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Yom Ha’atzmaut and the

Disappearance of The Three Oaths:
An Analysis of Rav Shaul Yisraeli’s Approach

W hen we look back
gratefully on the many
obstacles that Am Yisrael
has overcome on the way to Jewish
statehood in Eretz Yisrael, one of
Rabbi Daniel Mann
Ram, RIETS Israel Kollel
Dayan, Eretz Hemdah
the most intriguing to the student of
Torah is the Three Oaths:
,‫ר’ זירא הוה קמשתמיט מיניה דרב יהודה‬ does] Rav Yehuda [respond]? There is Yisrael. We also see that Rav Zeira
:‫ דאמר רב יהודה‬,‫דבעא למיסק לארץ ישראל‬ another verse: “I administered an oath disagreed, and reasoned that it was
,‫כל העולה מבבל לארץ ישראל עובר בעשה‬ to you, Daughters of Jerusalem, by deer permitted for him as an individual, but
‫ “בבלה יובאו ושמה‬:)‫כב‬,‫שנאמר (ירמיהו כז‬ and gazelles of the field lest you arouse he conceded that it did preclude going
?‫ ורבי זירא‬.”’‫יהיו עד יום פקדי אותם נאם ה‬ and lest you awaken the love until it is there “as a wall,” for which we accept
‫ ורב יהודה? כתיב קרא‬.‫ההוא בכלי שרת כתיב‬ desirable” (Shir Hashirim 2:7). [How Rashi’s explanation as by force, or
‫ “השבעתי אתכם‬:)‫ז‬,‫אחרינא (שיר השירים ב‬ does] Rav Zeira [respond]? That verse perhaps, en masse.
‫בנות ירושלים בצבאות או באילות השדה אם‬ teaches that they should not go up in a
While there were groups of Jews who
.”‫תעירו ואם תעוררו את האהבה עד שתחפץ‬ wall (or as a wall) [in force (Rashi)].
came to Eretz Yisrael throughout the
.‫ורבי זירא? ההוא שלא יעלו ישראל בחומה‬ [How does] Rav Yehuda [respond]?
ages, there was no attempt to come en
‫ורב יהודה? השבעתי אחרינא כתיב (שם‬ There is another such verse (actually
masse from the time of Rav Yehuda
‫ ורבי זירא? ההוא מיבעי ליה‬.)‫ד‬,‫ה; שם ח‬,‫ג‬ two—ibid 3:5, 8:4). [How does] Rav
and Rav Zeira until the era of Modern
‫ ג’ שבועות‬:‫ דאמר‬,‫לכדרבי יוסי ברבי חנינא‬ Zeira [respond]? That is needed for
Zionism. At the time that the religious
;‫ שלא יעלו ישראל בחומה‬,‫הללו למה? אחת‬ the statement of Rabbi Yossi b’Rabbi
community and its rabbinic leadership
‫ שהשביע הקדוש ברוך הוא את ישראל‬,‫ואחת‬ Chanina, who said: “Why are there these
were debating the merits and dangers
‫ שהשביע‬,‫שלא ימרדו באומות העולם; ואחת‬ three oaths? One, that they should not
of Zionism, the Three Oaths were
‫הקדוש ברוך הוא את העובדי כוכבים שלא‬ go up in force, and one, that Hashem
among the issues at the fore. Perhaps
.‫ישתעבדו בהן בישראל יותר מדאי‬ administered an oath that they not
the most extreme position and most
Rav Zeira was avoiding Rav Yehuda, for rebel against the nations, and one that systematic treatment of the topic
[Rav Zeira] wanted to move to Eretz Hashem administered an oath on the
was that of the Satmar Rebbe, who
Yisrael, and Rav Yehuda said: Whoever nations that they not overly enslave championed the opinions of those who
moves from Bavel to Eretz Yisrael Israel.”
opposed the establishment of a Jewish
violates a positive commandment, as Ketubot 110b
state before the time of Mashiach as
it says: “They will be brought to Bavel We see that Rav Yehuda posited that an affront to the divine will. His book,
and they will be there until the day I the verses that rejected prematurely Vayoel Moshe, came out well after the
recall them, says Hashem” (Yirmiyahu renewing the loving relationship establishment of the State, and in his
27:22). [How does] Rav Zeira [learn between Hashem and Bnei Yisrael view, the success in the establishment
this verse]? This is written about the precluded even individuals from and initial survival of the State did
vessels of the Beit Hamikdash. [How leaving the exile of Bavel for Eretz nothing to change his mind.

Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary • The Benjamin and Rose Berger CJF Torah To-Go Series • Yom Haatzmaut 5777
Several explanations have been presentation (in Eretz Hemdah
given to justify the actions of the I:1:6) is that he deals with the giving
Zionist movement, which strove and and receiving of this permission of
succeeded to bring large masses of the nations in halachic terms and
Jews to Eretz Yisrael to establish a guidelines. In this chapter, Rav Yisraeli
fully viable state, including a powerful discusses the above thesis within an
standing army.1 One is to deny that analysis of the Avnei Nezer4 based on
the Gemara of the Three Oaths was the aforementioned opinion of Rashi.
meant to be an operative halachic The fact that the relevant powers
statement but a theoretical aggadic allowed Jews to move to Eretz Yisrael
one.2 Some point out that the main made this move a halachic possibility.
decisors of halacha, such as the Rif, However, reasoned Rav Yisraeli, Rav Shaul Yisraeli z.t.l. (1909-
Rambam, and Rosh, do not mention there was not necessarily anything 1995) was born in Russia, where
them in their halachic works. Another that prevented the non-Jews from he learned Torah clandestinely,
is to say that it only is binding when changing their mind, which would escaping to become a talmid of
the nations keep their related oath of return the status of the Three Oaths Rav A.Y. Kook z.t.l. He went on
not enslaving the Jewish people too to its place. We will now discuss when to be the rav of Kfar Haroeh, a
harshly, but when peaceful survival this precarious situation ended. dayan in the Supreme Rabbinical
became untenable in the exile, the
In Eretz Hemdah,5 Rav Yisraeli posits Court in Jerusalem, Rosh Yeshiva
Jews may take refuge in Eretz Yisrael.
that the events of 5708 (1947-8) at Merkaz Harav, and founder of
The most widespread and arguably prevent the non-Jewish nations from the Eretz Hemdah Kollel (where
most satisfying answer is that, as Rashi rescinding their permission to Bnei this writer learned under him). He
says, the oath only precludes acting by Yisrael to possess Eretz Yisrael as was a prolific writer and important
force, in other words, against the will a nation. On November 29, 1947 leader, including on matters of the
of the relevant nation(s). In the case the United Nations, upon British Torah in a renewed Jewish State.
of Modern Zionism, the settlement request to decide the matter, agreed
of Jews was (at least for the most of years, occurred specifically on the
to the establishment of a Jewish state
part) done with the agreement of the first Yom Ha’atzmaut. The acting
in parts of “Palestine.” Rav Yisraeli
possessors of the Land. In the early on the permission given by nations
views this permission as applying
stages, that was the Ottoman Empire. to take control of Eretz Yisrael
to us vis-à-vis national control of the
Later on, it was with the British, who concretized our rights to it and caused
Land (not merely permission for
conquered the country during World the Three Oaths to no longer be a
people to settle in Eretz Yisrael).
War I, along with other World War concern. This, Rav Yisraeli argued,
As such, finalizing our rights to the
I allies and with the world bodies made the 5th of Iyar a day that is
Land needed to be done in the same
(League of Nations, United Nations), way that one finalizes any agreement worthy of celebration, irrespective of
under whose auspices the British held regarding property—by means of an if and when miraculous events took
their Mandate of Palestine. Those place on the battlefield.
act of kinyan (acquisition). One of the
who subscribe to this view, including This basic construct, of combining
forms of kinyan for land is chazaka
Rav Shaul Yisraeli, posit that the the permission of the nations with
(acting toward the land as an owner
opinions of the majority of residents would).6 Regarding the right to create the chazaka the Jewish people made
of Eretz Yisrael and of the neighboring a sovereign state, the way to perform on Eretz Yisrael in its aftermath,
countries—Arabs who were hostile to chazaka was by declaring sovereignty. arises again in the writings of Rav
Zionism—were not relevant because This was done by the leaders of the Shaul Yisraeli in another context.7
they did not enjoy any type of political yishuv on that memorable and joyous Rav Ovadia Yosef posited that one of
or military control over Eretz Yisrael.3 (if tense) 5th of Iyar 5708. Thus, posits the reasons why an agreement that
One of the interesting and arguably Rav Yisraeli, our full rights to Eretz includes Israeli ceding to the Arabs
unique elements of Rav Yisraeli’s Yisrael, for the first time in thousands significant land in Judea, Samaria, and
Gaza is theoretically proper is that

Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary • The Benjamin and Rose Berger CJF Torah To-Go Series • Yom Haatzmaut 5777
holding on to these sections of the was in 1948 and 1967), then the of the daughters of Jerusalem … Now,
Land at such a time is in contradiction State and its citizens are expected to however, [we have experienced] Divine
to the Three Oaths. These areas, after protect themselves. If in the context providence in the gathering of the
all, were conquered by Israel and held of a defensive war, the borders of the League of Nations in San Remo and
against the stated policy of virtually State are expanded, neither the Three a pronouncement was made that the
every country and international Oaths nor any other halachic mandate Land of Israel will belong to the Jewish
organization. Rav Yisraeli questioned prevent us from defending our control people. Since the fear of the oaths has
the cogency of Rav Ovadia’s mode of of those lands. passed with permission of the nations,
invoking the Three Oaths by widening A third answer that Rav Yisraeli the mitzvah to settle the Land of Israel
the practical scope of Rav Yosef ’s offered is strikingly reminiscent of — which is equal in weight to all other
position. Rav Yisraeli asked: if the his 5 Iyar construct. As part of the mitzvot in the Torah combined — is
Three Oaths are a problem regarding decision of world powers meeting at now restored. Everyone should do what
land seized in the Six Day War, then the San Remo Conference in 1920,10 they can to help fulfill this mitzvah.
