Maamar Shalosh Shevuos Siman 16

[Background: In Simanim 12-14, the Rebbe quoted the Ramban to show that the oath not to go up as a wall applies even with permission from the ruling power. Now he quotes one posek, the Avnei Nezer, who argues, based on Rashi, that the oath only prohibits armed conquest and thus does not apply when the government grants permission.

Here are the relevant quotes from the Avnei Nezer:

Siman 454, paragraph 56:

However, all of the above [that the oath exempts individual Jews from the obligation of moving to Eretz Yisroel, because of the logic that if every individual were to be obligated, there would be massive immigration, which violates the oath] is true only when the individual has not obtained permission from the government to immigrate. But if he obtained permission to immigrate and settle there, then he becomes obligated to do so, because now the logic that “anything that doesn’t apply to the entire Jewish people can’t apply to the individual” falls away, for if permission were granted for all Jews to immigrate, it would not be considered going up as a wall. This is because on the word, “bechomah” (as a wall) Rashi explains, “with a strong hand.” It might also be that if permission were granted to all Jews, it would be considered an act of Divine remembrance.

Siman 456, paragraphs 1-2:

In paragraph 56 I wrote that if permission were granted for all Jews to immigrate, the oath would not apply, because Rashi says that “as a wall” means “together, with a strong hand” and if it is done with permission it is not with a strong hand. You asked that in the book “Ahavas Yonasan” the author (Rabbi Yonasan Eybeshutz) writes that even with permission it is forbidden to violate the oath. To this I reply that the Ahavas Yonasan is only saying a drasha (an exposition of a Scriptural reading intended to satisfy the interest of the audience, not to determine halacha). Even a thousand such expositions would not move the words of Rashi from their place. And the Gaon Rabbi Yonasan himself, if asked to rule on halacha, would not deviate from Rashi. 

Regarding what I wrote that perhaps it would be considered an act of Divine remebrance, my intent was that perhaps this is what Rashi meant. Because in the first chapter of Yoma (9b) it states, “If you had made yourselves like a wall and all come up in the days of Ezra…” and there “a wall” means with permission, since we know that the immigration in the time of Ezra took place with permission. Therefore I wrote that perhaps [Darius’s granting permission] was considered an act of Divine remembrance. In any case, whatever Rashi’s intent may have been, Rashi explicitly states that with permission it is allowed. In your attack on me, you omitted my quotation of Rashi, and you omitted my word “perhaps” implying that I held it would certainly be considered Divine remembrance, and on this you wrote your attack, so your attack was unfair.

According to the Avnei Nezer’s second explanation, Rashi is not saying that “as a wall” is synonymous with military force – indeed, we see in Yoma that even legal immigration can be called a wall. Rather, Rashi is saying that military force is sometimes necessary to violate the oath, because if there is massive immigration with permission, it may be a Divine remembrance and would not violate the oath. So it is possible to go up “as a wall” without violating the oath, and this is exactly what the Jews could have done in Ezra’s time.

Additionally, the Avnei Nezer’s stressing of the word “perhaps” implies that there may be cases that cannot qualify as a Divine signal of remembrance, although permission was granted. This would answer the question posed by the Yefeh Kol (quoted in Vayoel Moshe Siman 11) that if “going up as a wall” means only with military force, why is that not already included under the oath not to rebel against the nations? But according to the Avnei Nezer’s conclusion, even immigration with permission can be called “as a wall” and is forbidden as long as there is no Divine signal.

It must also be kept in mind that if the government abandons the land, without giving it to anyone in particular, and allows the Jews and another people to fight over it (as in fact occurred in 1948) this is “going up as a wall” with military force according to all opinions, since in the end they had to fight for it.]

The Avnei Nezer in Yoreh Deah 456 completely rejects the words of his correspondent, who cited the Ahavas Yonasan (Rabbi Yonasan Eybeshutz, 1690-1764), who says that the oath is in effect even when all the nations grant permission. The Avnei Nezer’s only proof is from the wording of Rashi “with a strong hand”: he argues that immigration with permission is not called “with a strong hand”. And therefore he concludes, “We cannot deviate from Rashi.”

