Serving to … Serve

Parshas Eikev

The theme conveyed in the second paragraph of Shema is acceptance of G-ds commandments. Alongside, comes the enforcement by reward and punishment. The structure of the paragraph is
Part 1: If you listen to my precepts bounty will be your fortune.
Part 2: If you turn away, exile will be your destiny.

Part 3: Meditate on this passage daily, and place this text in your Tefillin and Mezuzos.
Part 4: “in order that I shall increase your days” 

Question 

What is the message of this final verse?

It is possible, this increase of days, is rewarding the compliance in performing the Mitzvohs. If this were the case, one would expect it to have been mentioned earlier in Part 1, together with the promise of our land yielding large harvests, Why the misplacement?
It seems more accurate, that this statement “in order…” is characterizing why we perform the Mitzvos. However the statement is astounding; is the motive for executing the Mitzvos merely so we and our offspring should live a long life?

Answer

Given the opportunity to assist a dignitary, a truly noble aristocratic person is an honor. The ability to please and gratify a truly honorable human is in itself a pleasure. For example, nothing would please us more then to be able to serve the Chofetz Chaim a cup of tea. Moreover, we would be elated, if he further requested, “Next time I visit could you please make me the same tea again”. That would be the best possible consequence of serving him. Thus we have the answer to our question: Serving Hashem is an honor, if we delight in executing the Mitzvohs, Hashem will increase our days. For what purpose? To do more Mitzvohs. This is not a merely payback and reward, rather the result of performing G-ds will is that we will have our days increased thereby having more opportunity to serve Him.

Lesson

The thrill in doing Mitzvohs is just that, the ability to serve Hashem. 

Story 

Rav Saadia Gaon (892 – 942) developed a concept called Repentance for the Righteous in contrast to Repentance for the Sinners. Once while travelling incognito, he stayed at a wayside inn. “Did you see Rabbi Saadia Gaon?” people asked the innkeeper.
“Saadia Gaon?” replied the bewildered old Jew, “what would the great Rav Saadia be doing in a place like mine? Rav Saadia Gaon in my inn? No…I’m sure that you are very mistaken! There was no Rav Saadia Gaon here”
They explained to him how he looks, when suddenly the old Jew held his head and began yelling: “Oy! Rav Saadia, Rav Saadia was here! You were right!! Oy, Oy!” and he ran outside, in the direction that I took. After a short time when he caught up to me, and fell at my feet moaning: “Please forgive me, Rav Saadia. Please forgive me; I didn’t know that it was you!”
I made him stand up and brush himself off, and then said to him, “listen here, my friend, you treated me very well, you were very kind and hospitable. Why are you so sorry? You have nothing to apologize for.”
“No no, Rebbi” he replied, “If I would have known who you are, that you are the great Rav Saadia, I would have treated you differently!”
Days went by, and it wasn’t long before the innkeeper put the incident behind him, trusting that the great Saadia Gaon had indeed forgiven him for his mistake. However, not the Gaon. Rather than forget the incident, the Gaon took some very serious lessons from it, and developed the Repentance of the Righteous. When I think of that old innkeeper I say to myself “Oy! If I had known about Hashem in the beginning of the day what I know now, I would have treated Him differently!”

Weekly Halacha

One is not permitted to lay poison on Shabbos to kill ants.

3 Comments

  1. Rabbi Apter, I have been enjoying your divrei torah thoroughly, thank you and yasher koach. I wanted to raise a point regarding this week’s thought. You say the idea of “lman yerbu yemeichem” is in order that we should live longer so as to have the privilege of serving Hashem longer, not as form of reward, but doesn’t the Rambam say that indeed all reward for mitzvos in olam hazeh is also only in order to serve Hashem under more comfortable circumstances? In what way is “lman yerbu yemiechem” distinct from other forms of reward?

  2. Thank for your good wishes.

    The point you are raising is valid. I understood the Rambam concept of reward in this world not as the ability to serve “under more comfortable circumstances” rather Hashem was providing the abilty to serve in greater fashion. For example a worker who proves himself worthy merits a promotion, for the good of the company. “Lman Yirbu Yemiechem” is not promotion but duplication, Hashem is offering us the opportunity to serve a second time, much like the articles’ parable, where the Chofetz Chaim asks you to reproduce the same tea on his next visit.

  3. An addition I heard from Rabbi Apter’s himself. This idea explains the difference between למען ירבו ימיכם and למען יאריכון ימיך. Yirbu is duplication more of the same., while Yarichun is lengthy connoting living to a ripe old age as reward.

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