Thursday, August 24, 2006

The Oaths and Zionism IV

Nobody ignores the GRA's kabalah; rather, we treat it like Kabbalah is treated, namely, (a) it is only learned by those on the level to understand it, and (b) it is understood be meant as possibly conditional, possibly relative, and not necessarily absolute.

Meaning: Any "secret of initiating the redemption" that is contained in the GRA's kabblaah does not mean that those secrets were meant for every time and every person - the GRA and his students knew when where how and to whom it was meant, and they acted accordingly. But if those same methods apply today, or yesterday, or even in the GRA's days but to different people, who knows?

The Gemara has a story with R. Yoshua ben Levi, who asked Moshiach when he was coming, and he said "today". The next day, RYBL asked Eliyahu Hanavi why Moshiach didn’t come, and Eliyahu said "I meant, 'today', if you fulfill the Torah" (hayom im b'kolo tishmau).

So even when a Tana has a direct Kabalah from Eliyahu HaNavi himself, first hand, as to how he is coming, it is only conditional, and not meant absolutely.

This is the same error that the Lubavitcher Rebbe made when he decided that in order to bring Moshiach in our generation, you have to teach every non-religious Jew chasidus, because the Baal Shem Tov asked Moshiach when he is coming and he answered "when your Torah will be spread".

Well, yes, that was then. Is it now? Whether it is or isn't, the Baal Shem Tov story is not a source.

And neither is the GRA's kabbala or what he instructed his talmidim a source for what we must do. When you switch generations, people, places and circumstances, we have no longer any source that the GRA's instructions would be the same instructions we would need now. These things change, as we see from the Gemora itself, sometimes daily!

Second, the GRA certainly did not hold that an en masse emigration to Eretz Yisroel is what will bring Moshiach, for that would be against the Oaths, which the GRA himself quotes in his Kabbalah as the reason why we do not build a Bais Hamikdash in golus (commentary to Tikunei Zohar).

So the GRA did apply the Oaths in actual practice, and so would not have recommended anything that would violate them. The GRA instructing his small number of Talmidim to go to EY is not the same as saying everyone in the world has to go there en masse. The Talmidei HaGRA surely were among the first settlers (of the currently established yishuv) to Eretz Yisroel. But he never said that we should go en masse to EY and violate the Oaths.

Third, the GRA himself was planning on going to EY until he received signs "from above" that he should not. Obviously, he did not hold that this migration is absolute, or even across the board a good thing - it depends on what they want "up on high". The GRA knew these things. Do we? Perhaps if we were to be in tune with the signs that the GRA was in tune with, we, too, would understand that we are NOT to go to EY. Maybe yes, maybe no. This is why the GRA's kabalah does not require us to go to EY - if it didn't compel the GRA himself to go, why are we better?

And you can't say that well, until we get the signs from heaven we are mandated to go. All of this - the signs, the kabalah - is all part of what made the GRA tell his talmidim to go to EY. We have no idea what WE are supposed to do for Moshiach to come -- we know, partly, and only partly, what the GRA felt he had to do. That was, NOT go to EY himself, but tell his talmidim to make a Yishuv there. And hopefully start a trend.

Where does that leave us?


We are not kabalists on the GRA's level, and we do not talk to Eliyahu hanavi, and we do not have signs min hashamayim.

All we have is the Torah in front of us.

And in there, there is zero indication that we have to go to EY for Moshiach to come. On the contrary, it says that an en masse aliyah is prohibited, will prevent the geulah, and cause the deaths of untold numbers of Jews by the hands of Goyim.

We have the psak from the Rambam that says: Moshiach will come when we do Teshuva. He does not say Moshiach will come when we all go to EY.

That's Halachah. That's a psak din of the Rambam. That's all we have, and that's the only sign of Moshiach that we are allowed to follow.


The indication from the Rambam in Hilchos Melachim that creating a state of Israel is Kefirah is implicit, whereas the Oaths are explicit; because the above indication was identified first by the Satmar Rebbe as an explanation as to why the Rambam omits the Oaths in Mishne Torah and there may be other explanations as well (he does not claim this is the only possible one); because - and this I assume is an effect of the above two reasons - all the Gedolim who have discussed this issue referred to the Oaths and not the derivation from Hilchos Melachim; because the Oaths define with extreme clarity what the parameters of - and the punishment for - the Kefirah is; because the Oaths make it clear that this particular Kefirah is worse than just contradicting the Torah, for Kefirah is not punishable by a mass holocaust r"l, which is the punishment for violating the Oaths (and so although the Rambam would not be motivated to discuss the Oaths because added severity is not an added Halachah, and the Rambam was listing Halachos, not explaining punishments, we would want to emphasize the Oaths because we are interested in emphasizing the severity of the Kefirah). There are more reasons as well.
The fact that the Rambam tells us to obey the oaths means they are binding. He says if we violate them we will die. What is the point, then, in saying that the Rambam didn't say "you don’t get a sin"? He said the Oaths are binding - we have to listen. Or we will die. Is that not good enough?

