The Three Oaths
“Rabbi Zeira was evading Rav Yehudah because he wanted to go up to the land of Israel while Rav Yehudah had said, ‘Whoever goes up from Babylon to the land of Israel transgresses a positive commandment, for it is said, To Babylonia shall they be brought, and there shall they be until the day I attend to them and bring them up and return them to this place (Jeremiah 27:22).’ But Rabbi Zeira [says this verse refers] to the vessels of ministry [as is written, For thus said YHWH of Armies God of Israel concerning the vessels remaining in the house of YHWH… (ibid., 21)]. And Rav Yehudah?—it is also written: I make you swear, O daughters of Jerusalem by the deer or the gazelles of the field… (Song of Songs 2:7; 3:5).
And Rabbi Zeira?—this implies that Israel shall not go up [all together as if surrounded] by a wall [alt., ‘like a wall’]. And Rav Yehudah?—another swear to Me is written in Scripture. And Rabbi Zeira?—this is required for [an exposition] like that of Rabbi Yose son of Rabbi Ḥanina who said: ‘What was the purpose of those three adjurations [see Song of Songs 2:7; 3:5; 5:8]? One, that Israel shall not go up [altogether as if surrounded] by a wall; the second, that whereby the blessed Holy One adjured Israel that they shall not rebel against the nations of the world; and the third is that whereby the blessed Holy One adjured the nations that they shall not oppress Israel יוֹתֵר מִדַּאי (yoter middai), too much’ [cf. Zohar Ḥadash 56c: ‘It will be discovered that they had oppressed excessively by a measure and a half. In response, He demotes them from every realm and branch’].
And Rav Yehudah?—it is written that you will not rouse not stir love until it is ripe (Song of Songs 2:7). And Rabbi Zeira?—that text is required for [an exposition] like that of Rabbi Levi who stated: ‘What was the purpose of those six adjurations [each of the three adjurations is repeated]?—three for the purposes just mentioned and the others, that [the prophets] shall not make known the end, that [the people] shall not delay the end [by their misdeeds], and that they shall not reveal the secret to the nations.’ By the deer or the gazelles of the field—Rabbi El’azar explained: The blessed Holy One said to Israel, ‘If you will keep the adjuration, well and good; but if not, I will permit your flesh [to be a prey] like [that of] the deer or the gazelles of the field’” (BT Ketubbot 110b–111a).
“Resh Laqish was swimming in the Jordan. Thereupon Rabbah son of Son of Ḥana came and gave him the hand: If she is a wall, we will build on her a silver turret. If she is a door, we will besiege her with cedar boards (Song of Songs 8:9). Had you [Assembly of Israel] made yourself like a wall and had all come up in the days of Ezra, you would have been compared to silver, which no rottenness can ever affect. Now that you have come up like doors, you are like cedar boards, over which rottenness prevails” (BT Yoma 9b).
“Rabbi Yose said to him, ‘All this is longer than the Companions have established, namely, one day of exile for Assembly of Israel, no more, as is written: He has made me desolate, faint all the day (Lamentations 1:13).’ He replied, ‘So I learned from father in the mysteries of letters of the Holy Name, the duration of the world and the days of Creation—all a single mystery” (Zohar 1:116a–18b).
“Rabbi Yitsḥaq opened, ‘Before the day breathes and the shadows flee (Song of Songs 4:6). Before the day breathes—the exile of Israel; that they would be subjugated in exile until the day when rule of the peoples is ended.’ For we have learned that Rabbi Yitsḥaq said, ‘The dominion of all peoples together over Israel would last one thousand years. There is no people that would not subjugate them. ‘One day’ corresponds to: But it shall be one day which shall be known to YHWH, [not day, nor night: but it shall come to pass, that at evening time it shall be light] (Zechariah 14:7).
