Preliminary Note by Brit-Am Editorial Staff:
In a previous article by Alexander Zephyr the Three Oaths were discussed. These were statements from the Talmud that have been applied (perhaps incorrectly) against the obligation in our time of the Jews to conquer and settle the Land of Israel.
Henry Rhea in two letters contests the validity of the Talmud as an authoritative source; says that Israelites (when and if they are certain of their Israelite identity) must be a light to the world and also return to the Land of Israel; says that Divine Sanction is required for an individual to affirm their Israelite ancestry.
In the article below, Brit-Am quotes the letters of Henry Rhea and then replies to his three points.
Henry Rhea said:
"THE THREE OATHS, ISRAEL, and EPHRAIM..
"Religious Zionism, Jewish anti-Zionism, and the Lost Ten Tribes Today"
by Alexander Zephyr.
(a) Yair, hello.
I've read with great interest your article on the three oaths, and the linked article of Alexander Zephyr to which you refer. I share your disagreement with his conclusions, though probably not for exactly the same reason or reasons.
As I read down through his article, it strikes me again and again how drastically different from the quoted text of the three verses in question (2:7, 5:3. 8:4) of The Song of Songs the various 'interpretations' given them as meaning that Zephyr quotes in his article. According to Zephyr, he gets these interpretations from the Talmud, and I can see clearly why the Talmud is not to be taken as God breathed nor its passages necessarily taken as even God inspired. For he says:
'Here are the quotes of the Oaths as they are conveyed in the Gemara (Talmud):
'# What are these Three Oaths?
'One, that Israel should not storm the wall (Rashi: forcefully return to the Land of Israel).
'Two, the Holy One made Israel take an oath not to rebel against the nations of the world.
'Three, the Holy one made the nations vow that they would not oppress Israel too much.'
Do any of these so-called 'interpretations' make sense as coming from the simple phrase 'Do not stir up nor awaken love until it pleases'? These aren't interpretations. These are false renderings; twisting what is written to make it seem to say what it does not. As Isaiah said, 'Whom will he teach knowledge? And whom will he make to understand the message? Those just weaned from the milk? Those just drawn from the breasts? For precept must be upon precept, precept upon precept, Line upon line, line upon line, Here a little there a little.' Isaiah 28:9, 10.
If the so-called sage or rabbi of the Talmud who gave that rending of the verses from the Song of Songs were to have used that instruction of Isaiah's to search out what the Bible actually has to say about returning to the land instead of trying to decide for himself as a babe just weaned from the breast then he should have found what Jeremiah clearly says on the subject, which is vastly different from what the Talmud says in the quotes Zephyr gives:
'Set up signposts, make landmarks; Set your heart to the highway, the way in which you went. Turn back, O virgin of Israel, turn back to these your cities. How long will you gad about, O you backsliding daughter? For the Lord has created a new thing in the earth--- A woman shall encompass a man.' Jeremiah 31:21, 22, NKJ.
Clearly from this if it be the word of God the decision to return is left by him to the people. He exhorts and pleads with her, asks of her 'How long?' And it is she who must answer. It is Israel who must make the decision to heed.
By the words of the Bible, God calls Israel rebellious and by this it is meant against himself. But to read and heed the words of that 'sage' of the Talmud, Israel should not rebel against the nations of the world. If the Bible is the word of God, then there are two opposing forces at war against each other, one of which is of God, one of which is in rebellion against him. From the head of which of these two forces would you think the admonition to not rebel against the nations of the world which are not of God would come?
If meaning beyond the simple words is to be imputed to 'do not stir up nor awaken love until it pleases' then I would say that a far better meaning than 'do not rebel against the nations of the world' would be: Do not think your desire for the love of God to be proof that what you think he wants or says is actually what he is saying. For as Isaiah said, 'Whom will he teach knowledge? And whom will he make to understand the message? Those just weaned from the milk? Those just drawn from the breasts?'
Do not awaken love in yourself until maturity comes lest you give yourself to the wrong lover and bound by the lies of those neither inspired nor guided by God.
Again I remind you of the witness of God. No man of God described in the Bible, Old Testament or New, spoke without it. The New Testament describes it explicitly. The Old testament gives example after example of it. Listening, believing, obeying, following those who do not have it [witness, evidence] but claim to be speaking for God is guaranteed to keep us as far from him as death itself. This is of course as true of 'knowing' one is of the hidden ten tribes as it of 'knowing' God speaks through any man. Just because the Bible says that Israel was chosen does not mean that all who want to think themselves chosen are of Israel, or even hearing the word of God no matter how desperately they might want to be. I do not advocate that anyone not having his witness as the Bible tells us he gives it pick up and go to Israel. I simply say that what Zephyr has quoted from the Talmud as interpretations of those passages from the Song of Solomon are no more interpretations of what was in the authors mind than is the barking of dogs in the night.
(b) Hello again, Yair.
What I said was not meant to be complete dismissal of the Talmud. It was meant in the sense that the Talmud as a whole with everything in it should not be taken as the word of God. And this I think that you can probably agree with, if you think about it. Or would you say that there is no contradiction within it? If there is that which is by inspiration of God within it then anything which is contradictory to that but which is still contained within it clearly could not be by inspiration of God. Would that not be true? Do you give the same weight to the Talmud as you give to the Bible?
