Ohr Sameach

Rabbi Y. Bertram

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Parshas Ki Tezeh

The Torah tells us in Devarim 23:4 that a man from the nations of Ammon and Moab cannot join the Jewish brotherhood.

However, not only may women from these nations join us, but also one of the most illustrious women to join our nation was none other than King David's ancestor Ruth.

The reason for excluding the males was they specifically refused to give the Jews bread and water while they were on their way out of Egypt.

The Ranban (Nachmanides) explains that the Torah pushes away these nations because they benefitted from Avraham's kindliness, that is his saving their common ancestors (parents: Lot and his daughters) from the destruction of Sodom. They paid back bad (no food or drink for the Israelites) for good (Avraham's lovingkindness).

The Ranban is telling us that, because these nations did not have any gratitude whatsowever, they could never join the club or be members of the tribe.

I once heard from Rabbi Avigdor Miller that he said that the first thing that a person has to do when he does Teshuva is have gratitude that he almost made it through yet another year. We should thank G-d for all the great meals, all the times we went to the bathroom without problems, and- last, but not least, all the times we went on the subway and made it home to Brooklyn in one piece.

The Ramban stresses in Devarim 8:18 "if you think 'my power and the might of my hand has gotten me this wealth (good fortune/mazel)you should remember G-d Who brought you forth from Egypt where you had no power or might at all. You should further remember that He provided all your needs for you in the wilderness, where it was impossible for you to survive. If so, the wealth and all of the other goodies of life (health, children, nachas) you have now, it is G-d who gave it to you." And if you forget G-d, G-d will take the goodies away (or in simple Brooklynnese, you won't derive any pleasure from them). So, Jewish brothers and sisters don't need atttitude, but GRATITUDE.

The Torah tells us in 23:8 that we may not reject Edomites...and Egyptians because we were sojourners in the Land of Egypt. Rashi explains that even though the Eqyptians afflicted and even killed the Israelites, nevertheless, we had a roof over our heads in troubled times. Consequently, we Jews owe them a debt of gratitude for allowing us to live there (despite their self-interest in having us there as slaves). This shows how terribly important gratitude is. It is not only important to show gratitude for the sake of others, but also essential for our own well-being. We know that only those who are thankful are able to be fulfilled and happy individuals. As the Mishna says, "who is a wealthy person, the one who is contented with his lot."

Torah Blessings,

Y. Bertram


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