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Thought for the Day: There Is No Reward In This World

Chazal tell us that "sachar b'hai alma leika" -- there is no reward in this world.  On the other hand, the second paragraph of sh'ma promises prosperity for keeping the mitzvos and dire consequences for transgressing.  Sure sounds like reward, no?  Moreover, the Rambam says that a goy gets rewarded for the mitzvos he does; but besides the tzadikei umos ha'olam (a very small fraction), a goy has no shayichis to olam haba.

I think an apt mashal is the way we utilize food.  The real value of a piece of steak is the nutritional value.  That real value is only realized days or weeks after it is ingested.  The effects are felt for a lifetime, as the nutrients are absorbed and incorporated in the body.  The taste may be wonderful, but it is certainly not the real value.  On the other hand, the sweet taste of a piece of candy is the main benefit.  Once the candy is gone, it's gone; no lasting effects on the physical body.

So too, when we do mitzvos, it may be fun to do them, it may even make us feel more satisfied with our lives and more "spiritual".  But the real benefit is that we have strengthened our entire being -- from the highest levels of the neshama ("Chelek Elokai M'ma'al") to the most physical.  We have made ourselves more ready for our eternal existence; something that will not be directly experience until we are living in olam haba.  The promises of prosperity for keeping the mitzvos is like the taste of the steak.  The dire consequences of not keeping the mitzvos is like the taste of spoiled food.  In both cases it helps to encourage mitzvah observance of aveira avoidance; both the build and protect our real, eternal selves.  The reward a goy gets for keeping mitzvos, on the other hand, is like the taste of a candy -- his life is sweetened while he is here in this world.  Why not?  It's all he gets.  We have eternity, Baruch HaShem.

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