Maamar Shalosh Shevuos Siman 36

Based on this Akeidah, we can answer some of our questions about the Three Oaths. Our questions were:

1.How can the oaths be binding on future generations? (Siman 34)

2. How can the non-Jews’ oath be binding on them? (Siman 34)

3. How could the Bnei Ephraim have been punished for violating the oaths before the Torah was given? (Siman 32)

The Akeidah says that even the oath of the Torah, which all the souls accepted, was not binding on future generations. (Why then did Hashem bring all the future souls to the Giving of the Torah? Not to make the oath effective – it was not effective in any case – but because that great, holy and awesome experience left a deep impression on their souls. Or there may have been other reasons unknown to us.) It is called an oath only as a metaphor, because the covenant has a level of severity higher than an oath. And even the Shelah agrees to the basic concept proposed by the Akeidah, and comments “his words are sweet”; his objection is only due to the passage his cites from the Gemara proving that the oath of the Torah was a real oath, and from the fact that sinners don’t all get the same punishment. But regarding the oath of exile, where these objections do not exist, the Shelah could agree to the Akeidah’s explanation.

This explains why the Egyptians were punished for persecuting the Jews too much. The oath had not yet been given, yet the Egyptians were given harsh and bitter punishments, culminating in their drowning in the Sea of Reeds for what they did to Israel. The Rambam and the Raavad (Hilchos Teshuva 6:5) say that all these things were indeed punishments for what the Egyptians did. Similarly, in the future, when Hashem punishes His enemies for all the suffering and horrible cruelty they inflicted upon the Jewish people, physically and spiritually, they will receive retribution for much more than just an oath. Chazal only used the term “oath” in these cases in a figurative way, to signify a severe law, as the Akeidah says.

Later I will give a different explanation as to why the term “oath” was used here.

Now we can understand the Rambam, who writes even regarding the Jewish oaths of exile the words “metaphorically.” Since that oath was not revealed at Sinai, only later by Shlomo Hamelech, and since it also includes an oath for the nations of the world, the Rambam holds that it is halachically not an oath for the above mentioned reasons, and it was written in the language of an oath because it is a very serious matter even without the oath.

However, it remains to be determined what exactly is the serious matter here without the oath, and why they called it an oath if it not in fact an oath. In order to do this, I must first explain the views of the Rambam and other Rishonim on the indentifying criteria of redemption and the coming of moshiach, events for which we long and hope. Based on this, we will see another reason why this is halachically not an oath.