The Gemara in Sanhedrin 110b has a debate over the question of the ten tribes
having a portion in the world to come or not. The Rabbis taught in a
Baraisa: The generation of the wilderness has no share in the world to
come, as it is stated: "In this wilderness they will cease to be, and
there they will die," (Bamidbar 14:35). They will cease to be means in this
world; and they will die means in the world to come. Moreover, it states:
Thereforr I have sworn in my wrath that they shall not come to my resting
place (Tehilim 95:11). (Rashi: This passage refers to the Generation of
the Wilderness as stated in the previous verse.) These are the words of R.
Akiva. R. Eliezer says: They do come to the world to come, as it is
stated: Gather unto Me My devout ones, who seal my covenant through
sacrifice Tehilim 50:5) -- Then how do I justify the verse: Therefore I
have sworn in My wrath which implies - as R. Akiva argues -that the
generation of the wilderness has no share in the world to come? The verse
means: In My wrath have I sworn, but I retract. (The verse's emphasis
on "in My wrath" indicates that the oath was made in a "fit of wrath" so to
speak, but G-d has since "regretted" so to speak his wrathful oath--see
Rashi). The Gemara in Chagigah 10a derives from this verse that making an
oath with a certain mindset, and then regretting it, is grounds for its
It is this last sentence that is most relevant to the point I'm
addressing here. That is, we know that G-d swore the oaths of galus on
the Jewish people as noted in Kesubos 111a, as derived from Shir Hashirim.
However, we also know that the Gemara in Succah 52b states that there are
four things that G-d created that he regrets, so to speak, having created,
and one of them is the Golus--including the oaths of Golus. It also seems
apparent that following the sin of the extreme sin of the spies and the
Jewish people who followed them, G-d's wrath (so to speak) was aroused and
is the reason why He swore the oaths in the first place. It seems very
well logically connected to say that the idea behind G-d "regretting" the
golus is to teach that such "regret" cancels out the original oath (as per
Chagigah); otherwise, what is the point in telling us that He "regretted"
it? In other words, when one views the entire Torah as a whole (i.e.
which is the true meaning of "Torah Temima"), and as such combines the
Gemara in Kesubos concerning the oaths with the Gemara in Sukkah concerning
G-d's regretting the golus, combined with one's knowledge of the Gemara in
Chagigah concerning the halachic ability to annul an oath, then one can
derive and conclude that the "Three Oaths" are batul.
An interesting idea. As to the Gemora in Succah, I think that regret cannot be understood literally, anymore than the words vayinachem Hashem at the end of Parshas Bereishis are literal. See Rashi there. It says that He regrets creating the yetzer hara of course the yetzer hara serves a good purpose.
In any case, I would apply here the words of Reb Moshe Feinstein in Darash Moshe, Parshas Korach.
"Korach thought that every Jew is entitled to fulfill the laws of the
Torah in accordance with his own understanding. Korach's logic told
him that a tallis made of techeiles was exempt from tzitzis, that a
house full of seforim was exempt from mezuzah, and that he was
entitled to be a kohein. But this is a great error; one must keep the
Torah only as explained by the poskim of his time, who possess the
traditions and methods of learning passed down from one sage to
another throughout the generations. Without this, one is bound to make
mistakes, often in the most serious of transgressions. In our long
history we have seen many groups of heretics and wicked men who have
based their beliefs on some inference from the Torah or the words of
Chazal. Only the scholars and sages of the generation are to be
entrusted with interpreting the words of Hashem Yisborach.
"When the Jewish people said at Sinai, "We will do and we will listen"
they were highly praised by Hashem: "Who revealed this secret to My
children?" (Shabbos 88a). If their greatness was that they were ready
to keep the Torah even before knowing what it said, then we should
find that they were praised for saying, "We will do." Why was it
important that they also said they would listen? The answer is that if
a person promises to "do all that Hashem spoke" it could mean doing
anything he feels is the will of Hashem. Many times he will end up
doing the opposite of the true will of Hashem. For example, the Rambam
tells in his Laws of Idolatry (1:1) how the generation of Enosh erred
in thinking that worshipping the stars was the will of Hashem.
Therefore the Jews promised, "We will do and we will listen," that is,
we are ready to do anything, but we will only do what we hear is the
true will of Hashem. We will toil in Torah study to understand every
mitzvah properly, with all its details, according to the tradition
transmitted by the sages; only what they tell us will be considered
fulfilling the Torah. Such a promise is indeed worthy of the highest
What I mean to say to you here is that the Gemora about Hashem
regretting the exile was written down 1600 years ago, and since then
we have seen the Rishonim and Acharonim all uphold the validity of the
oaths of exile. They clearly did not hold that they were batel.
Sometimes when learning we say respectfully "lulei divrei Rashi" - if
not for Rashi, I would say such-and-such. So here, if you want to say
this chiddush, you could preface it with the words "lulei divrei
Dear Rabbi Lowenthal,
For starters: Am I correct in saying that the previous Rebbe of
Lubavitch was opposed to giving up one inch of land to the Arabs? If so,
would he fit your definition of a gadol? But wouldn't such a stance be in
violation of the oaths? Second of all, Reb Moshe himself once said that
if one knows a sugya as well as he does, he can argue with him on it. I
heard that stated by Rabbi Yisachar Frand. Thus, I'll be a little bit
bold in saying that I think I know this sugya reasonably well enough to
argue my points on it, while at the same time holding the door open for
other points of view.
