear that the Ramban knew the holy words of our Sages in Ketubot 111a but here in his clarification of the law in Sefer Ha-Mitzvot, he is not in the position of a mystic but as a master of the revealed law, and here he does not bring into account these holy words of the midrash of our Sages."
2. And the Rambam: "The Nation was made to swear in the way of a parable and said 'I made you swear..."
3. And similarly Avnei Nezer: "And it is extremely difficult to rely on the clarification since it is dependent on the homiletic words in the Talmud and Midrash Shir Ha-Shirim on the verse 'I made you swear.'"
4. And similarly Pnei Yehoshua: "They are conflicting midrashim."
5. Ha-Rav Kasher proves from this that this issue is not mentioned in the Rambam and Shulchan Aruch which implies that it is not practical law.
"The Rif, the Rambam, the Rosh, the Tur and the Shulchan Aruch do not bring this issue of the Oaths as law. And similarly even the Early Authorities (Rishonim) on Ketubot - the Ramban, the Ritba and the Meiri at the end of Ketubot do not say anything of the law of these Oaths, it appears that they hold that this is an issue of pure homiletics." And he also adds that in all of the statements of the Chafetz Chaim regarding the awakening to build the Land of Israel - "It is proper to purchase land and ascend to the Land," "I did not see even one time that he mentioned the issue of the Three Oaths, since in our days they made great noise about this until it has the law of "Be killed and do not transgress" over the prohibition of the Oath, but the Chafetz Chaim and many others as well do not mention the issue of the Three Oaths at all, since it was obvious in their eyes that here there is not even the slightest trace of prohibition at all, so that there was not even a need to write the reason."
6. Ha-Rav Yisraeli wrote that since in these Oaths there is no establishment of a prohibition, it makes sense why the halachic authorities did not bring these Oaths as law.
7. And similarly the words of the Admor of Izbitza brought above, that when there is forcefulness there are no Oaths, thus of necessity he holds that there is no issue of law here.
8. "And similarly there was also the straightforward understanding of Ha-Gaon Rabbi Meir Simchah...who returned many times to the expression of the 'fear of the Oaths,' whose meaning is clear that here there is no issue of authenticity of this law, rather cowardice on account of this issue of the Oaths, there is absolutely no contradiction between the clarification of the halachah and the Torah mitzvah," thus wrote our Rabbi Ha-Rav Tzvi Yehudah.
13. The Oaths are Divine decrees and not a prohibition
1. Thus explained the Maharal who wrote: "That Hashem, may He be Blessed, decreed this matter on Israel to be in Exile...as a result He decreed that they should not rebel against the Nations to leave from under their control...He decreed that they should not ascend like a wall which is 'ingathering' and it will nullify the scattering." The Maharal does not use the expression of "He made you swear" rather "He decreed" since thus was the order of reality established, and he also explicitly wrote "The Three Oaths which are The Three Decrees."
2. Ha-Rav Kasher also explained the Maharal's words that Hashem prevents us from ascending like a wall, and when it is possible to ascend like a wall, it is a sign that the decree has been nullified.
3. And similarly Ha-Rav Yisraeli, that thus Hashem decreed upon us a decree of exile that we will not succeed in ascending like a wall, "If so, in fact it is stated that the commandment to conquer [the Land] exists, but we are not able to fulfill it on account of compulsion."
4. And our Rabbi Ha-Rav Tzvi Yehudah similarly wrote regarding the issue of the settlement, inheritance and conquest of the Land: "If during the duration of the generations of Exile we were found in situations of compulsion, on account of all of our reality of Exile, the spiritual and physical, and on account of the non-Jewish authorities who established its decree in our Land, since because of them any essence of the possibility to fulfill this severe mitzvah in its fullness was taken from us, this obviously does not infringe on the essential obligation of the mitzvah and all of the make-up of its matter, just as any mitzvah is not marred on account of a compulsive situation in which a person finds himself and impedes him from fulfilling."
5. And this is also implied from Shut Ha-Rivash, and these are his words: "There is no doubt that ascending to the Land of Israel is a mitzvah...and what the prophet had said to those in Exile 'Build houses...,' this is because of the Exile which was decreed upon them, and the One who exiled them did not allow them to return until they ascended in the days of Koresh, and now too one of the Three Oath which The Holy One, Blessed be He, made Israel swear not to ascend like a wall." If so, the wall is only an obstacle to ascending to the Land of Israel on account of the Kingdoms, under the direction of the Master of the Worlds, and when the obstacle is removed such as by Koresh, the mitzvah returns and is renewed. And in the continuation of his words: "The settling of the Land of Israel is not a commandment limited to a certain time but a commandment which exists for the generations."
6. This is also implied from the Responsa of the Rashbash: "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 hindrance, 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."