But I question how the Avnei Nezer can draw such a momentous conclusion from the words of Rashi “with a strong hand” – with the argument that immigration with permission cannot be called “with a strong hand” – and use this to refute the opinion of Rabbi Yonasan Eybeshutz.

First of all, the Torah says at the end of Parshas Shemos, “For with a strong hand he will let them go and with a strong hand he will expel them from his land.” Rashi explains that the first “strong hand” refers to the hand of Hashem – due to Hashem’s strong hand upon Egypt, he will let them go – and the second “strong hand” refers to the hand of Pharaoh – Pharaoh will expel them against their will. And so it was: “And Egypt was strong upon the people, to rush them out.” (Shemos 12:33) The Mizrachi and the Gur Aryeh explain that Rashi had to explain the first “strong hand” as referring to Hashem because the second one clearly refers to Pharaoh [and the verse would not say the same thing twice].

So we see that the Torah calls Pharaoh’s release of the Jews “with a strong hand” despite the fact that Pharaoh did not use any military means or force against them – on the contrary, he called them and begged them humbly to leave his country as quickly as possible. The Torah says, “And he called to Moshe and Aharon at night, and he said, get up and leave from amidst my people,” on which the Tanchuma comments, “Why did Pharaoh come with his servants? Because when Pharaoh said to Moshe, do not see my face again, Moshe replied: You have spoken well – I will not come to see you anymore. But we will not leave until all your servants come down and bow to me, saying, go out, you and all the people who are at your feet. Moshe was speaking respectfully to the king, for he really meant to say that Pharaoh himself would come with his servants and bow to him.” The Gemara in Zevachim 102 says something similar to this, and Rashi quotes it in his commentary on Parshas Bo.

The Midrash Yalkut on the verse, “Get up and leave from amidst my people” says, “This teaches that Pharaoh was knocking on Moshe’s and Aharon’s doors. They said to him: Fool, do you think we are leaving at night? Pharaoh said: But all of Egypt is dying! They said to him: Do you want to stop this plague? Then say, ‘You are hereby in your own possession. You are hereby the servants of the Holy One, blessed is He.’ So Pharaoh began to shout: In the past you were my slaves, but now you are free, you are in your own possession… And bless me also – pray for me that this punishment should not affect me. And the hand of Egypt was strong upon the people – they were overwhelming them and driving them out.”

So it is clear that Pharaoh used no force or strong hand against the Jews; he merely shouted, you are in your own possession. He and his servants bowed with utmost humility before Moshe and Aharon. And we must conclude that when the Midrash says that they were overwhelming and driving them out, it means that they overwhelmed the Jews with begging and words – not violent action.

The Mechilta on Parshas Beshalach says that when the guards that Pharaoh sent with the Jews said on the fourth day, “Your deadline has come to return to Egypt,” the Jews replied: “When we left, we left with Pharaoh’s permission, as it states: “On the day after the Pesach, the Children of Israel went out with a high hand.” So it does not say that he forced them to go out, only that it was with permission – yet the Torah calls it “with a strong hand.” So we must say that whenever someone pushes strongly for something, whether by incessant begging or other means, it is termed “a strong hand.”

In Parshas Vaeschanan it states, “Or did G-d ever come to take for Hiimself one nation out from another with trials, signs, wonders, war, and with a strong hand…” There as well, we cannot explain “strong hand” to mean military force, because it already states war. Also, it mentions specifically trials, signs and wonders, so clearly “strong hand” does not refer to any of these methods of Divine force. The Ibn Ezra explains “strong hand” to mean that the Children of Israel left with a high hand. So it seems that the “strong hand” refers to the innate strength that they possessed, as the Targum says on Parshas Beshalach on the words “with a strong hand” – with an uncovered head (i.e. defiantly).

And I have already written (Siman 10) that the word “wall” can take on many meanings. Rashi in his commentary to Shir Hashirim explains it as strength in fear and love of Hashem – for any sort of strength can be called “a wall”. That is why Chazal say in Yoma 9b, “If you had come up as a wall” – referring to mass immigration, since mass immigration is strong and is similar to a wall, even when it is done with permission. This is also the meaning of Rashi’s words “a strong hand” – Rashi means any mass immigration, which is comparable to a wall.


Vayoel Moshe

Avnei Nezer