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“Do Not Hate an Egyptian” – Hakaras Hatov

Question:
The Torah says, לא תתעב מצרי כי-גר היית בארצו (Do not hate an Egyptian because you were a stranger in his land, Dt. 23:8). Does this halachah apply today even though Sanacherib mixed up the nations since Jews have nevertheless lived there subsequently? The Divrie Chaim (Y.D. 178a) cites this verse to show we must respect the nations who have given us refuge, does the Torah mitzvah itself extend to other nations which permitted us to dwell among them in Galus?

Answer:

The actual mitzva of the Torah refers only to the Egyptian nation to which we were enslaved in the times of the Avos and Shvatim. Certainly the Torah’s directive to accept Geirim from Mitzrayim applies to the original Egyptians exclusively. While the mitzva itself applies only to the original Egyptians, certainly the Torah is teaching us with this mitzvah the importance of Hakaras Hatov, an idea picked up by many commentaries, including the Divrei Chaim.

Certainly then, Jews owe a measure of Hakaras Hatov to their host countries throughout the years of Galus. The shining example of this being the United States which has been an unprecedented Malchus shel Chesed amongst the nations.

Ultimately however our hashkafas hachaim can’t come from Torah Sheb’ksav exclusively. After all we are commanded hakaras hatov to Mitzrayim, and yet a measure of seeming cruelty to Moav. In addition we are commanded to wage war with Amalek.

Ultimately our hashkafa comes from Torah Shbal Peh. And so while we give hakaras hatov to our host lands, presumably we re not intended to hold Germany in high regard for hosting us for centuries. Our attitude must be balanced, righteous and moral, guided by the totality of Torah wisdom.

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