As for what you say of the sages saying not to discuss these things with Gentiles or unbelievers, how then can Israel be a light to the world? My emphasis on the witness of God himself is because in times past I have followed men who claimed to speak for him but as I learned to my great regret they clearly did not once I came to understand what the Bible actually does say about his witness and not speaking for him without it. And please don't misunderstand me, and think that I am claiming to have his witness. I am not. But I have understood what I read and do read of it in the Bible, and having understood that, I have seen it throughout in every example of a man of God spoken of therein. I have allowed myself to be led by charlatans who didn't have it, and now having learned of it I only desire that others be forewarned by that against such men as well. In Exodus it tellls us of the people of Israel crying out to God, and he heard their cries and brought them out of Egypt and bondage and into their land through numerous examples of that witness. I suspect that the restoration of all Israel could only come about by him once again giving his witness which the lies of men cannot duplicate. Pharaoh's sorcerers tried their best, but if you will remember, Moses' rod swallowed theirs up. The witness of God will always defeat the false witness of men.
The points you are making are not as clear as you might have wished them to be.
We assume you are saying:
(a) The Talmud cannot be considered entirely Divinely-inspired since concerning the Three Oaths such an interpretation is clearly not the intention of the verses they are said to be based upon. Also the Talmud contains contradictions and when two claims contradict each other they both cannot both be true, Can they?
(b) The Three Oaths are counter-intuitive and therefore unacceptable. We see from Jeremiah that Israel is called upon to repent and conterminous with repentances comes a return to the Land of Israel.
(c) Israel is supposed to be a light to the world. Also someone from Israel should return to the Land of Israel or at least be immediately allowed to do so. Believe that one is of Israelite origin however is not sufficient. Some kind of Divinely-sanctioned witnessing or testimony is required.
In reply to your points:
(a) The Talmud.
Brit-Am is not concerning in proving the Talmud. It is not a work used for the propagation of religion like the "Old Testament", New Testament, and Koran, etc are. It is rather a collection of discussions and source material that is to be worked with.
The Sages were critical of Jews discussing such matters as the Talmud deals with before non-believers and Gentiles.
In this case however the Three Oaths are well known. No secrets were being unnecessarily revealed. The Three Oaths are discussed all over Cyber Space. Naturei Karta demonstrators spout from them in well-publicized demonstrations against the State of Israel.
I had Gentile anti-Zionist Irish Radicals on an Irish Republican Forum quote them to me.
This is not a subject we would have chosen but the article was submitted to us and we considered it of potential value and interest so (after some editing) we posted it on our site.
The Jewish Religious attitude towards the Talmud varies from one circle to another. In general however one may say that concerning practical law it is considered binding unless a consensus of later authorities say otherwise. Other matters such as legends, opinions, etc do not usually have to be taken literally but nevertheless should be studied. Non-Jews are not encouraged to learn the Talmud. It contains much material that is easy to mistunderstand, or misinterpret, and may be taken out of context.
(b) The Three Oaths.
We see The Three Oaths as reflecting a certain historical reality pertinent to the Jews more in the past than the present. Their connection to the verses quoted from the Song of Songs may or may not be valid. It requires a study of the Hebrew, parallel verses, principles of allegorical usage, etc, all of which do not concern us.
If you read the article all the way through you would have noticed our editorial note summarizing Numbers chapters 13 and 14. This quoted an incident whereby even though the Israelites had previously been commanded to conquer the Land they had forfeited their chance and would have to wait. They did not want to wait however and so tried to go up to the land without sanction. Consequently they were driven back by the Amalekites and Canaanites. Later their children under Joshua from the Tribe of Ephraim would complete what they should have done in the first place.
Historically the Three Oaths may have had some justification.
For instance one of the oaths involved not rebelling while in Exile against the Gentile host nations.
There was a case when the King of Portugal was persecuting the Jews, seizing their children, and forcibly baptizing them.
The Jews considered rebelling and trying to take over the country. The Rabbis quoting from the Oaths instructed them not to. Were they right? I do not know.
Historical parallels are known whereby small groups of people have succeeded in conquering other nations. In this event however if they had have been successful chances are it would not have lasted and the result may have been a massacre by Christians of Jews throughout Europe.
Look how the USA (an Israelite-derived and genuine friend of Israel) reacted in the case of Pollard. Jonathan Pollard spied on behalf of Israel and was incarcerated. He is being punished far more than other US citizens who did the same (or much much worse) on behalf of other nations who are not friends of the USA. The information that Pollard gave over was that which the USA was treaty-bound to give anyway and it do no harm to America. On the contrary. Nevertheless Jonathan Pollard seems to have disturbed something in the American psyche.
It is as if the Gentile soul (even if the Gentiles in question are partly of Jewish and Israelite origin) demands that the Jew boy be kept in his place!
(c) The Need for Divinely-Sanctioned Certainty Concerning Israelite Origins.
You appear to think that a non-Jew cannot be certain of Israelite ancestry
without a "witness" i.e. some kind of Divine Sanction.
We, to some degree, agree with you concerning individuals. We have spoken of this often and written articles on the matter.
In the aggregate however we have proofs from the Bible supplemented by Rabbinical Sources and secular studies.
This knowledge is available to us in order that we may learn from it and take it to heart.
Information derived from The Bible is in itself Divine Sanction!
Pleased with what you read?