Hurrying the Geulah means declaring aschalta d'geulah. Or doing any action to rush the geulah. The Bnei Efraim never appointed a moshiach, they decided that it was time to leve Egypt and go to Eretz Yisroel. They were all killed.

Taking Eretz Yisroel with sovereign power is also a violation of the Oaths, as Rashi says on the spot. The punishment for violating them is mass death and murder of Jews.

What kind of answer is it that "well the Rambam didn't say you get a sin"?


It's true that in the case of the Rambam case there happened to be a false moshiach then, but they did not believe the golus was over; the bnei efraim did not have a moshiach, but they believed that the time to leave egypt and go to eretz yisroel had arrived - those are two totally different ideas, both of which are covered by the oaths. The Rambam never limited the scope of the oaths to the case that happened to have happened then. On the contrary, the fact that the Rambam proves from the bnei efraim, when they en masse left golus en route to eretz yisroel, that in his current case, where they did not leave golus, proves that the exact details of the bnei efraim case are not key.


The Rambam in Igeres Taimon is towards the end, and he says "hisbiom al derech moshol" meaning, "he made them swear in a figurative sense" - but the figurativeness is the word "swear". It does not mean that it is not binding. In fact, the Rambam there says clearly that we dare not violate this "oath" or else klall yisroel is in mortal danger.


We will find things such as what Rabbi Aviner quotes at the end of his Kuntres, in the name of Rabbi Zvi Yehuda Kook. He quotes this more than once in his kuntres. It is a comment about the disagreement between the Rambam and the Ramban regarding the Mitzvah of Yishuv EY nowadays. The Rambam omitted it from his Sefer HaMitzvos. The Ramban says he should have put it in. The Megillas Esther, the commentary printed on the side of the Rambam, explains the Rambam to be saying that the Three Oaths which prohibit us from taking Eretz Yisroel for ourselves during Golus also negate the Mitzvah of Yishuv Eretz Yisroel.

Rabbi Tzvi Yehuda Kook comments that since the Ramban was much bigger than the Megilas Esther, we certainly should follow the Ramban over the Megilas Esther, who ignored the Oaths, obviously because he held they are just non-compulsory Kabalah or Agadita.

The obvious blunder here is that there is a Machlokes here not between the Megilas Esther and the Ramban but between the Rambam and the Ramban. Even the Ramban agrees that the Rambam argues with him. The question here is not whether we should pasken like the Megilas Esther versus the Ramban but like the Rambam versus the Rambam. If he would say that the Megilas Esthers explanation in the Rambam doesn’t work, we could discuss it; but to say that the Ramban should be followed here because he is greater than the Megilas Esther is cockeyed logic, since it is the Rambam that is the opponent of the Ramban, not the Megilas Esther; The ME merely explained the Rambam.

So let's say there’s a machlokes between the Rambam and Raavad. And let's say Rav Chaim Brisker answers the Raavad’s question and explains what the Rambam means. Then someone comes and says that in this Machlokes, we should pasken like the Raavad, because the Raavad was so much greater than Rav Chaim Brisker. He’d be laughed out of the Bais Hamedrash.

And how does anyone expect our reaction to be any different when someone says that in the Machlokes between the Rambam and Ramban, where the Megilas Esther explains the Rambam, that we should pasken like the Ramban because he was so much greater than the Megilas Esther.

It’s amazing that I have to even explain this.

But it doesn’t end there. He says (quote):
On top of all this, besides the fact that the Megilas Esther, with all his greatness, does not come into consideration when pitted against the Ramban . . . Besides that, isn’t it well known and obvious that the Ramban knew the holy words of Chazal in Kesuvos 111a. However, the Ramban here in sefer Hamitzvos is not acting as a Kabbalah person, but rather as a teacher of plain Halachos, and so here he did not consider the holy Agadic words of Chazal . And so too was the proper understanding of Rav Meir Simcha who mentioned many times in his letter on behalf of Keren HaYesod, he reiterated many times the “fear of [violating] the Oaths,” the clear indication being that there is no halachic problem with [violating the Oaths], but merely fear due to [violating] them, and so there is no obstacle [because of the Oaths] to the Halachah and the Mitzvah of the Torah.

