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The Systems of the Jewish Year

Jewish Vision

By Rabbi Yaacov Haber

As a people we have suffered greatly in the hands of a long list of oppressors. Of the worst were the Egyptians who enslaved us, persecuted us and drowned our children. The Edomites massacred us. Yet, all of our oppressors can become Jewish. There are very few exceptions. We accept any sincere convert with open arms. However, the nations of Amon and Moav can not become Jewish. Why not? “… because they did not greet you with bread and water on the road when you were leaving Egypt, and because they hired Bilaam to curse you” (Devarim 23:4-5) They can never become Jewish! How can a lack of hospitality be worse than killing us and drowning our children?

The Ramban z"l explains that one must understand this in its historical context. Avraham Avinu risked his life to save Lot and his wife from the four kings. Lot was the Patriarch of the nations of Ammon and Moab. Therefore, these nations owed their very existence to Avraham Avinu and his descendants. They should have expressed their gratitude to the Jewish people and performed acts of kindness for them. Instead, they responded with evil. Because of this, even their descendants are not permitted to marry into our nation or convert to Judaism.

I do not believe this was a punishment. If we were punishing nations the Egyptians would have come first. It’s just that without the ability to appreciate an act of goodness that was done for you and without the ability to see and remember the positive in other people it is impossible to be part of the Jewish community.

The inability to recognize goodness will interfere with every aspect of Yiddishkeit. How can someone stay married without hakaros hatov? How can one do the mitzvah of honoring their parents if they are blinded to the good that was done for them from the time of their childhood? How can one bring out the greatness in their child if they can’t see their good? How can one be part of a community or have friends without good vision? How can one have a relationship with G-d if they can’t appreciate Him?

There are people in this world that have a knack for seeing the negative and the downside of every person, situation and place. There are people that even under duress somehow find the positive even where no one else can seem to find it. It is the person that can find the good that can practice Judaism.

As we start to wind down on the year 5768 we have to do some serious attitude checking. We have to ask ourselves some difficult questions. Do I find myself being critical more often than complimentary? When I meet someone new do I first take notice of his or her beautiful aspects or of their ugly parts? Am I able to say thank you easily or is it always a struggle?

In the Ten Commandments Hashem introduces Himself to us with a very compelling argument. “I am your G-d. I am the one that took you out of Egypt and put you on your feet.” G-d is saying; “I don’t need you to be philosophers or kabbalists, but I do need you to be able to show gratitude. If you can do this you can become my children. If you can see the good you can be a Jew.”

Dedicated by my friend Yankel Battalion in memory of his father Alter Dovid ben Yakov Mordechai Z”L.

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