Echoes of Eden
Rabbi Ari Kahn
Parashat Pinchas 5776
Like a Princess
This being so, we might ask why the prohibition against intermarriage with Moavites makes a distinction between men and women. Surely, they all failed to extend a helping hand to the Israelites. The Talmud cites a verse in Tehilim to explain why the law forbids marriage only with the men of Moav: Only the men were expected to meet the Israelites with food and drink, because “The dignity of a daughter of the king is within” (Tehilim 45:14)
While this verse might be understood as referring to modesty or regal bearing, the Talmud understands the verse in terms of geography: The daughters of the King of Moav remained inside their homes. We might contrast their behavior with that of Kozbi, the princess of Midian who seduced Zimri into a public display of sexuality that was, for all intents and purposes, a revolt. Although the common girls of Moav became involved with Israelite men, it was the daughter of the prince of Midian who used her body as a weapon in the war against the Jews.
The women of Moav were not judged harshly for failing to offer bread and water; they were friendly – if anything, they were too friendly. For this reason, they are permitted to marry into the Jewish people. On the other hand, Kozbi, the daughter of Midianite nobility who behaved in a most ignoble manner, brought shame and death upon her people.
For more in depth study see:
Echoes of Eden