Why does G‑d permit the Ammonite and Moabite women to convert and marry Jewish men, while He does not permit male converts from these nations to marry Jewish women? Why are the men punished for all eternity, and the women go scot free?


We read in the Bible that the reason the Ammonites were punished to be forever forbidden from marrying into the Israelite nation (a.k.a. the Jews) is because they did not greet the Israelites with food and water when they traveled in the desert.1 When someone acts inhumanely, such as denying water to a thirsty group of weary travelers in a hot desert, this expresses a deeply rooted evil nature, which no one would encourage their loved ones to associate with. That is as far as the men are concerned.

However, G‑d does not stereotype. The Talmud2 tells us that in Biblical times, it was expected of the men to go out to greet travelers and guests, whereas it was not expected of women to do the same. Therefore, the Talmud continues, although the Ammonite women did not greet the Jews with food and water either, they are not liable to be distanced as were the men.

Similarly, the Moabites exhibited an inhumane disposition by hiring Balaam to destroy the Jewish people by the power of his curse.3

The Jerusalem Talmud4 explains that it is more characteristic of men to hire a hit-man to do a job on their enemies than it is for women to do so. The Torah sees women to be above such malicious scheming. The Talmud therefore concludes that only the men are distanced, since the women did not show signs of these negative tendencies.

I hope this answers your question. If you would like further explanation, feel free to ask.

Rabbi Baruch S. Davidson