Sunday, August 10, 2014

Parshas Ekev - the complete reward for the mitzvos

The Medrash Rabbah says at the beginning of this week’s sedrah:
הלכה, אדם מישראל שיש לו מנורה שעשויה פרקים פרקים, מהו לטלטלה בשבת? כך שנו חכמים, המרכיב קני מנורה בשבת חייב חטאת. ומשום מה מחייב? אמר רבי אבהו, בשם רבי יוחנן: המרכיב את המנורה בשבת כאדם שבונה בשבת, ומי שהוא בונה בשבת חייב.

“A halachah was asked; Can you move a menorah which is made of parts that you have to put together, on Shabbos (i.e. is the menorah muktzeh)?

We have learnt; if you join together the rods of a menorah on Shabbos then you are chayav a korban chatas. [And since putting the menorah together is assur mideoraisah, you may not move it in case you dismantle it and put it together again.]

Why is he chayav? Rebbi Avahu said in the name of Rebbi Yochanan, if you join together the parts of a menorah on Shabbos then you are chayav because of boneh (i.e. when the menorah is dismantled it is not considered to be a kli so when you join the parts it is considered as if you have built the menorah.)”

The medrash continues:
...אמרו לו ישראל: ואימתי את נותן לנו שכר המצות, שאנו עושים? אמר להם הקב"ה: מצות שאתם עושים מפרותיהן אתם אוכלים עכשיו, אבל שכרו בעקב אני נותן לכם. מנין? ממה שקרינו בעניינינו: והיה עקב תשמעון:

The benei yisrael asked Hashem; When will you give us reward for the mitzvos that we do? Hashem answered them, “You will eat the fruits of the mitzvos as soon as you perform them, however the main reward of the mitzvos will only be given to you in olam habah.”

This is alluded to in the passuk that says - והיה עקב תשמעון – it will be at the end, if you listen (the medrash transalates the word ekev as ‘the end’).

Why does the medrash begin with the halachah of a menorah which you have to put together, and what is the connection between this halachah and when we receive the reward for performing mitzvos?

The Chasam Sofer explains as follows:

The passuk says in parshas Ki Savou:
וְכָתַבְתָּ עַל הָאֲבָנִים אֶת כָּל דִּבְרֵי הַתּוֹרָה הַזֹּאת בַּאֵר הֵיטֵב
“And you shall write on the stones all the words of the Torah explained well.”
Rashi explains:
"באר היטב" - בשבעים לשון
“Explained well – in the 70 languages.”

The word היטב has the gematria of 70 if you add up the letters as follows:
ה + הי + היט + היטב = 5 + 15 + 24 + 26 = 70
The gematria of היטב is only 70 if you add each letter to all of the other letters before it because every time you do a mitzvah it builds on the mitzvah that you did beforehand. Therefore, the yud is not just yud, it is heh (the previous mitzvah) + yud, similarly the tes is not only tes, but it builds on the previous mitzvos of heh and yud and so is heh + yud + tes.

Similarly, the Medrash in our sedrah compares all of the mitzvos that a person does during their entire life time to a menorah which is comprised of different parts. This tells us that just as the menorah does not give all its light until it is fully assembled, so too, the mitzvos that a person does during their lifetime cannot be fully appreciated until they are all considered in the light of all of the other mitzvos that the person ever did.

The Chasam Sofer explains; if it was possible for Hashem to give the reward for mitzvos in olam hazeh then He would do so immediately upon us completing the mitzvah, in order not to transgress the mitzvah of לא תלין פעולת שכיר – you are not allowed to delay giving a worker their wages.


However since all of the mitzvos that we do in our entire life time all join together, it is only when a person has done all their mitzvos that it is possible to appreciate the significance of every  mitzvah that they ever did. Therefore, in order to give the full reward of their mitzvos, Hashem only gives reward for mitzvos in olam habah.

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