Parsha Encounters



Parshas Ki Seitze

The Torah Personality

Rabbi Avi Weinrib

This week's parsha offers us an important insight into the obligation that we all have to show proper hakaras hatov (appreciation of good). Rather than being just another good character trait that we should strive toward, recognizing and appreciating the good that we receive is one of the most fundamental obligations of being a human being.

We read in the parsha, "An Ammonite or Moabite shall not enter the congregation of Hashem, even their tenth generation shall not enter the congregation of Hashem, to eternity; 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 Bilam son of Beor... to curse you."

Amazingly, the verse seems to equate the misdemeanor of the Ammonites, who failed to offer the B'nei Yisroel bread and water to the heinous crime of the Moabites who hired a sorcerer to curse and eventually annihilate the nation. In fact, by recording the Ammonite offense first, it would seem that the Torah views their misconduct as the more severe of the two.

The Ramban explains that the wrongdoing of the Ammonites was that they failed to show proper hakaras hatov to the Jewish Nation. The Ammonites and Moabites were the indirect recipients of the chesed of Avraham Avinu, as it was Avraham who redeemed Lot and his daughters (the parents of the original Ammon and Moav) from captivity and it was in the merit of Avraham that Lot and his daughters were saved from the destruction of S'dom. As a result the Ammonites and Moabites had a basic obligation of hakaras hatov towards B'nei Yisroel. Whereas the Moabites and the B'nei Esav went beyond their borders to bring them bread and water, once they heard that the B'nei Yisroel were not allowed to inflict stress upon them, the Amonites refused to do so. (Incidentally, the Ramban explains why the prohibition to marry an Ammonite does not apply to an Ammonite woman. It was not the way of the land for women to go out and bring water and bread to passersby , therefore, it was only the men who displayed a lack of hakaras hatov by refraining from doing so).

This Ramban affords us several insights into this concept of hakaras hatov. Firstly, it applies to all of mankind, Jews and non-Jews alike. Secondly, the obligation to show hakaras hatov does not only fall upon those who directly received the particular "good" but even on their offspring who were only indirect recipients- the Ammonites themselves had never been on the receiving end of Avraham's kindness. Likewise, the obligation is not only toward the actual perpetrator of the original "good" but even to their offspring- these individual Jews in the desert never did anything for the Ammonites. And thirdly, the obligation of the recipient of the "good" to show hakaras hatov exists regardless of there being a need on the part of the good-doer to receive the hakaras hatov. The Midrash points out that B'nei Yisroel would not have even profited from the water and bread of the Ammonites as they received a constant supply of manna from Heaven and water from the miraculous well. Nonetheless, the fact the B'nei Yisroel had no need for their donations in no way absolved the Ammonites from their obligation to properly recognize the good that was done to them. The Midrash finishes with a frightening observation, "If this is the punishment for those who did not reciprocate kindness toward those that were not in need of the reciprocal kindness, how much worse is it for the one who fails to reciprocate kindness toward one who is in need of the kindness."

A few verses later the Torah tells us that we are not allowed to abhor an Egyptian because we were a sojourner in his land. Rashi explains that although they tossed our males into the Nile and oppressed us terribly, since they offered us a place to live in our time of need, when there was famine in Eretz Canaan, we are obligated to show them hakaras hatov. The perpetrator of good must always be recognized and subsequent evil by the erstwhile benefactor does not cancel out the original obligation. Furthermore, the obligation of hakaras hatov exists even when the one doing the good had purely selfish motivations- the Egyptians only had a selfish incentive to invite the family of Yaakov to dwell in their land.

Throughout Elul, as we approach Yom Hadin, let us all commit ourselves to appreciating both Hashem and those around us for the continual good that we receive- evening, morning and afternoon.

Rabbi Begoun, a recent addition to the Kollel's morning seder, is the Director of Outreach for the Komimiyus North Shore Torah Center.

Halacha Encounters

Buying From Your Brother

Rabbi Avi Weinrib

When contemplating the purchase an item many factors are taken into consideration.  The price, quality and return policies are all factors we consider before making a purchase. The Torah teaches us an additional component to be considered.  Who is the owner of the shop where one wishes to shop? Is it one of our fellow brothers or not?  In this week's Halacha Encounters we will discuss the mitzvah of supporting our fellow Jews when buying or selling items.

