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Parshas Ki Saytzay - A Jew is A Jew is A Jew     12 Elul 5779

09/11/19 15:50:23


My Jewish identity has always been a source of attraction to others since the earliest times I can remember. As a child growing up in Borough Park (or Boro Park as spelled by the natives!) I was chased by the local non-Jews, forcing me to try to be inconspicuous and walk on the other side of the street. During my high school years I traveled to school on the NYC subway, passing through neighborhoods that were not safe for anyone, especially Jews. I was taunted at times or stared down; I preferred feigning sleep or to fake doing my schoolwork (that was easy to do because I always faked doing my homework throughout high school). Relocating six thousand miles to go to Yeshiva in Israel gave me a completely different sense of pride and joy of being Jewish. Please keep in mind this was in the early 1980’s before the Intifada was conceived. We traveled in taxis owned and driven by Arabs and I shared an entire taxi ride with my cousins (local Arabs), being the only Jew in the cab. Returning to America for me was a religious culture shock, acutely aware of our minority status - even in NY - amongst the gentile population. It only took one incident of a car slowing down to have a bunch of young anti-Semites yell a few obscenities and display some vulgar motions to remind me of where I was, back in the exile. To this day, some yelling of some kind of anti-Jew rhetoric is not uncommon. Since I’m older now and down’t hear as well, I feel less upset by these ‘happenings’, especially since I’m never certain that the rhetoric is directed at me.

Despite my awareness and memory of open anti-Semitic insults remains very clear, the level of attacks of verbal anti-Semitism has not been an issue for me, Baruch Hashem. In fact, over the years I’ve felt a decrease in anti-Semitic name calling. I have written about the many questions I receive about Judaism and religion while I am out and about at a park, mall, or shopping. The questions asked of me typically range from when/what the next holiday is to is how much that individual loves, admires, respects, etc. Israel. Sometimes I get lucky and missionaries actually try to convert me. Recently, I was in a public restroom in the airport and the following situation took place: I was in the bathroom washing my face, trying to refresh from a flight when I was approached by a non-Jew. I was asked point blank by this total stranger, “What is the difference between an orthodox Jew and a regular Jew?” The question took me by surprise, I thought, and I believe Hashem put the best words into my mouth. I paused, looked back at him and said, “Nothing. There is no difference between one Jew and another.” Of course, we know there are differences in the way Jews observe the Torah from everything to nothing, but we are all inherently the children of the same Avos, - the same Fathers - Avraham, Yitzchok and Yaakov. The thread that we all share are the middos, the character traits that are seen in our DNA. There are certain Middos that are only found in a Jew who is either born Jewish or someone who properly converts to Judaism. Part of the conversion is converting the DNA to Jewish traits of Middos tovos. The Torah and Judaism allow for conversion to Judaism, some immediately, others after a few generations, and still some others who can never convert and become Jewish.


In this week’s parsha Ki Saytzay the Torah states in Devarim 23:4: "לא יבוא עמוני ומואבי בקהל השם, גם דור עשירי לא יבוא להם בקהל השם, עד עולם. על דבר אשר לא קדמו אתכם בלחם ובמים..." “ - ”An Ammonite or Moabite [*man] may not enter God’s marriage group. They may never enter God’s marriage group, even after the tenth generation. This is because they did not greet you with bread and water when you were on the way out of Egypt.” Abarbanel comments the Ammonites or Moabites did not give essentials even though Avraham Avinu showed special kindness to their ancestor Lot. Rav Eliyahu Lopian Zt”l elucidates that in dealing with the low life Amalekite where the Torah commands us to blot them out, nevertheless if they come to convert we accept them, but in contrast to children and offspring of Lot we do not accept converts. Regarding Amalek (which is found at the end of this week’s parsha) ,the Torah says “They did not fear God”, but if an Amalekite would accept upon himself the yoke of Torah and Mitzvos, then he would be fearful and in awe of Hashem and would be kasher and acceptable, as is the case regarding any other gentile from any other nation. But Amon and Moav had bad middos; they were destructive and denied and or did not recognize the good that had been done for them. Therefore, they will never be accepted into the Jewish fold and can not convert to Judaism. No exceptions, even to the tenth generation. Amon and Moav can never join the congregation of Hashem, forever.

Is the real reason we don’t accept the Moabites and Amonites into the fold because they didn’t feed us? Maybe we should judge them favorably and give them the benefit of the doubt. Perhaps they lacked the resources necessary to feed and sustain us. If they were a poor people, they would not have had enough bread and water to sustain to an entire nation. Reb Yonason Eybeshutz explains the reason we don’t accept them has nothing to do with food. This eternal denial of acceptance is due to the second part of the verse when the Torah states that they hired the non-Jewish prophet Bilaam to curse the Jews. It was the hatred they displayed by trying to curse us, to deny us any possibility for a future. Obviously, they would not offer us bread and water. We understand the wickedness of their intent; we will not judge them favorably because we know the core reason they refused us bread and water was due to their hatred of us. Someone who hates a people will not and should not deserve to become a part of that nation.

Am Yisral, time and time again throughout our history, has mobilized its forces and unified its energy to help out a Jew no matter who that person may be, anywhere across the globe. We are one body and one soul and at the core there really are no differences when we strip away and peel off the layers of black, white and all colors in between. Nevertheless, even though subconsciously and intellectually every Jew knows and feels this way, our emotions sometime get in the way, keeping us from demonstrating the kinship that we ultimately share. This Elul is the time to look beyond the surface of our differences and see the core of each Neshama, how every one of us comes from the same source. As we see Am Yisrael as an Am Echad, Blev Echad, Hashem, our father in heaven, will look down upon His children with mercy - as a father shows upon his children. Elul is about not about repairing, it’s about recognizing our similarities and looking beyond our differences and it’s about showing the world there is no difference between Jews!

Ah Gut Shabbos

Rabbi Avraham Bogopulsky


*Ammonite or Moabite man but not woman (Yevamos 69a) See Ruth 1:4, 4:13

Sun, May 24 2020 1 Sivan 5780