Respect the Champion (Ki Tetze)
All right Mister, let me tell you what winning means… you’re willing to go longer, work harder, give more than anyone else. -Vince Lombardi
The Middle East is and has always been a tough neighborhood. Even before the birth of the Nation of Israel, the land of Canaan, the land-bridge of Eurasia and Africa, the route between the Egyptian and Mesopotamian empires, was home to incessant battles, wars, alliances, and rivalries.
After the Hebrew nation miraculously escapes the bondage of Egypt, they develop enemies almost immediately. Included amongst those enemies are their long-lost cousins, (descendants of Lot, who was the nephew of our patriarch Abraham), the nations of Ammon, and Moab.
The enmity between the Jewish people and the Ammonites and Moabites is such, that the Torah states that they are forever forbidden to join the Jewish people (the Rabbis have explained that the prohibition was just against their menfolk).
The Meshech Chochma on Deuteronomy 23:5 wonders as to the reasons given by the Torah which states:
“Because they did not meet you with food and water on your journey after you left Egypt, and because they hired Bilaam son of Beor, from Pethor of Aram-naharaim, to curse you.”
While one might understand the Moabite motivation to have the Jewish people cursed, but why is the Torah so incensed by the Ammonite and Moabite lack of hospitality? It’s one thing to attack, but another thing entirely not to be hospitable.
The Meshech Chochma states that these nations should have known better. They should have realized that the people who left Egypt, the mightiest empire in history up to that time, who left a land devastated by God and whose armed forces had been completely wiped out, was not a people to be trifled with. Not only were the Hebrews who left Egypt worthy of awe and respect, but that respect should have translated into an obsequiousness that should have included peace offerings of food and water.
Had these nations truly internalized that God was with the Jewish people, as the events of the time had unequivocally demonstrated, they would have sought peace and not war. It would have led to ongoing peace as opposed to generations of conflict.
May our current neighbors figure it out.
To the Arab countries that are seeking peace with Israel.