Friday, July 16, 2021

rodef chessed

יְרוּשָׁלַ֥͏ִם הַבְּנוּיָ֑ה כְּ֝עִ֗יר שֶׁחֻבְּרָה־לָּ֥הּ יַחְדָּֽו׃   (Teh 122:3)   Forget Minneapolis and St Paul, it's Yerushalayim which is the original twin city.  Chazal tell us that there is a Yerushalayim upstairs in heaven that is connected with our Yerushalayim down here - chubrah lah yachdav.   

אֵיכָ֣ה יָשְׁבָ֣ה בָדָ֗ד  the navi cries out.  Yerushalayim is all alone and that link has been severed.  This is the churban that we still are trying to repair.  9 Av is all about restoring the connection between Yerushalayim shel matah and Yerushalayim shel maalah, between us and Hashem, between each other.  As Chazal also darshen on chubrah lah yachdav, Yerushalaim brought us together as chaveirim.  

Short of time again this week, but one thought on the parsha:

Moshe sent messengers to Sichon asking permission to pass through his land, adding that there will an economic benefit for Sichon, as Bnei Yisrael will purchase food and drink along the way (2:27-29):

 אֶעְבְּרָ֣ה בְאַרְצֶ֔ךָ בַּדֶּ֥רֶךְ בַּדֶּ֖רֶךְ אֵלֵ֑ךְ לֹ֥א אָס֖וּר יָמִ֥ין וּשְׂמֹֽאול׃

אֹ֣כֶל בַּכֶּ֤סֶף תַּשְׁבִּרֵ֙נִי֙ וְאָכַ֔לְתִּי וּמַ֛יִם בַּכֶּ֥סֶף תִּתֶּן־לִ֖י וְשָׁתִ֑יתִי רַ֖ק אֶעְבְּרָ֥ה בְרַגְלָֽי

 כַּאֲשֶׁ֨ר עָֽשׂוּ־לִ֜י בְּנֵ֣י עֵשָׂ֗ו הַיֹּֽשְׁבִים֙ בְּשֵׂעִ֔יר וְהַמּ֣וֹאָבִ֔ים הַיֹּשְׁבִ֖ים בְּעָ֑ר

Rashi comments: כאשר עשו לי בניא עשו – לא לעניין לעבור בארצם, אלא לעניין מכר אוכל ומים  Meaning, when the pasuk says, " the Bnei Eisav and Moav did," it's not talking about allowing BN"Y to cross their land, as we know from Bamidbar 20:21 that Edom did not grant permission for Bnei Yisrael to cross their territory, וַיְמָאֵ֣ן׀ אֱד֗וֹם נְתֹן֙ אֶת־יִשְׂרָאֵ֔ל עֲבֹ֖ר בִּגְבֻל֑וֹ  Rather, the phrase is referring to the purchase of supplies, which Eisav did offer to sell to the Jewish people.  Moshe was pointing out to Sichon that he can avail himself of that same opportunity to make $.

Maharal asks: our pasuk is speaking about Moav as well as Eisav.  How then can Rashi explain that it is referring to selling Bnei Yisrael food and drink when we read later in 23:5 that  לֹֽא־יָבֹ֧א עַמּוֹנִ֛י וּמוֹאָבִ֖י בִּקְהַ֣ל ה׳, that a convert from Amon and Moav may not intermarry into Bnei Yisrael because עַל־דְּבַ֞ר אֲשֶׁ֨ר לֹא־קִדְּמ֤וּ אֶתְכֶם֙ בַּלֶּ֣חֶם וּבַמַּ֔יִם בַּדֶּ֖רֶךְ בְּצֵאתְכֶ֣ם מִמִּצְרָ֑יִם וַאֲשֶׁר֩ שָׂכַ֨ר עָלֶ֜יךָ אֶת־בִּלְעָ֣ם בֶּן־בְּע֗וֹר מִפְּת֛וֹר אֲרַ֥ם נַהֲרַ֖יִם לְקַֽלְלֶֽךָּ׃ they did not offer us food when we can to their land?!

Maharal answers ain hachi nami, Moav did sell food to BN"Y just like the Bnei Eisav did.  However, לֹא־קִדְּמ֤וּ אֶתְכֶם֙ בַּלֶּ֣חֶם וּבַמַּ֔יִם.  They did not come out and **offer** the food and drink.  If you happened to wander into a Moabite store and found what you want on the shelves -- there for sure was no Walmart greeter at the door waiting to welcome Jews -- they would sell you what you needed.  If not, your loss.  They would not go out of their way to solicit business or offer to help.  (See Ramban on that pasuk who rejects this pshat, Chasam Sofer on our parsha, and the post here).

We see an amazing thing.  Amon and Moav are rejected for all eternity not because they had signs saying "No Jews or dogs allowed" in the windows of their stores, or because they refused to serve Jews in their restaurants or sell them supplies.  Amon and Moav are rejected for all eternity because even though they sold us supplies, fed us in their restaurants, etc., they did it begrudgingly.  

When you have an opportunity to do something for someone else -- and certainly in this case, when Amon and Moav stood to benefit financially -- and you drag your feet and show that you are not really interested, that's a crime.  

