The Jewish Eye
Sefer Ezra: Part 20 - An Oath of Tshuva
"As Ezra davened and confessed, crying and bowing before the Beis Hamikdash, a very large congregation of Yisrael gathered there, men, women and children. The people cried copiously."
The Malbim says that included in the crowd gathered around Ezra were the women whose husbands had taken non-Jewish wives, who were crying over their bitter circumstances.
"And Shechanya ben Yechiel of the sons of Elam said to Ezra, "We have transgressed against our G-d, and have taken foreign women of the nations of the land, and now there is hope for Yisrael about this."
Shechanya himself did not intermarry, but was taking responsibility for the small percentage of men who had actually sinned. The men had sinned publicly, and the leaders of Bnei Yisrael did not protest, and therefore the intermarriages were considered a national transgression. This was also due to the concept of "Arvus" - that all of Bnei Yisrael are interconnected, and are responsible for each other's deeds.
There was now renewed hope for Yisrael to eradicate these grave sins due to the arrival of Ezra. Ezra had been granted power by the king to officially enforce Torah law among Bnei Yisrael, so he and the other leaders of Bnei Yisrael could now force the sinners to send away their non-Jewish wives and children.
"And now we will make a bris with our G-d to evict all the women and those born from them, according to the counsel of Hashem, and the chareidim in the mitzvos of our G-d. Let it be done according to the Torah. And Ezra arose and instructed the sarei kohanim, leviim and all of Yisrael to swear to fulfill this matter, and they swore."
Bnei Yisrael entered a bris by swearing to evict the foreign wives and children. Ezra and the other leaders had initiated this oath because of their awareness that there would be much opposition to the eviction of the foreign wives and children. The leaders had determined that the consequences which were sanctioned by the Torah would not be enough to force Bnei Yirael to carry out the eviction. However, once Bnei Yisrael took an oath as a nation to evict the non-Jews, this reflected the will of the entire nation. The expression of the will of the entire nation endowed the klal with the power of a Jewish king, who is a reflection of the Jewish nation. Jewish kings have the power to enforce severe punishments, including the death penalty. The klal, who had taken an oath to evict the non-Jewish wives and children, now had kingly powers to enforce the eviction.
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