Israel Forever

For the week ending 6 September 2003 / 9 Elul 5763

The Real Threat

by Rabbi Mendel Weinbach zt'l
The Color of HeavenArtscroll

What is the real danger to the existence of the Jewish People?

Most people will respond to this question with frightening terms such as Palestinian terror, Iranian nuclear ability or international anti-Semitism.

Some passages in this weeks Torah reading offer us a different perspective.

Male converts to Judaism from the nations of Ammon and Moab are severely limited in their right to marriage within the nation they joined because of the role of their ancestors in subverting our ancestors to sexual immorality and idol worship. The only other nations subject to such limitations are the Edomites and the Egyptians. But the limitation in their cases extend only to the first two generations of converts.

In his commentary, Rashi cites the lesson which our Talmudic Sages drew from this comparison. The Edomites threatened our ancestors with war when they passed by their border on the way to Eretz Yisrael, and the Egyptians cast Hebrew children into the river. Their crimes were heinous but did not pose the threat to survival which the others did with their spiritual subversion.

"This teaches you," is how our Sages put it, "that one who causes another to sin does him more harm than one who kills him, for the slayer deprives him of life in this world while the subverter causes him to lose both this world and the world to come."

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