…a Moabite shall not enter into the congregation of Hashem…because of the fact that they did not greet you with bread and water on the road when you were leaving Egypt; and because he hired against you Bilaam the son of Beor of Pethor of Aram-naharaim, to curse you. (Devarim 23:4-5)

The Dubno Maggid asks the obvious question: Why does the Torah start off with a seemingly insignificant infraction (that they were not hospitable to you) and end off with something more severe (that they tried to curse you so that you would die). The Torah should just have stated the main reason (the curse). To answer this question, he tells the following story:

A rich man came to a Rosh Yeshiva looking for a husband for his daughter, promising that he would give the young man both room and board for his entire life. The Rosh Yeshiva picked a responsible and diligent young man; the shidduch was made and an ostentatious wedding was held. On the first morning after the wedding, the young man woke up to a breakfast of old herring, sour borscht and crusts of stale bread. Not being used to such coarse food, the young man only managed to pick at a few pieces of the meal. But being the baal bitachon that he was, he simply assumed that this must be his lot in life, and continued each day with a smile as he was served a similarly unpalatable meal by his wife.

As time passed, he lost weight and strength, and was barely able to function. His father-in-law inquired of his daughter “Why isn’t he eating?” and she responded that he had trouble eating this kind of food. The rich man said “I can take care of this problem” and hired two thugs at $100/day to beat the man if he didn’t eat the food. When the old herring and sour borscht were served the next morning, the thugs were there to make sure that the young man finished his food to the last crumb—and after a few punches his plate was clean. When the coast was “clear”, the young man ran away to his yeshiva to find a “safe-haven.” The Rosh Yeshiva took one look at him and inquired “What happened?!” The boy explained the difficult situation in which he found himself. A few days later the father-in-law came to the yeshiva to find his “lost” son-in-law. He found him learning happily amongst his friends in the Beis Medrash. He complained to the Rosh Yeshiva about the improper behavior of his son-in-law “I give him the best food that I can afford—which happens to be old herring, sour borscht and stale bread—and he runs away from my daughter!” To that the Rosh Yeshiva countered: “You seem to have $200/day to pay for thugs to beat him up. I think you have the money for better quality food, but you just don’t want to give it!”

Explains the Dubno Maggid: It could be that Moav did not give us bread and water because they could not afford it. If that was the case, we would have no complaints against them, and it would be permissible to marry them after they converted. However, being that they were willing to pay Bilam Ben Baor to curse them, even at an exorbitant price, we now understand that this was not a financial problem, but pure hatred towards the Jews.

Many times we are asked to give 50, 100 or even 200 shekels for a tzedakah, and we respond “I don’t have the means to do that.” Then comes vacation time and all of the sudden thousands of shekels appear for “needs” that we have: cruises on the ocean, tickets to waterparks. As Rosh Hashanah approaches, and we review in our minds our defense against the accusations of the accusing Angel, we may find ourselves in a position similar to that of the rich father-in-law, with claims of “I had no choice.” My advice is: Time has not yet run out! If we increase our tzedakah, tefilla and maasim tovim, we will be able to stand in front of HaKadosh Baruch Hu by showing that we really do have the right priorities, but we sometimes slip and sin.