Friday, September 4, 2020

A Justified Ban?

As we study this week’s Parsha that has the most mitzvahs of any Parsha in the Torah, we tend to dismiss the lesson of any mitzvah that does not seem to have practical relevance. It must be noted that beyond the narrow scope of the practical application to any mitzvah, there are compelling lessons for us to study. A telling example of this is the prohibition of any Moabite or Ammonite to convert to Judaism. The reality is that there is not any Moab or Ammon nation in our time, and we cannot identify them due to many wars and population transfers over the years. Nonetheless, it is worthy of taking a closer look at the reasons for this. The Torah states as one of the reasons for this conversion ban as the lack of willingness on behalf of the Ammonites and Moabites to greet the Jews traveling in the desert en route to the Land of Israel with bread and water. It would appear that the punishment is far disproportionate to the crime! The nations may not be paragons of practicing kindness, but why should there be a permanent ban on converting to Judaism? In his commentary, the Ramban writes that the nation of Ammonites and Moabites were descendants of the Ammon and Moab, two children fathered by Lot, the nephew of Avraham. The only reason that Lot was saved from the destruction of Sodom was because of Abraham’s merit. Fast forward a few hundred years, and now it is the Jewish People the direct descendants of Abraham who are in distress and in need of assistance. The Ammonite and Moabites refused to extend their hand in our time of need. This reflects not just and lack of kindness but a profound deficiency in gratitude. One of the core values of Judaism is gratitude and a nation that is such lacking gratitude is not eligible to enter the Jewish faith. This message should always serve as a reminder about the importance of remembering our humble roots and of practicing gratitude to G-d and our fellow man.

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