why should ceding be conditional on all of Palestine (including large
a viable peace settlement? We should areas of the east bank of the Jordan) The Jewish people acted upon this
give them up to desist from violating
was given to the Jewish people as agreement by welcoming it and by
the Oaths. Second, if international a homeland. Rav Yisraeli cites the the Jewish community in Palestine
approval is necessary, then shouldn’t famous words of the Ohr Sameiach, expanding their settlement activity
the problem apply to many sections Rav Meir Simcha of Dvinsk, who saw in the agreement’s aftermath. This
of Jerusalem which have not been
in the San Remo agreement a removal too was a kinyan chazaka on all
recognized as Israel’s by world
of the impediment of the Three Oaths: of “mandatory Palestine.” This is
powers?8 What, then, is Rav Yisraeli’s
because one of the laws of kinyanim
rationale to apparently ignore the ‫אולם זה במאה הזאת זרחו קוי אור ע”י גדולי‬
‫ כמו מונטיפיורי וכיו”ב בהתעוררות‬,‫המעש‬ is that performance of chazaka on
Three Oaths in regard to land not
’‫ ומהרבנים ר’ צבי הירש מטאהרן ור‬,‫רבה‬ part of the land upon which there is
given to us by the nations of the world
‫ לבנות ולשכלל ירושלים‬,‫אליהו מגריידיץ‬ agreement serves to acquire all the
in 1947-8?
‫ ורבנים הרבה עמדו‬...‫ולהסיר שוממותיה‬ land. Thus, all of mandatory Palestine
Before we revisit the idea of was reacquired by the Jewish people
‫ ואף אותם שהיה בלבם לקרב את הדבר‬,‫מנגד‬
permission and chazaka, we shall ‫ מפני כי חרדו … מהג’ שבועות‬,‫שמו יד לפה‬ as their homeland. Any subsequent
present two other ideas that Rav actions, whether by Arab neighbors or
‫שהשביע לבנות ירושלים… אמנם כעת הסבה‬
Yisraeli promotes which answers even by the same international powers
‫ההשגחה אשר באספת הממלכות הנאורות‬
the questions.9 First, the oath of not that bequeathed the Land, are acts
‫ ניתן צו אשר ארץ ישראל‬,‫בסאן רעמא‬
going up by force applies to the force of thievery, which the Jewish People
‫ וכיון שסר פחד השבועות‬,‫תהיה לעם ישראל‬
used to move to Israel and establish a ‫וברשיון המלכים קמה מצוות ישוב ארץ‬ does not have to accept. Thus, from
national entity here. However, once the San Remo agreement on, posited
‫ישראל ששקולה כנגד כל מצוות שבתורה‬
this is accomplished with permission, ‫ ומצוה על כל איש‬.‫ למקומה‬- )‫(ספרי פ’ ראה‬ Rav Yisraeli, the Three Oaths did not
the national entity is like any other, apply to any of the Land of Palestine,
.‫לסייע בכל יכולתו לקיים מצוה זו‬
and the Oaths do not create any which includes Judea, Samaria, and
In this century, rays of light shone forth
limitations on what sections of the Gaza.
with a great awakening by people of
Land can be subsumed under the action such as Montefiore and rabbis One can ask whether the two similar
authority of these auspices. such as R. Tzvi Hirsch [Kalischer] of constructs that Rav Yisraeli presents
A second answer assumes that even Torun and R. Eliyahu [Gutmacher] of of permission followed by chazaka
if it were improper to expand the Grodzesk to build and restore Jerusalem do not contradict each other in the
borders of the country by means and remove its destruction … Many following way: If all of Mandatory
of military conquest, that would rabbis opposed their efforts and even Palestine, which exceed the territory
only apply to initiating a war for those who wanted to join, placed their included in the 1947 Partition Plan
that purpose. However, if a war was hand over their mouth because they and 1949 Armistice Agreements,
forced upon the Jewish State (as it feared … [violating] the Three Oaths belonged to the Jewish people as of

Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary • The Benjamin and Rose Berger CJF Torah To-Go Series • Yom Haatzmaut 5777
1920 and removed the Three Oaths Ha’atzmaut, there are many religious themselves. Rather, they are a warning that
issues, then what is the significance in Jews who celebrate it11 and many who Hashem made to them lest they go beyond
their proper bounds before the proper
this regard of the events of 1947-8? It do not. Those who celebrate do not time. However, one way or another, Rav
is not possible to say that Rav Yisraeli always know (nor do they need) to Yisraeli agrees that the oaths are a force to be
changed his mind during the close define precisely the elements of the reckoned with, and it would be a dangerous
to four decades between the writing historical events to celebrate most mistake to “violate” them.