The posuk[1] states . When you make a sale to your fellow or make a purchase from the hand of your fellow." The Toras Kohanim on this posuk teaches that when one is selling or buying an item, priority should be given to one from his nation.  The interesting aspect of this halacha is that although Rashi on the posuk quotes the Toras Kohanim, neither Rambam or the Shulchan Aruch make any mention of it.  However, the poskim including the Rema[2] and Mishna Brura[3] mention it and accept this halacha at face value.


The question arises when there is a price difference: Is one required to purchase from a Jew?  Additionally, if one can get a better price when selling an item to a non-Jew, may he do so?  Is there still a requirement to give preference to one's fellow Jew?  The Rema[4] writes that preference is given even when there is a price difference.  The Chofetz Chaim[5] qualifies this and rules that the halacha applies only when there is a small difference in price. In regard as to what is considered a "small" difference there is no clear guideline in the poskim. It would seem to depend on one's financial situation and the size of the purchase.[6]  If one is buying many items and the small difference on each item adds up to a larger difference, we no longer consider this a small difference.  The Chofetz Chaim[7] adds that this only applies to items with no set market value.  In such a case, even though one can buy from a non-Jew for slightly less, he should nonetheless give preference to his fellow brother.  However, if an item has a set market value and the Jew is charging above the price, or when selling an item and the Jew wants to pay below the market value, one is not required to give preference to the Jew.  One should note, however, that even when the price difference is more than a small amount, even though he is not required to give preference to the Jew, if one does he fulfills a positive Torah commandment.


The Gemara[8] tells us that the same halacha applies when one is lending money.  He should give preference to his fellow Jew.  The Chofetz Chaim[9] adds that if one is renting an item, the same halacha applies.


The Agudah[10] writes that when the Gemara tells us that one should give preference in his loans to a Jew this would only apply if they are equally trystworthy.  However, if one has a reason not to trust the Jew, he is not required to lend him money.  The Poskim[11] rule based on this, that the same would apply if the non-Jew would have a better warranty or service policy on the product.  Obviously, if the product was of a better quality one would not be required to give preference to the Jew.


R' Moshe Shternbuch Shlita writes that this halacha would only apply when choosing a store for frequent purchases or when purchasing a large item. On infrequent, small purchases this halacha would not apply.


The Maharam Shik[12] writes this even though regarding the price if there is a substantial difference this halacha does not apply, this would not be the case if it is only a matter of it being more difficult to purchase from the Jew.  The poskim[13] write that if the Jewish store is slightly further than the non-Jew's, one should still travel the extra distance.


The Maharam Shik[14] also writes that this only applies to retail purchases.  However, regarding wholesale purchases, one can go with the better price regardless of who is selling it.  This is because in all such purchases, one's business depends on getting the best price.

On a final note, one should be aware that in any situation where a Jew is in need of support of his business, there is an additional mitzvah of tzedakah to purchase from him.  The Rambam[15] writes that this is the highest level of tzedakah- to help keep a Jew on his feet before he has to come to others for help.

Rabbi Weinrib is a full time member of the Kollel and frequent contributor to Halacha Encounters.

[1] Vayikra 25:14 

[2] Teshuvos Rema, Siman 10

[3] Shor Harziyon 648-76, See also Ahavas Chesed 5-6

[4] Teshuvos Rema, Siman 10

[5] Ahavas Chesed 5-7

[6] R' Fuerst Shlita Quoting Dayan Fisher zt"l and yb"lch Hagaon R' Elyashav Shlita, R' Dovid Cohen Shlita

[7] Ahavas Chesed 5, Footnote 12

[8] Baba Metzia 71a

[9] Ahavas Chesed 5-6

[10] Baba Metzia 71a

[11] See Journal Kol Torah Choveres 42, page 301

[12] Choshen Mishpat, Teshuva 31

[13] Journal Kol Torah ibid

[14] ibid

[15] Hilchos Matnas Aniyim 10-


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