Parshat Ki Teitzei includes a prohibition upon the members of the nations of Ammon and Moav to marry Jewish women. The Torah states the reason for this prohibition explicitly: “Al Devar Asher Lo Kidemu Etchem BaLechem UVaMayim BaDerech BeTzeitchem MiMitzrayim,” “due to the fact that they did not greet you with bread and water on the way when you let Egypt” (23:5). Rashi, quoting the Sifri on the words “Al Devar,” offers another reason for this prohibition: “Al HaEitzah SheYaatzu Etchem LeHatiachem,” “because of the advice that they advised you to cause you to sin” (i.e. the Bnot Moav’s enticement of the men of Bnei Yisrael). The Siftei Chachamim explains that the Sifri was bothered by the apparently superfluous word “Devar,” as the word “Asher” alone (“Al Asher Lo Kidemu...”) would have conveyed the same message. “Devar” connotes Dibbur, speech, which leads the Sifri to the conclusion that the words that the Benot Moav used to lure Bnei Yisrael to sin certainly played a role in the reason for this prohibition.
The Keli Yakar is bothered by the fact that the Sifri finds a new reason for the prohibition when the Pasuk states explicitly that it is because they mistreated us so in the Midbar. If the prohibition is actually due to their causing Bnei Yisrael to sin, then why did the Pasuk not say so?
The Keli Yakar explains that the reasons of the Pasuk and the reason of the Sifri are really one and the same. The male members of Ammon and Moav intentionally did not bring bread and water so that Bnei Yisrael would be so hungry and thirsty that they would be willing to eat and drink anything – even meat and wine that had been offered to idols. The Dibbur of the women would not have lured Bnei Yisrael had they had the bread and water that they needed. It was the Moavi and Ammoni men, therefore, who were ultimately responsible for the transgressions of the Jews.
Return to the Nest
by Avi Wollman
When describing Shiluach HaKan, the Mitzvah to send away the mother bird before taking away her eggs, the Torah begins by saying, “Ki Yikarei Kan Tzipor,” “When you happen upon a bird’s nest” (Devarim 22:6). Interestingly, the Torah spells the word Yikarei with an Aleph at the end instead of the Hei one would expect to be there. While the Torah clearly meant to say, “When one happens upon a bird’s nest,” the Pasuk ends up literally translating, due to our grammatical “error,” into, “If a bird’s nest is called out to you.”
According to Ramban, the purpose of Shiluach HaKan is to teach compassion; just as one must be compassionate to the mother bird, one must also show the same compassion to human beings. (Ramban is careful to note that this Mitzvah is about compassion to people, not to animals.) Keeping that in mind, Sefer Kol Dodi notes that despite the simplicity of the Mitzvah of Shiluach HaKan, it is very rare that one actually comes across an opportunity to perform it. Therefore, when one does come across this Mitzvah, it simply cannot be plain coincidence. It is in fact as the Pasuk says, that “the nest is calling out to him;” it is there to send a message to that person. It may even be that the person needs to be more compassionate.
Often in the course of a regular day we also pass by our own “birds’ nests” – events that happen to us that should send us a message about our behavior or Torah observance. More often than not, however, we miss these messages. We have recently entered the month of Elul, and Rosh Hashana is fast approaching. In these last precious few weeks to do Teshuvah, it is important that we make an extra effort to notice these messages that are sent to us and reflect on those that we may have missed. Hopefully, if we work on our flaws and pay attention to the messages that are sent to us, we will find ourselves closer to Hashem, His Torah, and of course, our true nest in Yerushalayim.
by Joseph Jarashow
In Parshat Ki Teitzei we learn a Halacha with regard to gleaning crops. In 24:19, the Torah says that if one forgets a bundle in the field, “you may not return and gather it. It shall be for the convert, orphan, and widow, in order that Hashem will bless you in all of your handiwork.”
The Sefer Hachinuch writes that the root of this Mitzvah is to provide a way for Hashem to satisfy the desire of the convert, orphan, and widow. They yearn for this lifestyle of being able to collect crops. They wish that they could bring the crops into their own home. When it happens by chance that someone forgets crops in the field, Hashem fulfills their desire.
However, there is also a reward for the one who forgets his bundle in the field. The Pasuk concludes that as result of forgetting the bundle, Hashem will bless the person in all of his handwork. One may ask: why does a person receive a reward for accidentally performing a Mitzvah? The reason may be derived from both a Gemara and human psychology. The Gemara (Shabbat 68B) discusses the case of a Jewish person who was raised in a non-Jewish environment and never became aware of Shabbat until later in his life. Does he have to bring a Korban Chatat for the times he unknowingly violated Shabbat?
Munbaz believes that he is not obligated to bring a Korban Chatat. His reasoning is that even though the Torah uses the word “sinner” for both intentional and unintentional sins, one cannot apply the term to one who never even heard of Shabbat. The question now arises: why does the Torah call an accidental violation a sin?
A major principle of the psychoanalytic theory suggests that there are truly no accidental acts. There is always some motivation behind every act. Whether it is a conscious or subconscious motivation is somewhat irrelevant, in that either way there is still adequate grounds to hold someone accountable for his or her actions.
However, Rav Twerski says that just as we are punished for unintentional, subconscious acts, we are duly rewarded for similar unintentional acts. Just as inadvertently desecrating Shabbat is a sin, accidentally forgetting a bundle in the field is a virtue. Thus, we must appreciate that all Mitzvot and acts of Chesed are rewarded by Hashem independent of our motivations. Nonetheless, we should all strive to achieve a level of Torah knowledge which enables us to comprehend the reason behind all Mitzvot, and to perform them with all the proper intentions in mind.
by Chaim Strassman
In this week’s Parsha, we learn that we may not allow an Ammoni or Moavi male to convert to Judaism. As Jews, we are supposed to discourage conversions, but normally if a non-Jew insists on converting, we welcome him or her with open arms. Why do we give Ammon and Moav the cold shoulder, especially since they are our cousins (Lot’s grandsons)?
The Torah gives several reasons: when desert travelers in the Midbar, we asked them if we could travel through their lands, and they refused. They likewise refused to give us bread and water. Is that any way to treat family, the Torah seems to be asking? In fact, they went even further – they hired the evil prophet Bilam to curse us. But since cursing did not work, they caused us to sin with the women of their nation and bow to their idols, as Rashi points out. Those are some very good reasons to put an eternal ban on those people. But are they random? What is the relationship between these reasons?
The Dunbo Maggid offers a possible link between them. If Ammon and Moav had greeted us but claimed that they did not have enough money to spare us any bread and water, we could deal with that. But had they in fact said that, it would have been a blatant lie – after all, if they did not have enough money to give us bread and water, how were they able to afford Bilam’s services? Obviously, their priority from the start was to damage us. This, then, is why there is an eternal ban on Ammoni and Moavi conversions.
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