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No Thanks to You: A Thought On Parshas Ki Seitzei

In Parshas Ki Seitzei, Deuteronomy chapter 24, we find that the nations of Amon and Moab are not permitted to become geirim (converts to Judaism) and verse 24:5 states “because of the fact that they did not greet you with bread and water on the road when you were leaving Eygpt, and because he hired against you Balaam the son of Beor…to curse you.”

Rabbeinu Bachya (1263-1340) in his commentary on these verses, points out the common thread of the actions of these nations is a lack of derech eretz, or manners, in particular of lack of gratitude. Namely, our forefather Abraham who, while being engaged in a war, risked his life to rescue his nephew Lot (Genesis 14:16), who subsequently became the father of Amon and Moab, and thus the descendents of these nations should have shown their appreciation to Abraham’s descendents. While it is true that the Jewish people did not need bread and water, since they were being supplied with sustenance miraculously, it did not negate this nations’ display of ingratitude. Rabbeinu Bachya suggests that the sin of Amon, who did not offer the bread and water, was worse than the sin of Moab, who hired Balaam to curse the Jewish people, and that is reflected in the sequence of 24:5. He adds that it appears that Moab did offer bread and water to the Jewish people, unlike Amon, the fact it does not negate the sin they committed by hiring Balaam to curse us notwithstanding.

One can ask what is it that makes Amon’s not offering the bread and water a worse sin? Perhaps one answer is that Abraham was renowned for the incredible hospitality that he and his wife Sarah offered to their guests and visitors, as we read about in Genesis and in numerous midrashim. That being the case, for Amon, who owes their very existence to Abraham’s risking his own life to rescue their ancestor, to act in the completely opposite fashion by not offering sustenance to Abraham’s descendents manifests a complete lack of gratitude for Abraham’s actions. Thus Moab, who did offer sustenance to the Jewish people, were at least acknowledging Abraham’s heroic effort in rescuing their ancestor, as manifested by mirroring Abraham’s outstanding trait.

Dovetailing this sentiment was a sobering midrash I came across (Vayikra Rabbah Chapter 34). If the Jewish people did not need the food and water, but Amon was still punished for failing to offer these items, then how much more so will those who fail to provide for those who do need suffer punishment! Valuable food for thought not only for the month of Elul, with the High Holidays right around the corner, but any time; to be concerned and subsequently reach out however we can to ease the burden of others in need.


Rabbi David Blum provides pastoral care throughout New Jersey as part of the Rabbi Chaim Yosef Furst Chaplaincy Program, which is conducted via Congregation Ohav Emeth of Highland Park, and the Chaplaincy Program of the Jewish Federation of Greater Metrowest. He resides with his family in Highland Park, and may be contacted at [email protected].

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