by Stephen Kirschenbaum
There are an unusual amount of Mitzvos transmitted in this week’s Parsha. In 23:4, the Chumash teaches ‘Lo Yavo Amoni U’Moavi Bi’kahal Hashem.’ An Amoni and a Moavi are not allowed to marry into Klal Yisrael even when they are Megayeir. Of course, the most famous Drasha of this whole section of the Parsha is Amoni V’lo Amonis, Moavi V’lo Moavis. In other words, when the Torah forbids a Jew from marrying a Ger from Amon and Moav that is only with regard to a male. An Amonis or a Moavis is permitted.
The Gemara Yevamos 76b asks אלא מעתה ממזר ולא ממזרת or why not מצרי ולא מצרית? What is going on — if the male expression excludes the female, so the answer should be to only marry a Mamzer and not a Mamzeres, only a Mitzri and not a Mitzris. We know the male tense is used for the universal context even when referring to men and women together. So why Darshun Amoni and Moavi to exclude a female from that nation and not the same with other Issurim?
The Gemara answers that normally if it says a male Mamzer or Mitzri, it includes everybody. However, where there is a reason to draw a distinction, when an Amoni and Moavi are excluded from marrying into Klal Yisrael it’s teaching us a specific reason because they did not come out and greet you with food and drink. Since it is not their Derech to go out, therefore, only the men are punished. So, if it says a male language which can be interpreted for both, then it’s interpreted for both unless we have some compelling reason to make that distinction.
Rav Moshe in the Darash Moshe asks what’s going on here? מואבי ולא מואבית, why? Because Kol Kevudah Penimah, because it’s not their Derech to go out? The Amoni women and Moavi women were Perutzos, they caused a lot of difficulties over the course of time. They tried to entice Klal Yisrael. What kind of Kol Kevudah Penimah? They are not exactly the paradigm of Tzniyus?
Rav Moshe answers with a Yesod that’s applicable to many aspects of life. There’s a difference between two people that commit the same Aveira and make the same mistake. Meaning, you can have one person who makes a mistake and transgresses an Aveira because he succumbs to a particular Taava. He has a desire for money, for honor, he has a lust, he does things because of that desire. You have another person who commits the same transgression, but he makes a Shitta out of it. He says the Torah’s prohibition doesn’t apply nowadays, or the Torah doesn’t mean this in this situation. Whatever the rationale is, he makes a Shitta out of it.
Says Rav Moshe, it’s Aino Domeh. Someone who sins because he is a Perutza, because of a particular Taava, there is hope for him. He understands he shouldn’t do it, but he did; he will do Teshuva. However, it’s different when someone else commits the same Aveira because it’s his Shitta; for him, it’s his right to do it and he isn’t wrong. Amaleik sins not because of Taava, but because it’s their Shitta; they are totally excluded. However, those who sin, the Amonim and Moavim, the women who sinned because of Tai’va, for them there’s still hope.
Rav Moshe writes a similar thing in one of his Teshuvos that a conservative temple, even if it has a Mechitza down the middle and men and women sit separately, it’s still not considered a Beis HaKnesses. If their Shitta is a conservative Shitta and they don’t hold that Torah is MiSinai, so in the words of Mori V’Rabi, ‘goodbye Charley.’
What about the reverse, where an Orthodox Shul doesn’t have Mechitza but considers itself Orthodox? Says Rav Moshe, one should try not to pray there when there are women without a Mechitza but the Shul itself is still considered a Shul.
Says Rav Moshe, there’s a difference when it’s a Shitta. We exclude those who act B’Shitta. Those who have a Taava, the Torah is Megaleh to us that Amoni and Moavi women when they sinned, they were enticed to sin, but it wasn’t a Shitta. Fundamentally, they had a Shitta of Kol Kevudah Penimah, they had a Shitta of modesty. Therefore, they aren’t punished for not coming out and greeting Klal Yisrael. They committed Aveiros, but it’s an entirely different Cheshbon.
Somebody once asked the Chazon Ish why he’s against some people who claim to be ‘middle of the road’ Jews that don’t observe all the Mitzvos HaTorah. The Chazon Ish answered there are always those that are partially and not fully committed; there’s a wide range of Jews within Klal Yisrael. But when you go and make a Shitta of being mediocre, when you make a Shitta of being partially observant, that’s something else.
A group in Manhattan was in the process of starting a Shul and approached Rabbi Dr. Norman Lamm to endorse the newly formed Shul. The only catch was they wanted to be known as the Orthodox Shul that keeps all the Mitzvos except for one or two of them. Rabbi Dr. Lamm responded as Orthodox Jews, we do our best to observe all 613 Mitzvos of the Torah. Centrist Orthodoxy doesn’t mean we keep Mitzvos down the middle, 307 of them, but rather we observe all 613. A ‘Shul’ that B’Shitta doesn’t want to observe all 613 Mitzvos cannot be considered an Orthodox Shul. Rabbi Dr. Lamm declined the endorsement.
Everyone has weaknesses, see it for what it is, a weakness. It’s natural for people to have a Yeitzer Hara, but Rav Moshe is saying it’s another level to make a Shitta out of it.