Yalkut Meam Loez

The Yalkut Meam Loez mentions the oaths in his commentary to Devarim 4:26, in the course of a lengthy section on the destruction of the Temple and Tisha B'av: “The Holy One, blessed is He, made Israel swear that one part of them should not arise and go to Eretz Yisroel and rule over it and build Jerusalem and its walls. Additionally, He made them swear not to rebel against the kingdoms; they are not to rely on their own strength. He also made them swear not to pray excessively to Him that He bring moshiach, not to reveal the secrets of the Torah and the rules of seasons and constellations to the nations of the world. He made the nations of the world swear not to make their yoke too heavy upon us, for if they make their yoke too heavy Hashem will send moshiach even before his time. And the Holy One, blessed is He, said, ‘I adjure you…’ If you listen to My oath, good, but if not ‘by gazelles or by the deer of the field’ – your flesh will be food for animals like the gazelles or the deer of the field.”

We see here that the author of this part of Meam Loez (Rabbi Yitzchak Bechor Agruiti) understood that the words “as a wall” do not mean only a conquest by force. They refer rather to the building of the walls of Jerusalem, and this is prohibited even if a part of the Jewish people (not the whole or even the majority) does it.

In ancient times, a city wall was a mechanism of defense. Thus the Meam Loez means that for Jews to go up and live in Jerusalem under the protection of the ruling power is fine, but if the Jews start to build the walls without permission, it is a signal that they seek independence and self-defense. So it is not the building of the wall that violates the oath; it is the rebellion against the ruling power symbolized by building the wall.

In our times, city walls are quaint historic structures and they mean little in terms of defense. The Zionists may not have built the current walls of Jerusalem, but they did much more to declare their independence and fight for it. They certainly transgressed this oath according to the Meam Loez.