April 14, 2024
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Zera Shimshon on Parshat Ki Teitzei

לא יבא עמוני ומואבי בקהל ידוד גם דור עשירי לא יבא להם בקהל ידוד עד עולם: על דבר אשר לא קדמו אתכם בלחם ובמים בדרך בצאתכם ממצרים ואשר שכר עליך את בלעם בן בעור מפתור ארם נהרים לקללך:
 (דברים כג:ד-ה)

“No Ammoni or Moavi shall be admitted into the congregation of Hashem (meaning, even after they convert, they are prohibited to marry someone who is Jewish); none of their descendants, even the 10th generation, can be admitted into the congregation of Hashem. Because of the fact that Amon and Moav did not meet you with bread and water on your journey after you left Mitzrayim, and because they hired Bilaam, the son of Beor from P’ttor Aram-Naharaim, to curse you.” (Devarim 23:4-5)

There are two reasons written in this pasuk why it is prohibited for a man from Amon or Moav to marry a Jewish woman. One reason is because Amon and Moav did not give bread and water to Bnei Yisroel after they left Mitzrayim, when they were wandering in the desert. The second reason is because they hired Bilaam to curse Bnei Yisroel. Rashi explains the phrase, “because of the fact” is alluding to a third reason, “because of the advice which Amon and Moav gave you in order to entice you into sin.”

The mefarshim ask: since two reasons have already been written explicitly, what forced Rashi to give a third reason? What was lacking in the first two reasons?

There is an even stronger question: Rashi on pasuk 9 explains that the reason all future generations from a Moavi convert cannot marry a Jewish person — as opposed to a Mitzri convert, who only the first three generations are prohibited — is because, “one who caused another to sin is worse than someone who kills another person.” Since Rashi only mentions this reason and not the other two reasons, it would seem that this is the main reason. If so, why is there only an allusion to this reason, as in the phrase —“because of the fact,” — and it is not written explicitly in the Chumash?

The Zera Shimshon answers in light of the Gemara in Yevamos 77a that relates that there were talmidei chachamim in the times of Dovid HaMelech who tried to disqualify Dovid from being king because he stemmed from Rus HaMoaviah, and as we see in the above pasuk, Moavim are not allowed to marry into the Jewish people. There were talmidei chachamim who disagreed and were of the position that Dovid was a kosher king; since they explained that the prohibition of marrying into the Jewish people only applied to male Moavim, but women Moaviot are permitted to marry Jewish men.

The Gemara explains their logic, since the reason for the prohibition was, “they did not meet you with bread and water on your journey after you left Mitzrayim,” and this was only a criticism of the men, who are accustomed to going outside and meeting new people. However, concerning women, it is not tznius for women to go out and greet strangers like it is written (Tehillim 45:14): “Kol k’vudah bas melech penimah — The glory of the king’s daughter is when she is inside.”Therefore, since the Moavi women did nothing wrong by not going out and bringing bread and water, they are not included in the prohibition, and after they convert to Judaism, they are allowed to marry Jewish men.

The Zera Shimshon explains according to this,, the Torah did not explicitly write the reason Moavim are not allowed to marry anyone Jewish is because one who causes another person to sin is worse than killing him physically; since we could make a mistake and think that the Moavi women are also prohibited to be married to a Jewish man, since the Moavi women were the ones who, in actuality, caused the Jewish soldiers to sin!

What needs to still be understood is that even though this reason is not mentioned openly in the Torah, it is still true that to cause a person to sin is worse than killing him, and, as Rashi writes, this is the reason why Moavim cannot marry a Jewish woman. How can we then understand, why a Jewish man is permitted to marry a Moavi women even though the Moavi women caused Bnei Yisroel to sin?

The Zera Shimshon explains the reason for this can be learned from the fact that the Torah wrote the reason for the prohibition was because the Moavim didn’t bring bread and water to Bnei Yisroel in the following way: The Moavi women were guiltless for not bringing food to Bnei Yisroel, because women are naturally modest. Since women are naturally modest, it follows that it surely was not their decision to entice the Jewish men, but their fathers forced them.

This being so, just like they are not held responsible of not bringing food, they are also not responsible for what they did with the Jewish men, and it is only the male Moavim who are responsible.

There still remains the second question, though. Why does it mention that the reason the men cannot marry was because they didn’t bring bread and water to Bnei Yisroel and not the main reason —because they caused Bnei Yisroel to sin by sending their daughters?

The answer is that if the men would have brought Bnei Yisroel bread and water, the merit of doing that chesed would have eased their punishment — like it is written in Gemara Sanhedrin (103b), Rabbi Yochanan himself said: “Giving others to eat… draws near the distant, and averts eyes (of Hashem) from the wicked.”

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