Maamar Shalosh Shevuos Siman 17

[In the previous siman, the Rebbe took issue with the Avnei Nezer, who understands Rashi’s words “with a strong hand” to mean that only armed conquest of Eretz Yisroel is prohibited under the oath. The Rebbe explained how “a strong hand” is often used to mean forceful pleading and non-violent pressure. It is the Rebbe’s position that the oath includes mass immigration to Eretz Yisroel by using pressure to obtain government permission for such immigration. Now he presents an additional advantage of his explanation over that of the Avnei Nezer.]

Now we can understand Rashi’s language “together, with a strong hand.” If we are to assume that Rashi understood “as a wall” to mean war, and therefore Rashi wrote “with a strong hand” which mean war, why did Rashi add in the word “together”? Is the oath only transgressed when they make this war together, as a large group? After all, in essence this is simply a prohibition on conquering the land, so how did Rashi know to add this second condition, that the war must be fought by a large group of Jews?

But according to the way I have explained it, that Rashi prohibits even mass immigration with permission, we understand his words well. His main point is his first word – together. This is a prohibition on any immigration that is together – en masse. Then Rashi adds the words “with a strong hand” in order to explain why a large number of people together is termed by Chazal “as a wall”. Rashi’s answer is that when a large group immigrates, they have “a strong hand”; there is great strength in their numbers.

And this is how the Yefei Kol appears to have understood Rashi (see Siman 11). He quotes Rashi’s words “together, with a strong hand” and then proceeds to write that mass immigration is prohibited even with permission, based on the Gemara in Yuma 9b. Now, it is improbable that he would disagree openly with Rashi; rather, it seems that he holds that even Rashi might mean that the oath is in force even when the government gives permission.

Also, the Yefei Kol explains the continuation of the Midrash, which after quoting the oath “not to go up as a wall” says, “If so, why does the king moshiach come to gather in the exiles of Israel?” The Yefei Kol explains:

“If the Jewish people come up as a wall from exile, why will the king moshiach have to come to gather the dispersed of Israel? And since we know from many Biblical verses that the king moshiach will gather in our dispersed, we cannot gather ourselves together.”

We see from his holy words that gathering ourselves together and going up to Eretz Yisroel is against the many Biblical verses that say that the king moshiach will gather in Israel.

The Ohr Hachaim Hakadosh in Parshas Bechukosai mentions the Three Oaths, and quotes Rashi, yet it is clear from his words that they apply even when the government grants permission. The Torah there says, “And I will scatter you among the nations, and I will draw a sword after you.” The Ohr Hachaim Hakadosh comments:

Hashem made Israel swear that they would not go up as a wall, which means with a strong hand. This is the meaning of the words “I will scatter you among the nations”. The words “I will draw a sword after you” refer to the punishment for violating the oaths mentioned in the Gemara: that Hashem will make our flesh ownerless. Thus there will be a sword drawn before you if you do not fulfill the decree of being scattered among the nations. The next verse continues, “And your land will be desolate and your cities destroyed.” These words give the reason why Hashem wants us scattered among the nations – the land needs to be desolate and the cities destroyed so that it can rest and make up the Sabbatical years it missed. That is why you need to be in the land of your enemies, as it says, “And you will be in the land of your enemies.”

So we see that the Ohr Hachaim Hakadosh begins by explaining “as a wall” to mean “with a strong hand” – a direct quote from Rashi. And at the end he says that the reason why we need to be in the land of our enemies is so that the land should be desolate. According to that reason, it is clear that even with permission from the government it would be forbidden to immigrate, for this was a Divine decree that we should be in the lands of our enemies, not in Eretz Yisroel. Yet he borrows Rashi’s words “with a strong hand.” Obviously, he did not feel that these words indicated immigration without permission.

I have already cited two places where the Ramban clearly holds that mass immigration is forbidden even with permission (Simanim 12 and 14). The same was the position of the Ahavas Yonasan (Siman 16), the Yefeh Kol (Siman 11), the Ohr Hachaim Hakadosh (Siman 15), and many other holy gedolim, as I will soon prove. And the Ramban’s statement in Sefer Hamitzvos that even during the era of exile individuals can fulfill the mitzvah of living in Eretz Yisroel will be explained, G-d willing, in the second Maamar, which will be dedicated to the subject of the mitzvah to live in Eretz Yisroel.


Vayoel Moshe

Three Oaths

Rabbi Shmuel ben Yitzchak Yaffeh

Ohr Hachaim