Whereas certain other nations are allowed to marry into Judaism (if they have converted) after a certain number of generations, when it comes to men from Amon and Mo’av descent, the Torah rules that no such people are ever allowed to marry Jews (23:4). Why are they given such harsh treatment? The pasuk (23:5) tells us that this ban is due to the fact that they hired Bilam to try and curse us, as well as the fact that they did not allow us to pass through their land to go to Eretz Yisrael; they did not greet us with food and drink. But why does this mean that they get harsher treatment than the Egyptians, for example, who can join our ranks after three generations? The Ramban (23:5) explains that these two nations (Amon and Mo’av) were expected to act kindly to us. For generations ago Avraham Avinu saved Lot (the father of both these nations) from captivity, and as such these two nations should have been grateful to us and should have aided us. But since they spurned Avraham’s kindness and exhibited a lack of gratitude, they showed themselves unworthy of joining the Jewish ranks - for a Jew’s life revolves around gratitude. The first word of the day we say is thanks (modeh), and the word yehudim comes from the word hoda’ah, which means to thank. Indeed, such is the centrality of this trait of gratitude, that the reason the Torah gives for eventually allowing Egyptians to join the Jewish fold is because (23:8) we were hosted in their land. Yes, they treated us harshly for two centuries, but (before that) they hosted us in their land and provided us with food when famine had hit Eretz Yisrael. Even for this we are to show a degree of gratitude.




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