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

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



View Complete List

Challal: On Many Levels
Rabbi Pinchas Winston - 5775

Pursuit Of Peace
Rabbi Shlomo Jarcaig - 5764

The Uniqueness of Man
Shlomo Katz - 5766

Looking for a Chavrusah?

Great Expectations
Rabbi Yochanan Zweig - 5770

Reality Check
Rabbi Pinchas Avruch - 5763

The Nature of Human Behavior
Rabbi Berel Wein - 5773


Goal Tending
Rabbi Mordechai Kamenetzky - 5761

Know that you Know Nothing
Shlomo Katz - 5755

The Delayed "Ki Tov"
Rabbi Yissocher Frand - 5762

Frumster - Orthodox Jewish Dating

Proof that G-d Exists
Rabbi Yaakov Menken - 5757

Torah Vs. TV
Rabbi Yaakov Menken - 5759

Reflections, Dissections and Connections
Rabbi Naftali Reich - 5774

> The Light is Yours
Shlomo Katz - 5776

Learn to Love from the LULOV!
Rabbi Label Lam - 5765

Be Creative!
Shlomo Katz - 5757

The Buck Stops Here
Rabbi Pinchas Avruch - 5765

Project Genesis Home

Torah Portion

Jewish Law



Learn the Basics




Ask The Rabbi

Knowledge Base


About Us

Contact Us

Free Book on Geulah! Home Copyright Information