These divrei Torah were adapted from the hashkafa portion of Rabbi Yissocher Frand’s Commuter Chavrusah Tapes on the weekly portion: Tape # 250, The Mitzvah of Ma’akeh. Good Shabbos!
Ramban’s Insight Into The Distancing of Ammon and Moab
The Torah tells us [Devorim 23:4-5] that descendants of Ammon and Moav are not allowed to marry into the ‘Congregation of G-d’ even 10 generations after having converted to Judaism. (This is the same type of stigma that we find in connection with marrying a mamzer.) The reason given by the verse is “because they did not welcome you with bread and water when you came out from Egypt and they hired against you Bilaam… to curse you”.
The Ramban tells us that for these sins alone, they would not have been stigmatized to such a degree. Their real sin traces back to the mothers of these nations — the two sisters, daughters of Lot, who were saved from destruction by the patriarch Abraham. These nations owed the descendants of Abraham a favor for this kindness, but instead they acted against them in an ungrateful fashion.
The Ramban is telling us the essential ethical principle of recognizing and appreciating favors. If I have to think back, about some of the main ethical principles stressed by the Rosh Yeshiva, zt”l (Rav Yakov Ruderman), this would certainly qualify as one of them: It is essential for a person to be thankful and grateful to someone else who has done a favor for him. There is something innately despicable about the soul of a person who is an ingrate. A nation characterized by the quality of being ungrateful has something wrong with their national psyche and can have nothing to do with the Jewish people.
“You shall not hate an Edomite, for he is your brother; and you shall not hate an Egyptian, for you were a stranger in his land.” [Devorim 23:8]. Three generations after converting they are allowed to marry into the Jewish people.
Rashi points out that the Egyptians were not righteous people – we suffered greatly at their hands. Why then do we let them marry into our nation? This teaches us, Rashi says, that it is worse to cause a person to sin than it is to kill him.
Midyan hired Bilaam and caused the Jewish people to have illicit relations with the daughters of Moab. As a result of causing the Jewish people to sin, Moab deserved a worse fate than the Egyptians did for actually killing Jewish people. “For one who kills a person, takes him out (only) from this world; whereas one who corrupts causes him to be totally wiped out (even from the world to come)”.
The way the Torah deals with one who causes others to sin is stricter than the way it deals with any other type of transgression. The classic example of one who causes someone else to sin is the Meisis (the one who attempts to convince others to worship idolatry) [Devorim 13:7-12]. In unprecedented treatment, the Torah tells us not to have mercy upon the Meisis. Even though usually Beis Din always tries to find leniencies for an accused, here we are told to ‘throw the book at him’. He requires no warning and we are allowed to entrap him by hiding witnesses and so forth. The reason is because he tried to make people sin, to take them away from G-d, to take them off the right track.
The Alter from Kelm says that we learn a stunning insight from the laws of the Meisis. The Meisis deserves this harsh treatment for merely trying to take someone off the correct path (“Ki bikesh l’hadichacha”). We have a rule that the Attribute of Reward is 500 times greater than the Attribute of Punishment [Yalkut Shimoni Vayikra 475]. That means that G-d is 500 times more generous with us when it comes to reward than when it comes to punishment.
If the punishment for trying to push a person away from G-d is so bad, then certainly the reward for trying to bring a person close to G-d must be unbelievably great. Just as the punishment of the Meisis is not based on the success of his attempt, likewise the reward for trying to bring people close to G-d will be based on effort alone.
This is something that is essential to remember. I am not speaking only of those people who are in — what we call today — the ‘kiruv field’, the people who professionally through outreach organizations try to influence people spiritually.
One of the most common expressions of complaint is that one can try and try and try, without seeing any results. For every success story, how many cases are there which are not successful? A person might throw up his hands in frustration. We must remember that G-d gives reward for TRYING to influence (“ki bikesh”).
“…for he TRIED to push you away from the way of the L-rd your G-d”. [Devorim 13:11] Trying is the name of the game.
I would like to add one hint from a person who is in the ‘field’, who spends a large part of his day working to teach Russian Jews, and to attract them to Judaism. That person is Rav Pessach Diskin, a person to whom this community owes a great debt of gratitude. Rav Pessach Diskin’s philosophy is that the motivation for working with Russian Jews should not be “All Israel is responsible one for another” [Shavuos 39a], but must be “You should love your neighbor as yourself” [Vayikra 19:18].
To say that this person is my responsibility, and therefore I must help him, can be a great mistake. If someone feels that he is being used as your ticket to the World to Come, he will see through that and reject it. “You just want me because you want my soul? I don’t want that!” Instead, just treat him as you would want to be treated if you found yourself without a job in a foreign country where you did not know the language. Extend to him unconditional friendship. With such an attitude, you are much more likely to eventually influence him spiritually, as well.
Whether, however, one is ‘successful’ or not, is not the issue. The principle, which we must remember in this and all areas, is ‘ki bikesh’ — we have only to try.
mamzer — a child born as a result of violation of one of the primary forbidden sexual relationships.
Beis Din — Court
kiruv — drawing near (spiritually)
Sources and Personalities
Ramban (1194-1270) — Rav Moshe ben Nachman; Spain, Eretz Yisroel.
Rashi (1040-1105) — Rav Sholomo Yitzchaki; France.
Alter from Kelm (1824-1898) — Rav Simcha Zisel Ziv, one of the leaders of the Mussar movement.
Technical Assistance by Dovid Hoffman; Yerushalayim.
This week’s write-up is adapted from the hashkafa portion of Rabbi Yissochar Frand’s Commuter Chavrusah Torah Tapes on the weekly Torah portion (#250). The corresponding halachic portion for this tape is: The Mitzvah of Ma’akeh. The other halachic portions for Parshas Ki Seitzei from the Commuter Chavrusah Series are:
- Tape # 020 – Non-Halachic Marriage Ceremonies
- Tape # 065 – Polygamy and the Cherem of Rabbeinu Gershom
- Tape # 110 – Mamzeirus: Possible Solutions?
- Tape # 156 – Reconciling Divergent Customs Between Husband and Wife
- Tape # 203 – The Pre-War “Get”
- Tape # 293 – “Get Me’useh”: The Prohibition of the “Forced Get”
- Tape # 339 – Shana Reshona: The First Year of Marriage
- Tape # 383 – The Mitzvah of Burial
- Tape # 427 – Trying on Suits that May Have Shatnes
Tapes or a complete catalogue can be ordered from:
Yad Yechiel Institute
PO Box 511
Owings Mills, MD 21117-0511
Call (410) 358-0416 for further information.
Also Available: Mesorah / Artscroll has published a collection of Rabbi Frand’s essays. The book is entitled:
and is available through your local Hebrew book store or from Project Genesis, 1-410-654-1799.