And the wall is the hindrance to the entirety of Israel ascending, like he relates in the continuation of his words that there are also hindrances for individuals such as finding a wife, learning torah and making a livelihood.
7. And the Pe'at Ha-Shulchan similarly ruled in the footsteps of the Rashbash, that this is on account of the compulsion, as is explained from the comparison of the hindrance of ascending to the Land with the hindrance of offering sacrifices.
8. And our Rabbi Ha-Rav Tzvi Yehudah similarly wrote: "The One who causes all occurrences, Blessed is He, caused by this the wall to fall, which had separated...with the barrier of the Exile and the rulers of the Nations." "The Nations caused the fall, with the command of the Divine Providence, with formal announcements and with acts of conquests, of the wall that by the power of their authorities separated between us and our Land." "The Balfour Declaration... behold from within it and in its wake and on its basis came the full completion of the expression of the nullification of The Holy One, Blessed be He, of His Oath 'Do not ascend like a wall' of the Land of Israel, in His actual removal of the wall by way of the revelation of the recognition of the rulers of the Nations..." "It fell by the word of Hashem to nullify this Oath, by way of the public proclamation of the Kings of the lands."
"And this voice of the Living God and King of the Worlds, which then caused the wall to fall which separated between us and our Land, when He called to us: 'Ascend!' He was the One who called to us, by His now preparing the suitable circumstances for thus, - 'Inherit!', and the same voice of His Torah and all of its commandments, which was heard by all of those whose forefathers' feet stood on Mt. Sinai, He was the One who returned and obligated all of us in the fulfillment of the Divine commandment which we were commanded for the generations to inherit the Land which He gave to our forefathers."
An article of our Rabbi Ha-Rav Tzvi Yehudah Ha-Cohain Kook, which he published in the Israeli newspaper "Ha-Tzofeh" (18 Elul 5733 [Sept. 15, 1973]) and appears in "Le-Netivot Yisrael vol. 2" (pg. 217):
Clarifications of the Issue of the Claim of the Three Oaths
Response to those who ask and inquire
Yes, you are correct, there is a need to clarify the issues in their complete and true form. In Massechet Ketubot 111a, the Three Oaths: Do not ascend like a wall (i.e. Do not return to the Land of Israel en masse), do not rebel against the Nations of the World, do not distance the End [of Days]. And yes, according to the stages of the issues, firstly "Do not force the End" is not a principle in the Talmud, but "'Do not distance the End,' - with their sin," and in Rashi's commentary in "another explanation" that they should not force, and Rashi explains they should not offer too many supplications for this, and not that they should not increase and magnify the building of the settlement of the Land of Israel and the revival of the Torah in the Land of Israel.
And regarding the issue of the rebellion against the Nations of the World, when we were compelled to remove the authority of the British from here this was not rebellion against them, since they were not the legal authorities in our Land, rather they had a temporary mandate in order to prepare the authority of the Nation of Israel in its Land according to the decision of the League of Nations, as the word of Hashem in the Tanach, and when they betrayed their mission the time arrived to remove themselves from here. And regarding the last issue of ascending like a wall, about which we were warned, surely this wall is only the authority of the Nations over our Land and the place of our Temple, and any time in which this wall exists by the Divine command of Exile, but when in the continuing results of the Revealed End (Sanhedrin 98) it becomes nullified and this wall falls, and "the mouth which forbids is the mouth which permits," and the Master of the Universe who erected this wall, as "a separation of iron which divided between Israel and their Father in Heaven" (Pesachim 85b and Sotah 38b), is the One who nullified and caused this wall to fall, then when there is no wall there is no obstacle and the issue of ascending like a wall, is like the law of one who vows not to enter a house, and when the house fell he does not need to be released from his vow.
And regarding all of this, despite all that the author of the "Megillat Esther" is, with all of his importance and holiness, he can not be compared to the Ramban, who is called "The father of Israel," and there are various laws in the Shulchan Aruch from him, while there is not even one law from the Megillat Esther - it is revealed and clear that the Ramban knew the holy words of our Sages in Ketubot 111a but here in his clarification of the law in Sefer Ha-Mitzvot, he is not in the position of a mystic but as a master of the revealed law, and here he does not bring into account these holy words of the midrash of our Sages. And similarly, this is the straightforward understanding of the Ha-Gaon Rabbi Meir Simchah ztz"l, which in the letter of support for "Keren Ha-Yesod" ("The Foundation Fund" established in 1920 to raise money and invest in the Jewish Homeland) he twice repeated the expression of the "fear of the Oaths," whose meaning is clear that here there is no issue of authenticity of this law, rather cowardice on account of this issue of the Oaths, there is absolutely no contradiction between the clarification of the halachah and the Torah mitzvah.
Notes to be posted at the end of the series.