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    Ki Seitzei: Things Are Different Now

    How long must you be grateful to someone who was kind to you?

    An Amoni is forbidden to marry a Jewish woman even if he would

    convert. When Klal Yisrael was trudging through the midbar, the

    Amonim refused them bread and water even after they were offered

    payment (Ki Seitzei 23:4-5). The Amonim were descendants

    of Lot who was a beneficiary of Avraham’s devotion, generosity

    and kindness. Their lack of gratitude demonstrates a serious ingrained

    character flaw which has no place in Bnei Yisrael.

    “Do not despise a Mitzri, since you were an immigrant in his land”

    (Ki Seitzei 23:8). The Mitzriyim threw the male Jewish infants into

    the river. Why is hatred an inappropriate reaction? When Bnei

    Yisrael needed sanctuary during the famine, Mitzrayim provided

    a haven for them and a place to live (Rashi Ki Seitzei 23:8).

    What about the years of slavery and torture? Regarding the slavery,

    one could say that it was decreed from Above that the Mitzriyim

    enslave them. As Hashem told Avraham, “Your offspring shall

    be foreigners in a land not their own where they will be enslaved

    and oppressed” (Lech Lecha 15:13). However, the Torah doesn’t

    outline the formula for oppression. Drowning the children was

    strictly a manifestation of the cruelty and evil of Mitzrayim (Ksav

    Sofer). Nevertheless, the Torah says do not despise the Mitzriyim.

    How do we understand this? Granted, when the entire area was

    in the grip of famine, Mitzrayim provided a home for Bnei Yisrael,

    but later Mitzrayim was vicious. They tried to annihilate us.

    Their goodness was replaced with evil. Certainly we recognize

    kindness, but now there is an entirely new attitude! Shouldn’t we

    look at the present relationship with Mitzrayim and respond to

    that? Not only that – we can question Mitzrayim’s motives at the

    time that they helped us! The new arrivals were the family of Yosef

    who was responsible for Mitzrayim’s success and prosperity.

    Mitzrayim owed Yosef a great debt, and they wanted to maintain

    his allegiance.

    The Torah perspective is that the gratitude does

    not fade and disappear over time; rather, the

    obligation spans generations. From the Torah’s

    dealing with Ammon, we see that gratefulness

    must not be forgotten. From the dealings with

    Mitzrayim, we learn that even if we suffer from

    the same hands that provided kindness, we

    must still recognize the good we received. History is reality and

    fact. To be people who are makir tov, means that the goodness

    we received has an impact upon us for which we remain eternally

    grateful. Others’ motivation or subsequent evil does not mitigate

    our obligation to be grateful for the good. The Torah offers a prescription

    for a person who has committed an evil travesty: Seek

    atonement and be prepared for penalties. Indeed, Mitzrayim was

    made to suffer as punishment for her cruelty. Nevertheless, each

    kindness was not lost and forever deserves recognition.

    Sometimes people who were once close friends or relatives see

    a change in attitude which may be shocking. A friend becomes

    a foe, one beloved is now begrudged. One may think this gives

    license to deny the goodness of the past. The Torah teaches that

    even in these circumstances one may not forget.

    If a friend or relative wrongs us, do we discount the good we received

    before (possibly even devalue or deny it) and write them

    off? Does our attitude reflect the sentiment – you helped me before,

    I’ll always be grateful?

    A change in attitude of others does not change our obligation

    to always appreciate the good that they brought our way. welcome.

    Rabbi Becker is author of, In Pursuit of Peace: A Torah Guide to Relationships,

    and Love Peace: Blueprints for Lasting Relationships. He is available to speak in

    your community/bungalow colony/camp. To make arrangements contact rabbi@

    jewishblueprints.org. Your comments and questions are welcome.