"Because they did not greet you with bread and with water… and because they hired Bilaam son of Be’or against you.” (Devarim 23:5) 

The Ohr HaChaim asks: Once Amon and Moav hired Bilaam to curse them isn’t it insignificant that they also didn’t greet them with bread and water? 

To add to this question many commentators say that Amon and Moav did sell Bnei Yisrael bread and water but merely didn’t greet them. 

Is the lack of extending a greeting so grave that it’s of the same severity as hiring Bilaam to destroy the entire nation? (Rav Y. P. Goldwasser Be’eros Yitzchak) 

It’s another morning and my ten-year-old daughter decided that I’m her personal chef.

“I want a mushroom omelet with whole wheat bread and sliced vegetables on the side.”

I’m not a personal chef. I’m a stressed-out mommy so I answer “Omelets are for vacation breakfasts. Now you can have cereal and milk and please hurry because I’m in a rush.”

“So I just won’t eat breakfast” she shrugs with that martyred look — the kind that’s meant to give mothers a first-class ticket to a guilt trip. “Why is it that only in our house there’s never time for anything?”

Kids know what buttons to push. “Don’t be chutzpahdig!” I struggled to stay calm as I handed her some whole wheat crackers with peanut butter and nudged her towards the door. “Have a wonderful day” I hugged her not feeling very loving. Then I quickly moved her out of the house because she’s right — I don’t have time for anything!

Every morning I run after the kids with shoes yarmulkes and hairbands. Before I can catch them they disappear leaving behind forgotten lunches and notes in a trail of cornflakes.

I have friends whose homes run like clockwork. They get up early have their leisurely cup of coffee then wake everyone and march them through morning routine commencing in a calm exit with a lot of kisses. Why can’t I pull that off? Why can’t I stop hitting my snooze button and scrambling (not eggs!) to make it through the morning? What’s wrong with me?

We know that Hashem is particular in judging tzaddikim down to a hairsbreadth. This rule also applies to people who are only tzaddikim in specific areas. For example Lot the father of Moav and Amon excelled in the mitzvah of hachnassas orchim despite living in wicked Sedom. 

Yet when the Torah mentions that Lot was saved from Sedom’s destruction it doesn’t mention the merit of hachnassas orchim. Rather the merit that saved him was the fact that he remained silent in Mitzrayim when Avraham said that Sarah was his sister. 

It seems strange that the minor merit of controlling himself and not causing the death of an uncle is considered more significant than the hachnassas orchim in which he excelled. 

We see from here that since it was his nature to be hospitable this middah was not considered a great merit for him. On the other hand controlling himself in Mitzrayim was extremely hard for him because he could’ve been rewarded generously for his information. For Lot who loved money this was very difficult and therefore he merited to be saved. (ibid.) 

Lot didn’t have to work on hachnassas orchim; he grew up on it. Therefore it didn’t bring him merit. Rather the small act he did for Sarah was enormous because that was hard for him.

I have my own “hachnassas orchim” middos — the things that are easy for me. Hashem gave them to me as a gift and I just have to make sure that I don’t ruin them.

But the real merit comes in the shape of the things I struggle with. The calm mornings and staying quiet when annoyed. It often embarrasses me that these things are so easy to others yet I find them difficult. But that’s exactly why I get reward for them!

This is why Amon and Moav were held accountable for their lack of hospitality since in this area they were considered tzaddikim based on the nature embedded in them. (ibid.) 

Elul is knocking. The road to life is paved with our efforts and every small unsteady step is like running a marathon. In the areas that are difficult that’s exactly where I can grow. My half successes and my daily battles will be the merits that intercede on my behalf and save me from the upheaval of Sedom that’s within me.