One of the sections of this week's parsha is the second paragraph of the daily Shema. The first two verses thereof read, "And it shall be if you shall surely listen to My mitzvos, that I am commanding you today, to love Hashem your Lord and to worship Him with all of your hearts and with all of your soul. And I will give the rain of your Land in its time ... and you will gather in your grain and your wine and your oil" (Devarim 11:13-14). The verses that follow proceed to enumerate more blessings, as well as the negative consequences for not keeping to the mitzvos.

Consider the following. It is really amazing what you can get a kid to do for something as simple as a lollipop. As adults, we realize that the treat that the child received is certainly not in proportion to what he did - but since that is enough to make him happy, that is what he is given.

That is all very fine and well when it is a matter of human adults dealing with children; but when it comes to how Hashem deals with His creations that He created, we simply cannot apply the same principle. The reason for this is very straightforward, Hashem is perfect and His way of running the world is with the utmost of precision and perfection. As such, we fully expect that the reward that Hashem will give for keeping His mitzvos will be completely commensurate with the act done.

Rav Yaakov Weinberg pointed out that a million dollars is really no different from a lollipop; it is just a more sophisticated lollipop. In reality, though, it is nothing more than an insignificant treat. Is this, then, what we can expect as the reward for keeping Hashem's mitzvos? Is rain-in-its-time so that we should be able to have our grain, wine and oil a proper reward for following the directive and will of the Almighty Creator of the universe?

The explanation of the Seforno sheds great light on this matter. He writes, "...that you will be sustained without difficulty and you will be able to worship Him." In other words - the rain and the grain is not the end, it is the means. This echoes the statement of Chazal that "one mitzvah brings about another mitzvah because the reward of a mitzvah is a mitzvah." When one properly fulfills the mitzvos that come his way, Hashem provides him with the material sustenance that he needs in order that he should be free to further engage in yet more mitzvos.

Of course, we know that there is an Olam Ha'bah (afterlife) that awaits us with its eternal reward, and that every mitzvah that we perform in this world accrues for us great dividends in the Next World. But, when it comes to the reward that we receive already in this world - we are herein learning a great lesson as to how to relate to that reward.

The material comfort and abundance that we receive is not an end; rather it is there to enable us to continue applying ourselves to serving God - and of course to add thereupon commensurate with the material abundance[1] - unimpeded and without hindrance. It is important, then, to be careful to not "miss the boat" by becoming involved with material prosperity for the sake of material prosperity. The reason why it is so important to bear this in mind, is that material prosperity does carry a strong lure to getting caught up in it for its own sake. And we definitely don't want to go there.

In terms of understanding, though, how it is that this is considered to be a reward - we can view it on two levels. On the simple level, it is considered a reward in that it enables us to achieve more and more of the ultimate, true reward in the Next World.

However, Rav Yaakov Weinberg pointed out that there is yet a much deeper level of understanding this idea that the reward of a mitzvah is a mitzvah.

He explained that in truth, there is no greater pleasure and feeling of satisfaction and gratification that one can experience than serving the Almighty Creator of the universe. Of course, from Hashem's perspective - He is completely concerned that we be given our endless, eternal fulfillment and pleasure in the Next World. However, as far as we are concerned, we can find no greater joy in our existence than having the incalculable privilege of serving Him, studying His Torah, and keeping His mitzvos. So for us, then, it is truly the mitzvah itself that is the reward of the mitzvah, and being afforded the opportunity to perform more mitzvos is the greatest result that we can hope for in carrying out His will.

The following story powerfully underscores this point. Once, Rav Aharon Kotler was conducting a parlor meeting during which he mentioned the Chazal that one who truly supports Torah learning in this world will merit to be on the level of a Talmid Chacham in the next world. One of the donors present asked, "Does it really mean it literally, Rebbi? Can it really be true that in the Olam Ha'emes I will be on the same level of greatness in Torah as the Rosh Yeshiva?" Without missing a beat, Rav Aharon emphatically answered, "It has to be literally true! This world you don't have; at the very least you should have the Next World!"[2]

NOTES

1. For example, increasing tzedakah and chesed.

2. Recounted in "Builders", by Rabbi Chanoch Teller.