In the three oaths it is forbidden to rebel against the nations, which usually results in a prohibition against breaking the law. In the United States, its kind of not officially the gentiles as it is a democracy and thus the Jews are part of the government (kind of?). So is there an issur to break the law in the USA?


2 Answers 2


The Maharal in Chiddushei Agados on Kesuvos (111b ד"ה שבועות הללו) says the oaths were not oaths, but rather decrees meant to ensure that the Jewish People remained in Exile, so much so that even if the Jews were being killed en mass, they were still not allowed to leave the exile.

Thus, according to the Maharal, as long as the rebellion is not meant as a means to throw off the yoke of exile it would not be considered a violation of the oath.

Therefore, it doesn't matter whether or not the Jews are part of the government, if the Jews are not "rebelling" ie. Breaking the law against the government with the intention of returning back to Eretz Yisrael, than any regular violation (e.g. Running a red light) would not be considered a violation of the Oaths. But if they stage some type of coup d'etat with the intention of returning to Eretz Yisrael, then that would for sure be a violation of the oath to not rebel against the nations.

As an aside, it is strictly forbidden according to Jewish law to willfully break the Laws of the host government, as their laws are halachically binding. This is known as Dina Demalchusa Dina.

See here for further reading.

And this shiur for a more in depth discussion.

  • 1
    Then again, there is still the issue of Dina d'malchuta Commented May 10, 2015 at 13:02
  • True, my point was that just because the oaths were not violated doesn't mean that one did not transgress halachah Commented May 10, 2015 at 14:53
  • If the law tells you to enter concentration camp, shouldn't you just take up arms and rebel?
    – user4951
    Commented Jun 29, 2015 at 13:46

The short answer is that the "three oaths" concept does not apply to the concept of "breaking the law". The explanations below go into the reasons behind this.

Additionally, keeping the law in the United States is basically considered as is any other country that we live in, since living in a country means that we have agreed to follow the laws of that country as long as it does not violate the Torah.

The "three oaths" concept is not necessarily the reason for not breaking the law. There is still an isur against breaking the law in the United States in any case because of the principal of Dina Demalchusa Dina (The law of the land is the law). That is, no matter what the form of the government or how "free" Jews may be, or even if there is a certain amount of autonomy, or even if the nonJewish violations of the oaths have abrogated them, we still are required to obey the law.

Another point is that the Three Oaths are treated as a matter of Yishuv Ha'Aretz. That is, the second oath (which is what you refer to), is regarded as connected to the first oath (not rising up to go the Eretz Yisrael "as a wall"). Thus it is in reference to that aspect, rather than the general laws of the goyim that the oath was given.

Shir ha-Shirim Rabbah, 2:[7]1 states

R. Yossi bar Chanina said, “There are two oaths here, one for Israel and one for the nations. Israel swore not to rebel against the nations [R. Yossi bar Chanina views Israel’s two oaths in Ketuvot as just one], and the nations swore that they would not overly burden Israel, for by doing so they cause the end of days to come prematurely.

Thus, it is only with respect to "going up as a wall" that the second oath was given.

Additionally, this article Peninei Halachah by Harav Eliezer Melamed points out that this is an Agaddah and is not (according to many meforshim and poskim) a matter of Halacha. As a result, we do not regard the violation of law (even though asur because of dina demalchusah) as a violation of the "Three Oaths".

Even if someone wants to explain the oaths differently, the rule is that we do not derive halachah from aggadic statements. So writes the Avnei Neizer (Y.D. 454). Hence, the Rif, the Rosh, and all the other early commentators on Tractate Ketuvot disregard the three oaths. On the contrary, they write that there is a mitzvah to ascend to the Land. The Rambam and Shulchan Aruch, as well, leave the oaths out of their works. The author of Pinei Yehoshua (on Ketuvot 111a) points out that the Gemara in Yoma (9b) implies the opposite – that the redemption did not come because the Jews did not ascend as a wall. And since these two aggadic sources contradict each other, we must understand them in some other way, not related to halachah. According to the author of Sefer Hafla’ah (Ketuvot, ibid.), the “wall” only relates to aliyah from Babylonia. The Gra writes in his commentary to Shir HaShirim that the oaths relate to the building of the Temple, [warning us] not to burst forth and build it without Divine authorization, given through a prophet. According to Rebbe Tzaddok (Divrei Sofrim 14), even the author of Megillat Esther would agree that there is a mitzvah to settle the Land nowadays. For a comprehensive treatment of this issue, see Nachalat Ya’akov by Rabbi Ya’akov Zisberg, vol. 2, pp. 715-815.

For example

Does "dina demalchusa dina" apply to laws no one keeps?

Dina DeMalchuta Dina - The Authority of the Law of the Land

Dina Demalchusa Dina is an audio lecture.

Taxation and Dina Demalchusa

In the days of the Talmud taxes were collected for the purpose of enriching the king. Based on the parshas hamelech in Sefer Shmuel (Shmuel I 8:11), the Rabbis formulated the principle of dina demalchusa dina (Nedarim 28a), literally, the "law of the land is binding": everyone must pay taxes. In Shulchan Aruch (Chosehn Mishpat 369:8), the Rishonim are quoted as having pointed out that if the taxes are unfair, or discriminatory (which is also unfair,) this would not constitute "dina" demalchusa - "the law of the land," but rather "gazlanusa" demalchusa - "the embezzlement of the land," and such tax laws are not binding (see Nefesh Harav p. 269). A system of graduated income tax is considered fair and reasonable (see LeTorah Velemoadim by Rav Zevin, p. 118).

It is important to note that today the basis for taxation is totally different from what it was in Talmudic times. Today, all modern countries provide a variety of services: They provide streets and highways, and maintain forests and museums. They provide fire, police, and military protection. They collect garbage and deliver mail. They do medical research to discover cures for diseases, etc. The taxes are collected for the purpose of covering the annual budget, which pays for all of these projects. The halacha views all of the people living in the same neighborhood as "shutfim" - "partners," sharing a common need for a shul, yeshiva, mikveh and an eruv, and therefore, the "partners" can force each other to put up the needed amount to further their partnership. So too, all people who live in the same city, state, and country are considered "shutfim" with respect to the services provided by that city, state, and country. The purpose behind the taxes is no longer "to enrich the king" in the slightest. In addition to all the other expenses, the government officials have to be paid as well, but it is because they serve as the employees of all the citizens for the purpose of looking after all these services, and seeing to it that they are properly taken care of. In our modern world, one who does not pay his proper share of taxes is no longer viewed as cheating the king (or the ruler) of the country, but rather as cheating (i.e. stealing from) his partners.

  • 1
    So does it break the Oath or not?
    – Double AA
    Commented Feb 5, 2015 at 5:27
  • @DoubleAA The question asks "So is there an issur to break the law in the USA?" This answers "no, because of dina d'malchuta".
    – Scimonster
    Commented Feb 5, 2015 at 6:38
  • @Cnsersmoit It asks both, so the answer should address both issues. Commented Mar 7, 2015 at 17:36
  • @DoubleAA The answer points out that the "trhee oaths" is not the basis for breaking the law. I will clarify the answer. Commented Mar 8, 2015 at 11:51
  • 2
    So does it break the Oath or not?
    – Double AA
    Commented Mar 8, 2015 at 14:52

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