The pasuk (Dev 23:4) says that a Moavi and Amoni cannot marry into the Jewish people. The stated reasons are that they did not provide bread and water (as mentioned in Dev 23) and "he" hired Bil'am.

The gemara in Yevamot 76b explains that the injunction is only against the males because they were the ones who should have brought bread and water; it would not have been expected of the women because kol k'vuda bat melech penima, that it isn't proper for women to go out. I'm not sure why the gemara sees this pasuk in tehillim (45:14) as describing the modest behavior of women in the non-Jewish world -- I guess I always assumed that the "bat melech" made it refer to Jewish women, but if the gemara wants to apply it to the actions of the Moavi women, then ok.

But this defense of the women rings hollow because in Bamidbar 25 it was the Moavi women who seduced the Jewish men and drew them to idolatry. Not only were the women guilty of an active evil (as opposed to the men who simply didn't go and make food available) but their action was one which would invalidate any expectation of tzniyut via k'vudah bat melech penima.

So why does the gemara seem to accept this explanation from the Chachamim of Eretz Yisra'el without objection?

  • 1
    Yes, it seems to me that marrying a Moaviyah should be a bigger issur than marrying a Moavi, but the halacha says otherwise. Why?
    – ezra
    Aug 26, 2018 at 14:22
  • 1
    The Malbim's pshat in Balak is that Balak didn't listen to Bilam's advice, so he stopped in Midyan on the way home and suggested the same thing, and they listened. They're called בנות מואב at first because the Jews originally thought they were from Moav.
    – Heshy
    Aug 26, 2018 at 14:42

2 Answers 2


The Maharshal in Yam Shel shlomo http://hebrewbooks.org/pdfpager.aspx?req=40936&st=&pgnum=98&hilite= asks this very question that the Moabite woman do not care to be modest and had not encountered the Passuk in Tehillim saying a woman should stay at home. Therefore he says that the Bnos Yisroel were the ones who were modest and didn't go out to ask for bread so the Moabite women were not culpable for not bringing the Jewish woman food, as the Jewish women did not go out from their tents to meet them.

The Midyanite woman or men were never exluded from converting even though they did Zenus, so too doing Zenut alone was not a reason to reject the Moabite woman from converting as they could change their ways once they converted like Rachav Hazonah. Rather as explicitely stated in the passuk they did not do chessed to bring us bread and water when we were on their borders. This showed a denial of Hakarat hatov because Avraham our forefather saved Lot their forfather from the 4 kings and His zechut saved Lot from the burning of Sedom. So they should of shown a sense of gratitude as their lives were indebted to us as stated in the Ramban on that passuk:

שהיו גמולי חסד מאברהם שהציל אביהם ואמם מן החרב והשבי (בראשית יד טז) ובזכותו שלחם השם מתוך ההפכה (שם יט כט) והיו חייבין לעשות טובה עם ישראל והם עשו עמהם רעה

  • but this doesn't address what they WERE guilty of. I guess if you combine this with Heshy's reference to the Malbim that could work.
    – rosends
    Aug 26, 2018 at 20:16
  • I have answered your next question through the Ramban @rosends
    – user15464
    Aug 31, 2018 at 13:18
  • The edit and the Ramban split the focus -- if it is about the potential for change in the future, are they incapable of teshuva as it relates to giving food, but trusted to do teshuva for zenut? If it is about the past and what they SHOULD have done, are we punishing children for the sins of ancestors?
    – rosends
    Aug 31, 2018 at 15:16
  • @rosends I am aware that you think all aveiras have teshuva, but it seams that this temperament of lack of mercy for those who had mercy on them is such an ill trait that they physically are not able to change so we cannot accept them. Dovid also rejected the Nesinim from joining Klal Yisroel for this very reason Yevamos 79aשלשה סימנים יש באומה זו הרחמנים והביישנין וגומלי חסדים רחמנים rashi;והני גבעונים כיון דלא מרחמי אינן ראויין לידבק בהן מיד גזר עליהן דוד לכך נאמר והגבעונים לא מבני ישראל המה:
    – user15464
    Sep 18, 2018 at 0:01

I asked R' M.Lurai Z"L this question specifically and the answer was that:

The two Parashot (Bnot Moav) and permission to accept Moavites women are based on the same ground - the roots of the Moshiach (King David and his descendants) were concealed in the Moavites women - the story of Rut.

This is the reason Bney Israel approached Bnot Moav in the first place, and even though the price was very steep and thousands died, the Moavites women were Halachicly allowed to convert to allow for Rut.

To your question, the Gmarrah's answer is just a Tirutz (diversion) and it is very problematic as you sensed.

  • Teretz = diversion?
    – robev
    Aug 26, 2018 at 16:02
  • It's like when you wanna have xes what do you say to your kids? Me and Mommy need to talk, you know... Whatever is related to עריות is greatly camouflaged in the Gemmorah.
    – Al Berko
    Aug 26, 2018 at 16:14

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