An Amoni or a Moavi shall not enter into the assembly of the LORD… because they met you not with bread and with water in the way, when ye came forth out of Egypt; and because they hired against thee Balaam the son of Beor from Pethor of Aram-Naharaim, to curse thee. (Devarim 23:4-5)
The Torah tells us that we should look at certain nations in a negative light because they did not treat Klal Yisrael properly.
Neither an Amoni nor a Moavi can come into Klal Yisrael because they did not do chesed to greet us with bread and water – the bare minimum of hospitality. The Torah continues with another reason – because they hired the wicked Bilaam to curse us out of existence. The Dubno Magid asks why are there two reasons? The fact that they hated us to the point that they wanted us obliterated from the world seems a sufficient reason on its own. Why does the Torah bother to tell us about a seemingly inconsequential reason (the lack of hospitality) in order to explain why they can never become part of our nation?
If I recall correctly, there are those who answer that Chazal say that the descendants of Avraham Avinu must be ones who actively do chesed. Since these two nations showed that they did not have any inclination to do chesed, they simply don’t have the genes to fit into Klal Yisrael. The fact that they wanted to kill us showed no ‘genetic flaw’ in them, as this is normal of anyone wanting to protect their land.
However, the Dubno Magid explains this differently. Sometimes a person does not do chesed and we may look at him negatively, but we are unaware of the fact that it was not actually in his power to do the chesed. He relates the following tale. A rich man went to the Rosh Yeshiva and asked him for a student with good middos to be his daughter’s husband. The Rosh Yeshiva suggested a student who was accepted by the rich man, and the couple was married. On the first day of their new marriage, the rich man’s daughter served her new husband moldy bread and borscht. This man was a picky eater, but had good character traits, so he only ate a minimum of food. The father-in-law soon learned that his son-in-law was not eating the food his daughter prepared, so he hired two “thugs” to stand next to his son-in-law each morning to ensure that he ate all the food on his plate – or else! At the first opportunity, this young man ran back to yeshiva, told his Rosh yeshiva what was happening, and asked for “asylum”! The rich man came storming into the yeshiva, demanding that his son-in-law be given over to him. The Rosh Yeshiva asked him “Why are you treating your son-in-law so poorly?” The rich man answered, “I do not have enough money to give him better food.” The Rosh yeshiva countered “Money for better food you don’t have, but money for two ‘thugs’ you do have?” Says the Dubno Maggid: It could have been that Amnon and Moab did not offer us hospitality simply because they did not have sufficient funds to buy bread and water. But when we see that they had money to hire the wicked Bilaam, their own wickedness became apparent.
As the Days of Judgement approach, I think that this story is something we should keep in mind. Sometimes a mitzvah may come our way, and we will deflect it saying “I don’t have time or money to be involved in this mitzvah.” Yet, when it comes to going on an elaborate vacation, or buying fancy items, and sometimes spending the time to research those desires, we seem to find both the money and the time.
At this time when we make a cheshbon hanefesh, we should make sure that our checks and cross checks are well-balanced.