This reminds me of the gemara (Taanis 21) that tells us that Nachum Ish Gam Zu was blind, had his arms amputated, and his legs cut off because of the following incident: 

אָמְרוּ לוֹ תַּלְמִידָיו רַבִּי וְכִי מֵאַחַר שֶׁצַּדִּיק גָּמוּר אַתָּה לָמָה עָלְתָה לְךָ כָּךְ אָמַר לָהֶם בָּנַיי אֲנִי גָּרַמְתִּי לְעַצְמִי שֶׁפַּעַם אַחַת הָיִיתִי מְהַלֵּךְ בַּדֶּרֶךְ לְבֵית חָמִי וְהָיָה עִמִּי מַשּׂוֹי שְׁלֹשָׁה חֲמוֹרִים אֶחָד שֶׁל מַאֲכָל וְאֶחָד שֶׁל מִשְׁתֶּה וְאֶחָד שֶׁל מִינֵי מְגָדִים בָּא עָנִי אֶחָד וְעָמַד לִי בַּדֶּרֶךְ וְאָמַר לִי רַבִּי פַּרְנְסֵנִי אָמַרְתִּי לוֹ הַמְתֵּן עַד שֶׁאֶפְרוֹק מִן הַחֲמוֹר לֹא הִסְפַּקְתִּי לִפְרוֹק מִן הַחֲמוֹר עַד שֶׁיָּצְתָה נִשְׁמָתוֹ הָלַכְתִּי וְנָפַלְתִּי עַל פָּנָיו וְאָמַרְתִּי עֵינַי שֶׁלֹּא חָסוּ עַל עֵינֶיךָ יִסּוֹמוּ יָדַיי שֶׁלֹּא חָסוּ עַל יָדֶיךָ יִתְגַּדְּמוּ רַגְלַי שֶׁלֹּא חָסוּ עַל רַגְלֶיךָ יִתְקַטְּעוּ וְלֹא נִתְקָרְרָה דַּעְתִּי עַד שֶׁאָמַרְתִּי כׇּל גּוּפִי יְהֵא מָלֵא שְׁחִין אָמְרוּ לוֹ אוֹי לָנוּ שֶׁרְאִינוּךָ בְּכָךְ אָמַר לָהֶם אוֹי לִי אִם לֹא רְאִיתוּנִי בְּכָךְ

Of course there is no comparison between Amon and Moav's sin and Nachum Ish Gam Zu, but on the level Nachum was on, unloading the donkey first was on some infinitesimally small level a chisaron of אֲשֶׁ֨ר לֹא־קִדְּמ֤וּ , of foot dragging and not seizing the opportunity to do good the first moment it presented itself.

We are supposed to be "rodef tzedaka va'chessed." We have to run to do chassadim, not wait for them to come to us, and then only willy-nilly attend to them.  

Rashi says that Leah named her daugher Dinah because (Braishis 30:21) דנה בעצמה, אם זה זכר, לא תהא רחל אחותי כאחת השפחות, ונתפללה ונהפך לנקבה.  Dina is from the word din, which alludes to what was going through Leah's head when she thought about her pregnancy and what would happen if the child was a boy and her sister Rachel would be short changed in the number of shevatim that she would produce.  But who cares what was going through Leah's head?  At the end of the day, what matters is what Leah did.  It's like if a shul has an appeal, and a guy goes home and figures out that if he moves funds from this account to that account and can write off some stock loss and do some other accounting trick, he can donate 2x as much as he had planned.  The shul doesn't give him a big y'yasher koach for his accounting skill, they give him a big y'yasher koach for the check!  Dinah is the cheshbon, it's the accounting.  Why does that matter to be recorded for posterity?

R' Betzalel Rudinsky quoted b'shem R' Yosef Chaim Zonnenfeld that there are many women who if they were in Leah's shoes and already had a bunch of boys, would gladly agree if you asked them if they would take a girl instead for the sake of their sister's kavod.  This is not what makes Leah Imeinu special.  What makes Leah Imeinu special is that no one had to ask her.  What makes Leah Imeinu special is that she already thought of doing the right thing for her sister before Rachel or anyone approached her to ask for it.

That's the opposite of אֲשֶׁ֨ר לֹא־קִדְּמ֤וּ, of waiting to be approached.  That's what it means to be rodef chessed.


  1. That Maharal sets an impossible standard, and it strains credulity that an eternal stigma attaches to a nation because they didn't welcome the Jews with a smile.

    1. Perhaps. But remember that Amon and Moav only existed because their forefather, Lot, was saved in the zechus of Avraham Avinu. So perhaps you can to that their apparent lack of hakaras ha tov.

    2. Point taken. That makes all the difference. And it undermines R Chaim's general application of the concept.

    3. You are saying like the Ramban I referenced in the post:
      ורבים אמרו שהם לא קדמו אותם אבל ישראל קנו מהם. וזה הבל, כי די למחנה שימכרו להם כאשר ירצו לקנות. ועוד, כי ישראל לא באו בגבול מואב (שופטים י״א:י״ח), והמואבים הוציאו להם לחם ומים בכסף, והכתוב יספר שעשו המואבים כאשר עשו בני עשו, ולמה ירחיק המואבי לעולם בעבור זה, ולא יתעב בוא האדומי.

      The Maharal also emphasizes the contrast between Amon and Edom and uses that to paint Amon in a more negative light:

      ויש לומר, שהכתוב מדבר מהם, כי אדום באו למכור להם מים ומזון, והם לא ידעו שיש להם הכל, דאם לא כן, מה שאמר הכתוב על עמון ומואב (להלן כג, ה) ״על דבר אשר לא קדמו אתכם בלחם ובמים״, הא היה לישראל לחם ומים, אלא שהם לא ידעו, והיה להם להקדים.

    4. Got it. But Tal pointed out that the behavior of Amon/Moav was condemned only because their entire existence was owed to Avraham Avinu's saving their nations' founder. It is only because of that moral obligation that the Maharal can say that their failure to offer food was execrable. This undermines your general application of the Maharal's condemnation of Amon's callous behavior.

  2. >>>the behavior of Amon/Moav was condemned only because their entire existence was owed to Avraham Avinu's saving their nations' founder.

    That's a nice theory, but it doesn't say it in the text, and the Maharal doesn't say it. Ramban introduces the idea only because he is not satisfied with the Maharal.