You claim we are in golus - but the Rambam makes no distinctions based on an "era of golus" but rather based on whether we have power.

March 23, 2008

Dear Rabbi,

I take issue with you on the very definition of "golus." You claim that we
are in an "era" or "time" of "golus." Obviously this is based again on your
ideology dependant on the one sugya of the oaths. I respectfully disagree
There is no such thing as an era of golus. The term golus means chutz
la'aretz, not an "era" or "time of." It is not an era but a location.
A proof of this is the concept of a killer beshogeg was required to go to a
city of refuge, which is also referred to as golus. The connotation there
is clearly in reference to moving from his normal home to a location that is
foreign to him--i.e. it is tied to his phyiscal location, not a state of
mind or an "era." Another proof is in hilchot avoda zara where the
Rambam's concluding halacha concerning the status of gentiles in Israel is,
"All of the above apply when we are living in chutz la'aretz or in Israel
under gentile rule; but when we have the power, etc." Notice the Rambam
does not say, "All of the above apply when we are in an era of golus versus
an era of no more golus..." Instead he makes the distinctions based upon
two criteria: 1) Physical location, i.e. chutz la'aretz and 2) Having
physical power over the Land of Israel versus not. That is because the
latter are clearly defined concepts, while "an era" or a "time period"
golus is not clearly defined. That means that people who have biases for
whatever reason (like for example, they much prefer staying put in their
glatt galut than to pick up and move to Israel) can't use impossible to
define terms like saying that we are living in "an era of golus" to try to
prove a point.

Dear Meir,

When I say that we're living in the era of golus, what I really mean is the era when we are supposed to be in golus, because of the oaths. If the Rambam defines golus as being in chutz laaretz or in Eretz Yisroel under gentile rule, that means that the Zionists have ended golus, which makes my argument against them even stronger, since we are in an era when we are supposed to be in golus.


Dear Hersh,

The point was that in that halachah, the Rambam doesn't use the word
"golus" or "geula" at all. Which seems to mean he doesn't buy your
understanding of a requirement to be in golus. And the Rambam DOES
explicitly make such qualifications elsewhere, such as when he says in hil.
Melachim that it is a mitzvah to destroy the Canaanite nations, but later
he says that today we no longer know who the desendants of the Canaanites
are (so obviously, in the literal sense, this mitzvah cannot apply today).
We therefore see that the Rambam 1) states something that would be a mitzvah
under normal circumstances (i.e. to destroy the seven nations, but then 2)
brings things up to date to qualify such a mitzvah on weather or not it is
nogea in our days, including bringing his reason why it is or is not nogea.
However, no where does the Rambam say to the effect "this mitzvah of
gentile status does not apply until Mashiach comes, or until rov b'nei
yisroel are living in the Land, or until the oaths have been absolved" or
some other qualification other than those he mentions. Indeed, if he
tought like you, there would be no need for the Rambam to make distinctions
in this halachah between living outside of the Land under gentile rule or
living in the Land under gentile rule versus living in the Land when we have
the power; he would simply have said like you do, making a more general
statement that "in an era of golus, the aformentioned leniences in our
relationships with gentiles apply," and then "in an era of geula, they do
not apply." That would have been the simple way of his words cajoling with
yours. Why does the Rambam bother making distinctions between which
physical land we are living in, and who has the power over the Land of
Israel, if the concept and definition of "golus" has, according to you,
nothing to do with which land one is physically living in (in other words,
according to you it doesn't matter if one lives inside or outside the Land
of Israel, since it's all "golus" now anyhow)?

You are asking that according to me, the Rambam should say, "But in the days of moshiach, we will not let gentiles live among us unless they become geirei toshav etc." But the Rambam wanted to use a more general term that would include all periods of history when Jews are in power First Temple, Second Temple and the Messianic Era. Whenever the Rambam does refer to "the days of moshiach" it is only in reference to changes in halacha that will only take place then, and did not apply during the first two Temples: the adding of three more cities of refuge, the tenth red heifer, the nullification of all the books of Tanach except for Megillas Esther, the discontinuing of the Four Fasts. (The case of the Four Fasts is problematic because the Gemora seems to say in Rosh Hashanah 18b that during the Second Temple period they did not fast on any of them, even Tisha B'av.)

The Rambam specifically picked the expression "yad yisroel tekifah" and not some other way of referring to geulah or the Beis Hamikdash because even during the Second Temple there were times when Jews were not in power, and thus could not enforce the law of not allowing gentile who did not accept ger toshav status.