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.