Why can't an Ammonite or Moabite be allowed to enter Am Yisrael for eternity?

Just how basic is 'hakarat hatov,' refraining from being an ingrate, in Judaism - and why?

Danny Ginsbourg ,

Danny Ginsbourg
Danny Ginsbourg

We read in Dvarim (23:4) "’An Ammonite or Moabite shall not enter the congregation of Hashem to eternity, because they did not greet you with bread and with water on the road when you were leaving Egypt."

The Ramban expounds:

’These two nations were the beneficiaries of Avraham Avinu’s chesed.

‘He saved their father, Lot, and their mother, from captivity, AND only in the merit of Avraham, were they saved from the destruction of S’dom.

‘They were therefore obligated to do good for Avraham’s sons, yet they repaid good with bad’.

Rav Elyah Lopian, the Mussar master, derives a יסוד נורא: ‘an awesome foundation’ from their punishment:

’How far-reaching is the obligation of הכרת הטוב: gratitude, that, although hundreds of years had elapsed-ten generations- since Avraham Avinu’s chesed to their forefather, the Torah teaches that these descendants were obligated to be grateful - and their failure to do so, made them unworthy to EVER enter Am Israel, ‘Hashem’s Nation’’.

‘Could they not be ‘excused, if they were to argue that, due to the lapse of time, Avraham’s favours to their forefather had not been made known to them?

‘NO! This would be both a great indictment on all their earlier generations, if they did not transmit the knowledge of these acts of chesed, to their forefather.

‘AND, in addition, it is a measure of their own total lack of הכרת הטוב. If they were not told, they should have enquired, and persisted, to know their history, and who had been responsible for their very existence.

‘This, in itself, is the most telling ראיה: indication, of their total lack of the attribute of הכרת הטוב, that they showed a total lack of interest as to who had done chesed to their ancestors, to enable their very
Could they not be ‘excused, if they were to argue that, due to the lapse of time, the halakha should be abrogated?
existence- and therefore, their singular punishment: never to become part of the nation of Avraham Avinu, the very ‘reason‘ for their being’.

And, if these two nations were blissfully unaware of their own history, should have taken note of the fate of the ‘original’ כפוי טוב: ingrate: Adam Harishon (the first)..

Rav Yehuda Kupperman comments:’Our Sages teach that Adam Harishon was banished from his idyllic place in Gan Eden- and, despite his sincere תשובה, was not allowed to return there, because of his ingratitude towards Hashem, saying:’The woman You Hashem gave with me, was the cause of my transgression- therefore, you Hashem, are ‘responsible’ for the transgression!’‘.

Rav Avigdor Nebenzahl, whilst also noting their lack of הכרת הטוב, sees a more fundamental character defect in their actions, which precludes them from EVER becoming a part of ‘Hashem’s Nation’- their total lack of chesed’.

WHY is this so critical?’Because, as best as we can comprehend this wondrous matter, Hashem created this world, and all in it, because of His wish להטיב לזולתו: to do good to others.

‘He created man so that there would be the ‘required’ objects for His benevolence.

‘The more that a person engages in chesed, the more, כביכול, he ‘is like’ His creator; conversely, the further that he is from this attribute, ‘the less‘ he has of the ‘spark of G-dliness’.

‘These two nations, who showed a total lack of even the smallest trace of חסד, had, therefore distanced themselves תכלית הריחוק : the greatest distancing, from Hashem- they could therefore NEVER be a part of ‘Hashem’s Nation’.

A parting thought : We read in Mishlei (27:21) that:’A refining pot is for silver, a crucible for gold, ואיש כפי מהללו: and man, according to his praise’.

Rav Lopian interprets the verse homiletically:’Just as the purity of these metals is determined by these processes, so too the ‘purity’ of a man, is determined by his level of הכרת הטוב: to thank, and praise, those who have performed acts of חסד, fo him’.