We’ll start from the bottom. He “proves” that the Oaths are not Halachicly binding because Rav Meir Simcha said he was afraid of violating them. And since he only mentioned fear and not Halachic violations, we see that the Oaths do not impact on Halachah.

There is only one thing we can say to this in response:


If let’s say they build an Eruv in my community and I say “Boruch Hashem, I am no longer afraid of Chilul Shabbos”, does that mean that I don’t believe that Chilul Shabbos is Halachicly wrong?

That’s pretty obviously trying to read something into the Ohr Someach's statement that's not there.

But regarding the Ramban, he is assuming, with no source at all, that the reason the Ramban holds that the Oaths would not negate the Mitzvah of Yoshuv Eretz Yisroel is because the Oaths are Kabbalistic concepts, and not to be brought into Halacha.

Not that the Oaths are from the Zohar or the Arizal or the Ramak – they’re straight out of Talmud Bavli, and quoted by the Halachah seforim such as the Piskei Riaz on the spot, the Rivash, the Rashbash, and others. Where he got the idea that they are merely “kabbalistic” is beyond me.

But he also forgets that just because the Ramban does not say anywhere that he does not consider the Oaths Halachicly obligatory. All we know is that according to the Ramban the Oaths do not negate the Mitzvah of Yishuv Eretz Yisroel, which is not a chidush at all, since the Oaths do not impact on the Individual’s Mitzvah of Yishuv Eretz Yisroel – they only intended to prohibit taking Eretz Yisroel with sovereignty, or a collective – not individual – ascent to Eretz Yisroel. It is the chidush of the Megilas Esther – his own chidush – that the Oaths would also negate an individual’s Mitzvah.

So the Ramban disagrees with the Megilas Esther’s chidush. Does that mean that the Ramban does not hold that the Oaths would prohibit collective or sovereign aliyah? No. It doesn’t mean that at all. To say so is to read into the Ramban something he never said.

In fact, the Rashbash, a Rishon (an older contemporary of the Abarbanel), son of the Tashbetz, and descendant of the Ramban, writes (Teshuvos Rashbash #2) – and implies clearly that this is the Ramban’s opinion - that the Mitzvah of Yishuv Eretz Yisroel is only on individuals but it is not a Mitzvah Klalis on all of Klall Yisroel, because – yes, he says it clearly – the Oaths prohibit an en masse aliyah.

The Ramban himself (Maamar Hegeulah #1) states that the Oaths were what prevented the Jews outside of Bavel to return to Eretz Yisroel upon Coresh’s decree. The Jews in Bavel had a Nevuah that they should return, but the Jews outside of Bavel did not, he says, and so in the absence of a Nevuah, the Oaths prevented them from returning to Eretz Yisroel, despite the invitation by Coresh to do so.

Rabbi Aviner is a Talmid Chacham. And in areas other than Zionisn, he does a whole lot better, scholarship-wise. And although it seems impossible for even a mediocre student of Talmud to make such glaring blunders as he does, we should understand that throughout history, greater people than Rabbi Aviner have made greater blunders. Hence the Korach – Yeravam – Shabse Tzvi analogies.

Compare it to an old story of man who goes to the tailor for a custom designed suit. The tailor, not the most skilled craftsman in the world, creates a monstrosity of a suit, with one arm jetting out of the chest pointing to the sky, the other arm pointing perpetually down to the ground, and the pants legs hopelessly in the wrong place.

The customer painstakingly puts on the suit, and with one arm pointing up, the other pointing down, his legs awkwardly poking out in the wrong places, his neck twisted off to the side. He walks out of the store, a grotesque sight, limping down the street in a manner that that made him look not unlike the Hunchback of Notre Dame with a broken leg.

Almost immediately, someone comes over to the awkwardly limping man, and remarks, “Wow. Who made you that suit? He must be the best tailor in the world?”

“The best tailor in the world? Why in the world would you say that?” the man asks incredulously.

The passerby answered, “Because if he can produce a suit for a cripple like you he must be amazing!”

So too, you see Talimidei Chachamim putting out Torahs and saying things that make them look like cripples. You look at their stuff and say “no way – this makes no sense!” And it doesn’t. But it’s not because they are Amei Haaretz – its because they clothed themselves in the grotesque trappings of Zionism and now they have to fit themselves and their Torahs into the silliest of positions, and they come out looking like cripples.

We have the psak from the Rambam that says: Moshiach will come when we do Teshuva. He does not say Moshiach will come when we all go to EY.

That's Halachah. That's a psak din of the Rambam. That's all we have, and that's the only sign of Moshiach that we are allowed to follow.




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