Thursday, September 4, 2014

Thursday's Parsha Tidbits - Parshas Ki Seitzei

The following is a brief summary of some of the thoughts said over by R' Frand on the parsha this evening. I have attempted to reproduce these vorts to the best of my ability. Any perceived inconsistency is the result of my efforts to transcribe the shiur and should not be attributed to R' Frand.

In Devarim 23:4-7, the Torah mentions that the offspring of Ammon and Moab are not allowed to convert and marry into Israel. The Torah explains that the reason for the prohibition is that Ammon and Moab did not provide bread and water for the Jews while they were travelling in the desert. The Torah next states that the prohibition also applies because they (Moab) hired Bilaam to curse the Jews.

R' Frand asked - why is the concept of the failure to provide food and water mentioned along with the hiring of Bilaam? He drew the analogy of someone who robs a bank and parks the getaway car in a no parking zone. When the bank robber is arrested and indicted, is he charged with armed robbery and parking in a no parking zone? The parking violation is an afterthought. Why does the failure to give bread and water get mentioned with the hiring of Bilaam?

R' Frand answered by quoting R' Twersky who cited a series of mishnayos in Pirkei Avos (2:8-9) wherein R' Yochanan Ben Zakkai drew together his five students and asked them to identify the five top attributes which a person should have. The suggestions were - have a good eye, or good friends or good neighbors or the ability to see the future or having a good heart. R' Yochanan then asked the students what are bad qualities that a person should run from. Each of them said the opposite - bad eye, bad friends, etc. However R' Shimon who had said that the good quality was seeing the future, answered that the bad trait was to borrow money and not pay back.

Why is the trend broken --- R' Shimon's concepts were not opposites? R' Twersky answered that a person who sees the future is one who recognizes that when someone does good for you, you need to appreciate their goodness. If a person borrows money and does not repay it, he will start on the downward spiral because he rejects the goodness that others have done for him. The one who does not repay when he has the ability to do so can turn on his parents, spouse or society, because he has no cognizance of what was done for him.

This is why Ammon and Moab's prohibition of joining the Jewish people mentions both the food and water and Bilaam. These tribes had an obligation to recognize the good that was done for them by Avraham who saved their ancestor - Lot. Even though Avraham's act allowed them to be born, they were unwilling to sell the Jews water and bread in the desert. And because they were unable to recognize the good that was done for them by refusing to sell the bread and water, they continued down the negative track towards the Jews as they hired Bilaam to curse the Jews.

[Although R' Frand ended the vort at this point, I would like to add a thought that occurred to me. Perhaps this is also the reason that a Ben Sorrer U'Moreh (aka the rebellious son) is put to death. Earlier in the parsha it states that he is killed because he stole from his parents to buy meat and wine. The gemara asks - why is he killed before he has committed a capitol offense? The gemara answers that he is killed at this stage because he will commit more serious crimes and now he has not yet done so. I wonder if this is another recognition of the rejection of good - since the rebellious son does not recognize the good done for him by his parents, there is a clear and present danger that he will become a sociopath and do worse towards others].

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