Another explanation: Before the day שֶׁיָּפוּחַ (sheyafuaḥ), breathes—before that day the peoples יָפוּחַ (yafuaḥ), expire. And the shadows flee—princes ruling over them. I will hurry to the mountain of myrrh, and to the hill of frankincense (Song of Songs 4:6). Said the blessed Holy One ‘I will betake Myself to shake the peoples from Jerusalem, the הַר הַמּוֹר (har ha-mor), the mountain of myrrh,’ as is written, Jerusalem on הַר הַמּוֹרִיָּה (har ha-moriyah), mount Moriah (2 Chronicles 3:1). And to the hill of frankincense—the Temple that is in Zion, as it is written, Lovely in heights, all the earth’s joy, Mount Zion (Psalms 48:3). And it is written, To seize the earth’s corners, that the wicked be shaken from it (Job 38:13)—as one holds a garment to shake all the filth from it.’
Rabbi Yose said, ‘The blessed Holy One will eventually be revealed in earthly Jerusalem, and purify it from the filth of the peoples, before the day of the peoples is complete [cf. BT Ta’anit 5a].’ For Rabbi Ḥiyya said, ‘Dominion over Israel lasts only one day, and that is a day of the blessed Holy One which is one thousand years [cf. BT Sanhderin 97a; Bahir §5: ‘Each day of the blessed Holy One is a thousand years, as it is written, For a thousand years in Your eyes are like yesterday gone (Psalms 90:4)’]. This is what is written, He has made me desolate, faint all the day (Lamentations 1:13)—one day, and no more.’
Rabbi Yose said, ‘If they are subjugated more than one thousand years, it is not because of the King’s decree, but rather because they do not wish to return before Him [in repentance to the land of Israel]. And it is written, And it shall be, when all these things come upon you, [the blessing and the curse that I have set before you, that your heart shall turn back among all the nations to which YHWH your God will make you to stray] (Deuteronomy 30:1–2), and, Should your strayed one be at the edge of the heavens, from there shall YHWH your God gather you (ibid., 4)’” (Zohar 2:17a, Midrash ha-Ne’lam).
“He opened, saying, ‘Look, the day is still long; it is not time to gather in the herd. Water the sheep and go and let them graze (Genesis 29:7). This verse has already been established, for when the people of Israel arouse teshuvah before the blessed Holy One, by the merit of Torah they will return to the Holy Land and be gathered from exile. For surely the exile of Israel will be for one day and no more, as is written: He has made me desolate, faint all the day (Lamentations 1:13).
If they do not engage in teshuvah, the blessed Holy One says, Look, the day is still long; it is not time to gather in the herd—without merit, without worthy deeds. But there is one remedy for you: Go, water the sheep—delve into Torah and be watered by it—and go and let them graze in a restful place, in the fine, desirable place of your inheritance.’
Alternatively, He said, ‘Look, the day is still long…‘—the day called a day of tumult and din and confusion (Isaiah 22:5), on which the Temple was destroyed and Israel fell into exile. In the face of evil deeds, that day is prolonged and extended, as is written: The day is still long; it is not time to gather in the herd—because they are prolonging that day. Water the sheep—as has been said, with words of Torah, for by the merit of Torah Israel will come out of exile” (Zohar 3:270a–b).
“Open for me, my sister, my friend, my dove, תַמָּתִי (tammati), my perfect one (Songs of Songs 5:2). Because, תַּם (tam), Complete, is the punishment of your offence, O daughter of Zion; He will no more carry you away into exile (Lamentations 4:22).
For my head is filled with dew (Song of Songs 5:2). Filled with dew? Rather, the blessed Holy One says, ‘Do you then imagine that from the day the Holy Temple was destroyed I have entered My house, or entered My dwelling place? Not so! I have not entered at all since the time of your exile. Behold you have a sign: For my head is filled with dew.‘
הא (He)—Shekhinah in exile [separated from יוה (Yod He Vav)]. Her perfection and Her life is טַל (tal), dew, and this is: יוד הא ואו (Yod He Vav). הא (He) is Shekhinah which is not of the dew. But יוד הא ואו (Yod He Vav) is numerically equivalent to ל״ט (thirty-nine) [and טַל (tal), dew]. He fills Shekhinah from the flowing of all supernal sources” (Tiqqunei ha-Zohar 17b).