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Thought for the Day: Reward for Labor in This World

When still in the infant stages of becoming frum (I am now my early 20s; old enough to finally know that I don't know that much), we would occasionally take the children to Chuck E. Cheese.  They didn't eat the pizza (eventually...), but their were loads of games for them to play.  To play the games required token (I may still have some around the house) and some even paid out in tickets.  Those tickets were fungible -- inside the Chuck E. Cheese store, any way; the kids could buy key chains, jacks, stuffed animals, etc.

I like that idea as a parable for this world.  Every morning upon leaving beis medrash, there is highly recommended custom to remind ourselves of what we are doing in this world.  Part of that reminder is: We work hard and they (the goyim) work hard.  We get paid and they don't.  The Chafeitz Chaim asks: What do you mean?  They also get paid!  He asks and he answers: True, they get paid for what they produce, but not for their hard work.  The boss couldn't care less how hard it was, just so long as he gets his product.  Our Boss is different; He very much cares how hard we work, and we are rewarded handsomely; whether or not we actually produce.

For many years I knew that answer and thought I understood it.  I understood that for Torah learning, HaShem rewards me regardless of whether I actually figure out the gemara or come to the halachically correct conclusion.  As long as I was עמל בתורה/worked diligently to understand/gave it my best effort, then HaShem will reward me.  When it comes to "real" work, however, I am no different than the goy, though, right?  Wrong... oh so wrong.... live and learn.

This became apparent to me when I learned a beautiful and insightful explanation of of the order of covering the the preparing the vessels of the Tabernacle for travel from R' Chaim Tzvi Hollander, shlita, in his sefer זבח משפחה.  When the Jewish nation moved from place to place in the Sinai wilderness, the Tabernacle was broken down and it's parts carried by designated member of Leivi.
The L'vi'im from K'has had the merit to carry the actual vessels of the Tabernacle -- the shewbread table, the golden (incense) altar, the menorah, and the holy ark itself.  Before these vessels could be transported, however, the kohanim would prepare for the move by covering them with two covers; one of pure תכלת, the other the hide of a תחש (an animal that only lived during the time of the Tabernacle and then went extinct; not Dolphin nor Dachshund, no matter what Google translate would have you believe).  Three of the vessels -- the table, menorah, and golden altar -- were covered first with the תכלת and then the תחש hide; the order of coverings on the Holy Ark however was reversed -- תחש hide and then תכלת.

Why the change?  R' Hollander suggests that the תכלת is there to express that everything we do and have is entirely לשם שמים/the the sake of the Grand and Ultimate Purpose; forging our relationship with the Creator of the world.  The table, menorah, and golden altar represent, respectively, livelihood, intellect, and health.  We are not being rewarded at all with livelihood, intellect, and health; we are simply being given the wherewithal to perform our function.  The details of how and why we get our work done in our relationship with HaShem is really no one's business but our own; therefore the תכלת for those vessels is covered when we travel.  The Holy Ark, however, represents our entire reason for being and we want everyone to know that; the תכלת is right on top specifically to be in full view of all.  I liken it to the fact that even the most modest בת ישראל always has her wedding ring on proud display; especially when she is in public.

My עמילות בתורה/diligence in building a relationship between HaShem and myself and the entire Jewish community is not just one of my daily activities -- it is my only activity; it underlies every action and overarches every intent.  Not only do the goy and I have a different reward structure, we're not even on the same playing field.  They work in exchange for reward; they don't actually get rewarded for their work at all; it's a simple barter system.  We work and that work produces nothing but the reward; the reward and the work are one.

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