Torah.org Home Subscribe Services Support Us
 
Print Version

Email this article to a friend

Parshas Devarim

Payment in Full

After forty long years in the desert, the Jewish people stood poised to conquer the Holy Land. But there were complications. Two of their most formidable foes were untouchable. The Torah forbade the Jewish people to attack the nations of Ammon and Moav; they had to circle around to the north even though the direct path of invasion led through the lands of these two nations. The Torah did, however, allow the Jewish invaders to make threaten and intimidate Moav, as long as they stopped short of actual combat.

Why was this special protection granted to these two implacable foes of the Jewish people?

Our Sages find the answer in an incident that took place five centuries earlier. During a period of famine, the Jewish patriarch Abraham, his beautiful wife Sarah and his nephew Lot went to seek food in Egypt. The pharaoh at that time had a roving eye. Whenever a beautiful woman caught his fancy, he would kill her husband and take her into his harem. Sarah caught his fancy, which led him to focus on Abraham, who had escorted her to Egypt. Had he known Abraham was her husband, he would have killed him on the spot, but Abraham claimed he was her brother and was spared.

Lot was standing there when Abraham represented himself to the pharaoh as Sarah’s brother. If Lot had said one word or made one gesture to arouse the pharaoh’s suspicions, Abraham would have been doomed. But Lot remained silent, and the pharaoh accepted Abraham’s story. The Torah rewarded Lot by forbidding the Jewish people to attack Lot’s descendants, the nations of Ammon and Moav.

The question arises: Why does the Torah protect Ammon and Moav only from an actual assault? Why does the Torah permit threats and other intimidating actions Moav? True, the Torah does forbid the Jewish people to threaten and intimidate the nation of Ammon, but that is not a reward for Lot’s actions. It is a reward for his daughter’s efforts to conceal the shameful paternity of her children (which is a subject for a different discussion). Lot’s reward for his silence was limited to a protection from assault against his descendants. Why was this so?

The commentators explain that the deficiencies in Lot’s reward were measure for measure for the deficiencies in his act of kindness. Lot was indeed silent when Abraham told the Egyptian pharaoh that he was Sarah’s brother. But he did not have the sensitivity and consideration to reassure Abraham that he could count on his silence. He could have told Abraham, “Don’t worry. You can count on my silence. I won’t give your secret away.” But he did not. And so, Abraham’s heart must have been beating wildly throughout that tense confrontation with the pharaoh. Therefore, the Torah only protects Lot’s descendants from actual harm but not from threats and intimidation.

A rich man caught sight of a pauper sitting on a bench and decided to invite him for dinner. But first he had some business to discuss with an associate. A half-hour later, the business was settled. The rich man offered the pauper a gracious invitation and brought him to his house. He seated the pauper in a place of honor and wined and dined him like a king.

Afterwards, the pauper thanked the rich man and prepared to leave.

“Tell me, did I treat you kindly?” said the rich man.

“Oh, yes,” said the pauper.

“Could you have been any kinder to you than I was?”

The pauper fidgeted. “Do you want me to be honest?”

“Certainly,” said the rich man.

“Well, you could have invited me before you discussed business with your friend. For that half hour I was afraid that I might have to go to sleep hungry tonight.”

In our own lives, we need to pay close attention not only to what we do but also to how we do it. The full value and quality of a kind deed is determined by considering it in its full context. Indeed, sometimes the manner in which a kind deed is done is more important than the deed itself.


Text Copyright © 2006 by Rabbi Naftali Reich and Torah.org.

Rabbi Reich is on the faculty of the Ohr Somayach Tanebaum Education Center.


 






ARTICLES ON VAYEITZEI AND CHANUKAH:

View Complete List

A Torah Perspective
Shlomo Katz - 5766

A New Role
Rabbi Yochanan Zweig - 5772

Twin Peaks
Rabbi Eliyahu Hoffmann - 5768

ArtScroll

Physical or Spiritual - Who's In Control?
Rabbi Eliyahu Hoffmann - 5759

The Lost Jewel
Shlomo Katz - 5765

Nice Guys Finish Second -- Second in Command to Pharoah
Rabbi Yissocher Frand - 5766

Looking for a Chavrusah?

Going the Extra Mile
Rabbi Pinchas Avruch - 5762

Time Study
Rabbi Raymond Beyda - 5766

Build with Your Dreams
Shlomo Katz - 5772

> Leaving Ya'akov for Yisroel
Rabbi Pinchas Winston - 5766

To Beat 'Em - You Can't Join 'Em
Rabbi Eliyahu Hoffmann - 5764

Two Paradigms of Thankful Individuals
Rabbi Yissocher Frand - 5759

Frumster - Orthodox Jewish Dating

Out, Up, and On His Way
Rabbi Pinchas Winston - 5759

Chanukah: Lights, Camera, Action!
Rabbi Osher Chaim Levene - 5768

The Best Credentials
Rabbi Yochanan Zweig - 5774

Hashem Must Play The Role of Our First Love, Not Our Second Fiddle
Rabbi Yissocher Frand - 5765



Project Genesis

Torah.org Home


Torah Portion

Jewish Law

Ethics

Texts

Learn the Basics

Seasons

Features

TORAHAUDIO

Ask The Rabbi

Knowledge Base




Help

About Us

Contact Us



Free Book on Geulah!




Torah.org Home
Torah.org HomeCapalon.com Copyright Information