The Three Oaths are recorded in the narrative, Midrash Ketubot 111a of the Babylonian Talmud, containing a discussion defending Rabbi Zeira’s decision to leave Babylon and go to the Land of Israel. They were taken from Solomon’s Song of Songs, and in large part consist of an exegetical analysis of the three verses of allegorical text (2:7; 5:3; and 8:4) translated as a love relationship between God and Israel.
These are the Oaths as they are conveyed in the Gemara:
Israel should not storm the wall. In the words of Rashi, we should not forcefully return to the land of Israel “en masse.”
Israel should not rebel against the nations of the world.
The Holy One made the nations vow that they would not oppress Israel too much.
These three prohibition Oaths, which are highly obscure and allegorical in nature, have caused much discussion, confusion, controversies, and even irreconcilable enmity among the various Jewish communities.
There are two Orthodox Jewish organizations who have accepted the Three Oaths literally as Jewish law and use them in their ideological fight against the Zionists. The groups are known as Satmar Hasidim and Neturei Karta, the latter being the most radical group of Orthodox Jewry.
Satmar descended from Hungarian and Romanian Jews and is one of the biggest and most influential Hasidic movements in existence today, which numbers close to 130,000 members.
Neturei Karta (Guardians of the City) is not of Hasidic origin. They descend from Hungarian and Lithuanian Haredi Jews. They number approximately 5,000 from which around 140 are involved in fiercely anti-Israel activities.
Both these groups are united in their ideological opposition to the Zionism and State of Israel by maintaining that it is forbidden by the Torah for the Jewish people to end the exile, to rebel against the nations, to immigrate to the Holy Land by force en masse and to establish there a political State, until God decides the right time for these actions and sends the Messiah.
The former leader of Satmar, Grand Rebbe Yoel Teitelbaum (1887-1979), refined and officially formulated a vehement position against Zionism and the State of Israel based on the Three Oaths. In his book “Vayoel Moshe,” he blamed the Zionists, who are “guilty of the Holocaust and it is because of them that six million Jews were killed.” His writings and leadership in this regard caused deep divisions and hatred among Jewry, mainly in Orthodox communities, where some radical Torah Jews of the Neturei Karta cult proclaimed the Jewish State of Israel and Zionists as enemy number one.
They have since done everything in their power to dismantle the state and send the Jewish population back to the countries of their exile, where they are supposed to wait for permission from the Almighty to end the exile and be redeemed.
In their zeal against the Zionists, Neturei Karta not only denounce Israel’s existence, but traditionally embrace its enemies. They remind us of Jewish communists who applauded Stalin’s executions of fellow Jews in the Soviet Union.
For the Satmar Rebbe it makes no difference whether the Jews, in their unquenched longing for the land of their fathers, repent and turn to God: “Even if the whole Government were all pious, as men of old, any attempt to take their freedom prematurely would be to deny the Holy Law and our faith.” This has been their theological basis for more than a century without any significant changes.
Speaking of the Holocaust, it is interesting to note that from all of Jewry, the leaders of Zionism somehow foresaw approaching disaster from Nazi Germany. They responded to it by sending their emissaries to countries of Europe, mainly to Germany, Poland, Hungary, and the Baltic with a strong message to obviate the coming danger by immigrating to their national homeland in Palestine, before it became too late. One cannot read the letter of Vladimir Jabotinsky (1880-1940) to the Polish Jewish community without tears in the eyes. Very sad words. Especially, when the tragic fate of the Polish Jewry is so known to the world.
The large segment of anti-Zionist ultra-Orthodox rabbis contributed to the tragic finale of millions of European Jews by preventing the Zionists’ effort to save them. They ridiculed the activity of Zionists, called them bandits, communists, and heretics. They instructed Jewish communities not to listen to Zionists ‘propaganda’ and patiently wait until God sends the Messiah to save them. They did everything to deny the impending Holocaust and prevented Jewish immigration to Palestine. Instead, Jews went to the gas chambers, because they were persuaded listen to them, not to the Zionists.
In the next post, we will examine what the Hebrew Bible says on a subject of these prohibition Oaths.