Jonathan Muskat

The Three Oaths and the UN Resolution

On Monday, the United Nations Security Council passed a resolution calling for an immediate ceasefire in the Israeli war against Hamas. Surprisingly, the United States refrained from vetoing the resolution. Israel criticized the resolution’s language, arguing that it fails to firmly link a ceasefire with the release of hostages held in Gaza. The text demands “an immediate ceasefire… and also demands the immediate and unconditional release of all hostages.” Last week, a resolution proposed by the United States explicitly connected the ceasefire with the release of hostages, but it failed. John Kirby appeared perplexed by Israel’s negative reaction to the lack of an American veto. He asserted that nothing has changed in American policy because the text calls for both an immediate ceasefire and the release of all hostages, suggesting implicit linkage. Here’s why I believe his argument is flawed.

The gemara in Ketubot 111a derives from the triple mention of the Biblical verse in Shir Ha-Shirim (2:7, 3:5, and 8:4), “I have bound you in oath, O daughters of Jerusalem,” that God bound the Jewish people and the nations of the world with three oaths. The first oath was “she-lo ya-alu ba-choma,” interpreted as forbidding the Jews from forcibly entering Israel. The second oath prohibits the Jews from rebelling against the nations. The third oath is that the nations of the world should not oppress the Jews too severely during the exile. The gemara concludes with the threat that if the Jewish people violate these oaths, God will bring upon them great suffering.

In his work “Va-Yoel Moshe,” the Satmar Rebbe, Rav Yoel Teitelbaum, asserts that God brought about the Holocaust because the Zionist movement caused the Jews to violate these oaths. Since the Jewish people forcefully resettled Eretz Yisrael, God brought upon them massive destruction. There have been numerous halachic responses to Rav Yoel Teitelbaum’s assertion. Rabbi Shlomo Kluger provides one of these responses, explaining that although the Jews were sworn not to enter Eretz Yisrael forcefully, the nations of the world were also sworn not to persecute the Jews excessively. Since the nations of the world violated their oath, the Jews were no longer bound by theirs. The Satmar Rav would disagree with this assertion, emphasizing that the nations of the world have their responsibilities, and the Jewish people have theirs. Just because the nations of the world fail to uphold their responsibilities does not absolve the Jewish people from theirs.

This debate between supporters of the Satmar Rav’s argument and those of Rav Shlomo Kluger’s is precisely the issue with the recent UN resolution that does not explicitly tie a ceasefire to the immediate release of hostages. While the resolution calls for both a ceasefire and the immediate release of hostages, a “Satmar Rav” interpretation would argue that although Hamas is failing in its responsibility to free the hostages, Israel still has an independent obligation to implement a ceasefire. While Israel and America may assert that these provisions are interdependent, Hamas and the Palestinian Authority do not interpret it as such. Countries like China and Russia that vetoed a previous UN resolution proposed by the United States explicitly linking the two obligations do not interpret it as such. Many countries that have pressured Israel to implement an immediate ceasefire do not interpret it as such. Therefore, this resolution creates additional pressure on Israel to implement a ceasefire even without the immediate release of the hostages.

Throughout this war, Hamas terrorists have embedded themselves among civilian populations, schools, and hospitals to increase the likelihood of civilian casualties, violating ethical obligations in war. By explicitly stating their intent to commit further atrocities, they leave Israel no choice but to continue this war until Hamas’s military capabilities are dismantled to ensure Israel’s security. Despite this, much of the world blames Israel for civilian casualties and pressures it to implement an immediate ceasefire, rather than pressuring Hamas to surrender unconditionally and release the hostages. This demonstrates a disregard for Hamas’ ethical obligations, placing undue blame on Israel. With the passage of the recent UN resolution, more countries will condemn Israel for violating a UN resolution by not implementing a ceasefire, while they will continue to effectively ignore Hamas’ immoral behavior.

I hope and continue to pray that Israel maintains its moral clarity in the war against Hamas and stands strong against mounting international pressure until it achieves victory in dismantling Hamas’ military capabilities.

About the Author
Jonathan Muskat is the Rabbi of the Young Israel of Oceanside.
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