of the two articles, because the later intensely. 3 This situation is parallel to the granting
article also mentions the significance However, regarding the assumption
of permission to resettle Eretz Yisrael after
of the establishment of the State of the Babylonian exile, by King Cyrus, of the
that it is permitted to settle in Judea relatively distant Persia, who controlled the
Israel in 1948 in regard to the Three and Samaria despite protests of Land politically and militarily.
Oaths. the world, we have a fascinating 4 Yoreh Deah 454.
I would like to suggest that Rav phenomenon within the religious
5 Ibid.
Yisraeli’s intention was as follows: community on an ostensibly difficult
While the San Remo Agreement halachic question. It is well known and 6 Kiddushin 26a.
gave more land than the Partition discussed that the Religious Zionist 7 See Techumin, Vol. X, in his rebuttal of the
Plan regarding borders, the events of community believes it is permitted article of his colleague, Harav Ovadia Yosef
1947-8 added significant elements and even a special mitzva and z’chut (ibid.), in which the latter encouraged a
political settlement that would include ceding
that were missing in San Remo. San to settle in Judea and Samaria. But a land to the Arab World should peace be
Remo spoke of the establishment of very broad spectrum of the Charedi possible (which Rav Ovadia did not see as a
a Jewish homeland, which included community12 have no halachic viable option at the time he wrote the article).
the rights of Jews to emigrate to compunctions about living over the Rav Yisraeli’s article was reprinted in Chavot
Eretz Yisrael and settle it. However, “Green Line.” Whether discussing Binyamin vol. I, 13.
this did not totally remove the Three Ramot and Ramat Eshkol, in 8 Rav Ovadia did not suggest ceding those
Oaths, in that we would still not be Jerusalem, or Beitar and Kiryat Sefer, sections of Jerusalem as part of a peace treaty.
authorized to take this settlement to tens of thousands of Charedim form 9 Ibid.
the point of an independent entity a consensus that this is permitted. 10 At this conference, the World War I victors
that had all the rights of a state. Only It is further interesting that the confirmed the idea of a Jewish homeland
in 1947-8 did we receive and seize matter is not even a point of halachic in Palestine, as promoted in the Balfour
the rights to control the settlement of discussion, and I have been unable to Declaration, while earmarking Syria and
the Land and the administration of it, find a Charedi posek who is the “father Mesopotamia to the Arabs. This agreement
was then accepted by the League of Nations.
create an army, and enjoy all rights of of the leniency.” Is the silent majority
a national entity. The idea of a pekida assuming along the lines of Rav Shaul 11 Many of the practices were actually
instituted by Rav Yisraeli, both through his
(liberation as found in the verse Yisraeli? It is presumptuous for me to recommendations for the Chief Rabbinate
Rav Yehuda referred to), which Rav make such a claim. However, for one (see appendix to Zeh Hayom Asa Hashem)
Yisraeli, following the Avnei Nezer, reason or another, the disappearance and in his community of Kfar Haroeh.
believed in, came to fruition much of the Three Oaths as a halachic 12 This includes “non-Zionists” like the
more qualitatively on the original Yom concern is a fact on the ground among Litvish and the Chasidish, and the followers
Ha’atzmaut. a broad consensus of the religious of Rav Ovadia Yosef. Only the Satmar-
community.13 oriented are missing from these “over-the-
In areas such as those discussed in green-line” communities.
this article, where we do not find
Endnotes 13 I am proud to have studied under a posek
clear halachot in such classic sefarim who wrote extensively on such topics from
as the Shulchan Aruch, and practical both a halachic and hashkafic perspective.
1 One short work that surveys many of these
ramifications did not exist until is Rav Menachem Kasher’s article, “Da’at
modern times, it is hard to apply the Torah al Hashevuah Shelo Ya’alu B’choma
same rules for determining: “How L’Eretz Yisrael,” from Shana B’Shana 5737.
do we pasken?” On the question of 2 Rav Yisraeli (in Eretz Hemdah I:1:4) posits
whether and how to celebrate Yom that the Three Oaths do not represent a
prohibition that Bnei Yisrael accepted upon

Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary • The Benjamin and Rose Berger CJF Torah To-Go Series • Yom Haatzmaut 5777