I don't know if you are aware, but Doeg HaEdomi was
the head of the Sanhedrin in Saul's court. And Doeg, aside from all of this
other areas of brilliance, brought arguments and counter arguments to prove
that David's lingeage was not legitimate (and that therefore he could not be
a naturally born Jew, and as such he could not be a king). Now who could
argue against the head of the Sanhedrin? Well, luckily there were some
with enough holy boldness to debate him on the matter, even though they
could have decided that one cannot argue against the head of the Sanhedrin.
Furthermore, the Ramah paskens that "it is permissible for a student to
disagree with his teacher concerning any ruling or teaching if the student
can cite proofs for his own opinion (Yoreh Deah 242:3). See Be'er Sheva for
a lengthy discussion of the Rama's point. And keep in mind that this is
referring to one's own Rav (Rav muvhak), and how much more so may one argue
with one who is not one's Rav. And who is defined to be one's Rav Muvhak?
The Rambam rules in Hilchot Talmud Torah, "the one from whom one has
learned the majority of one's Torah from..." See also some of the
commentaries on the Rambam there who explain that in our days, the concept
of a Rav Muvhak is not applicable because today we learn most of our Torah
from seforim, not from one particular Rav.
And as far as who is a gadol and what defines a gadol, I think that is
in the eye of the beholder. Would you consider the previous Rebbe of
Lubavitch a gadol or the gadol hador for that matter? If not, why not?
And if so, aren't you going against the gadol hador by wanting to give up
land to the Arabs? But my point is that each person has his own gadol (or
is at least looking for one). There is no concept of "gedolim" like a
sanhedrin in our days. Because there is no homogenious group of Rabbi's who
have the status of a Sanhedrin, nor do they agree with each other on every
issue. Thus I believe that each Jew has a right to decide for himself who
HIS gadol (or Rav, if you prefer) is. And one may also change one's gadol
as well. R. Akiva Eiger's grandson became a chasid. And that was a big
deal in those days. But how could he do that? Shouldn't he be forced to
stick with his non-chasidic gadol since that is what he was doing his whole
life? Apparently, although one has to follow the rulings of one's gadol
while you consider him your gadol, and one must certainly show a great deal
of respect and honor him in many ways, that does not mean you are "married"
I would add that even a gadol like R. Ovadia Yosef who rules that one
may give up land, does so based upon the halachic concept of pikuach nefesh
docheh the mitzvah. That is, in his opinion it is more of a danger to
retain the territory than it would be to give it away (Of note is that his
predecessor, R. Mordechai Eliyahu, the former chielf Sephardic Rabbi,
holds that we may not give up land). In any case, R. Yosef does not base
his ruling on the oaths. And in fact, the approach of "sakanas nefashos
docheh the mitzvah" is a flexible approach in that if at some point it is
determined that there would be a greater danger to life in giving away the
land than retaining it, then he would rule not to give it away.
You are right that the concept of who is a gadol is complex. But it is notable that before the era of Zionism, everyone who wrote about this subject upheld the validity of the oaths. You may want to download for free our new sefer Efes Biltecha Goaleinu in Hebrew, which is an encyclopedia on this subject. It has over a hundred pages about the oaths and over a hundred pages about golus, plus many other subjects. Here is the link:
As far as Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, he does have a teshuva that is basically positive about the idea of a Jewish state, although against the sins of the Zionists (Yabia Omer v. 6 Orach Chaim siman 41 section 5). But if you read it carefully you will see that he bases his view of the Zionist State on an announcement published in 1949 before the first elections of the Knesset, signed by rabbis, urging Jews to vote for the United Religious Front. Rabbi Yosef writes that he read about this announcement in Rabbi M. Kasher's book Hatekufah Hagedolah. There Rabbi Kasher states that over two hundred rabbis from all over Eretz Yisroel, from all circles, signed on the announcement, which began with the words, "We thank Hashem that we have been privileged, through His great mercy and kindness, to see the first buds of the beginning of redemption, with the establishment of the State of Israel."
But the historian Tzvi Weinman later showed Kasher's claims to be a falsification of the facts. In an article published in Digleinu (Shvat 5739) during Kasher's lifetime, and later in his book Mikatowitz Ad Hei B'Iyar (pp. 134-136), Weinman showed that the original declaration read not "beginning of redemption" but "beginning of the ingathering of the exiles". Furthermore, the declaration was sent to the rabbis to sign, together with a notice that if the rabbi did not reply in the negative, his silence would be taken as consent to the declaration. (This explains why the signature of Rabbi Menachem Kuperstock appears despite that fact that he passed away 2 years earlier.) Furthermore, the declaration was sent in three different versions were sent to different rabbis, and many of the rabbis signed on versions that did not include any positive words about the state, just about voting for the United Front. The 1949 activists who posted the announcement in the streets took all the signatures and put them under one declaration. Furthermore, there were actually two other announcement published at the time of that election, one signed by roshei yeshivos and one signed by Chassidic rebbes. Kasher took all the names of the signatories on all three announcements and claimed that they had all signed the one calling the state "the beginning of redemption".
Other than this evidence from Kasher's book, Rabbi Yosef, quite uncharacteristically for someone with his breadth of knowledge, does not give any Talmudic arguments or proofs to explain why it is permitted in his opinion to found a state.
The fifth and sixth Lubavitcher Rebbes were strongly opposed to Zionism and in their writings upheld the oaths. The seventh Rebbe changed this policy after the Six Day War, if I understand correctly. This could have to do with his belief or hope that he would be moshiach. For moshiach, understandably, the oaths do not pose a problem. Of course we have debated about the criteria to be moshiach and the Lubavitcher Rebbe may have held to a different version of those criteria from those espoused by me and my teachers. But on the subject of the oaths he remains with everyone else.