Ki Tetze: Spiritual Death – Worse Than Physical Death

There is an interesting halacha concerning which nations are permitted to marry into the Jewish People after individuals from these nations convert. The offspring of converts from the nations Edom and Egypt are permitted to marry into the Jewish nation after three generations. On the other hand, the offspring of Moabite or Ammonite (male) converts may never marry into the Jewish People. That’s right. The Egyptians who tried to drown all of the children of Israel and who caused us terrible suffering, and the Edomites who blocked our way in Horeb when we only asked to pass through their land are allowed to marry into the nation of Israel. However the Ammonites and Moabites whose sin was a passive one – that they did not offer us bread and water, are never allowed to marry into the nation of Israel. A topsy turvy world!

Something deeper must be going on here to cause this severe ostracization. Indeed, the midrash (Sifri, Bamidbar Raba, and brought down by Rashi) clarifies the issue: “The Ammonites and Moabites, since they looked for ways to cause Israel to sin were banished by the Torah forever. This teaches us that causing someone to sin is worse than killing him – since killing someone does not remove him from both this world and the next world, while causing someone to sin removes him both from this world and the next world.” The commentator Kli Hayakar also explains that “not offering you bread and water” was part of the overall plan which Bilam had suggested to Ammon and Moab in order to corrupt Israel. Due to their hunger, Israel went out and ate from the alters of the idols of Moab, and the daughters of Moab gave them wine and seduced them on the condition that they worship their idols first. Bilam understood that if they can cause Israel to sin, this would be the true blow, since sin is more fatal than physical death. By the way, this blow was actualized in this world as well, with the falling of 24,000 Jews.

A striking example of this concept is presented in our parasha in the unprecedented case of the “rebellious son” – the young man who has stolen relatively little from his father, and must be stoned. The rabbis explain there that is a message to be learned here: “The rebellious son is punished for what he is going to become – the Torah knows where he is leading – he will eventually wipe out his father’s property…stand on the roads and rob people. The Torah states: Let him die innocent and not guilty”. Obviously “being killed for what you are going to become” is not the general rule in our Torah, since normally a person is punished for his deeds as they stand at present. Yet the Torah give us here a commandant which according to one opinion in the Talmud, “never was and never will be”, in order to teach us an idea. “Then why is it written? To learn it and receive reward.” The meaning here is that even if the conditions for the rebellious son episode can never be met, one can still learn the essential lesson from it. And what is that idea? That death is better than a life with no direction and laden with sin. In Judaism, life is a means and not an end in and of itself. Without a rason detre, or a real purpose, there is no reason for life.

So what do we see? For the modern day hellenists who believe in foreign western culture, the idea of “causing one to sin is worse than killing him” is a denial of the essence of their beliefs. For them, “the sanctity of life”, this hypocritical Christian idea, is above all else. For this reason we find amongst them those who are against the death penalty for even the most heinous of criminals (such as the “humanists who protested against the hanging of Eichman). The deeper reason for this is that they do not accept the notion of “sin” as something objective. What is for you a “sin” may be for me a “mitzvah”. What today is considered criminal may be considered tomorrow the norm. If there is no G-d, and good and evil is determined by the ever changing values of man, than not only is life meaningless and “hefker”, but it must be “sanctified” by the hypocrites over all other values.

But we have a G-d who determined what is good and evil thousands of years ago. This has not changed one iota to this day. Therefore, we are commanded to remember and never forget the two nations who caused our fathers to sin gravely more than 3,500 years ago, and we hold them in contempt still today.

We cannot conclude a discussion of this topic without mentioning the most striking example of, “it is worth to cause one to sin than to kill him” in our generation. It is an example we must “remember and don’t forget” (an expression used for Amalek). We are speaking of the intentional and methodical spiritual destruction which took place 50 years ago against the Sephardic Jews by Ben-Gurion and “Mapai”, in order to prevent the young nation from becoming a majority of religious Jews. There is nothing which can undo this sin which according to the sages is worse than a physical holocaust. We are still eating from the spoiled fruits of this systematic de-Judaiazation of the Sephardic Jew. These Jews were ripped away from the Shabbat, family purity, and all the Jewish ritual which had kept them spiritually pure during 2,000 years of exile. In it’s place, they were fed the values of Dizengorf Street. Remember, and never forget!

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