From a young age we are taught that this world offers reward and punishment. Eat well, listen to your parents, receive good exam results and you will be granted fantastic rewards.
Yet failure at school, not listening to peers and society will lead to self-inflicted pain.
The Torah goes out of its way twice to list the beautiful rewards and tough punishments that await our nation on our path to serve G-d.
The first half of our Parasha (26:3-46) presents an extensive list of rewards for observing the commandments of the Torah and punishments for their violation.
These rewards include agricultural prosperity, military victory over stronger enemies and lasting peace, many children, and a close relationship with G-d. Punishments, which are more detailed, include bodily suffering, famine, death, uncontrolled wild animals, national defeats before weaker enemies and ensuing subjugation, destruction of places of worship and of the Land of Israel generally, exile from the Land, and utter rejection by G-d.
In Devarim (Chapters 28 and 29) there is a similar, but even more extensive list.
Yet these vivid promises pose a significant problem in Jewish thought, which generally understands that reward and punishment are distributed only after death, in the World to Come (Olam Habah).”
For what purpose are these worldly rewards and punishments included in the Torah? After all, the Gemara (Kidushin 39b) teaches, “There is no reward for Mitzvot in this world,” and Rabbi Tarfon teaches (Pirkei Avot 2:16): “Know that the righteous are given their reward in the World to Come.
How come we are promised reward in our Parasha when clearly our Sages understood that the real reward will be in the next world?
The commentators offer a wonderful answer.
There are two portions rewarded for every mitzvah. The reward for the effort and performance of the mitzvah will be granted in Olam Habah.
In this world however, you will be granted reward for how you performed the mitzvah. A Mitzvah performed with happiness will lead to reward even in this world!
Life is tough, there are many challenges, and sometimes it’s difficult to perform the Will of our Creator. Nevertheless if we preserver and serve G-d with happiness, we are guaranteed success in both worlds!
The Ben Ish Chai brings a fantastic Mashal (analogy) to explain.
Tuvia was an important Senior Judge who had worked his way to the top. Powerful and influential, his peers always sought his advice. He became known as the King’s most trusted advisor. However, as his power grew, so did his enemies.
Jealousy was ripe, and one of his enemies hatched a plan to oust Tuvia.
He set him up and reported him to the king as a traitor.
It was difficult for Tuvia to explain his way out and he decided to run away changing identity looking as a pauper. After travelling of the road for two days he eventually reached a flowing river.
As he gazed inside he noticed that it was quite deep, although there would be a chance of him walking through, the current was strong and he didn’t want to take a gamble.
There was a large group of people nearby and one of them recognised Tuvia. Eager to help, he offered Tuvia his assistance.
Tuvia explained that he needed to cross the river. The man was quick to respond that he would gladly carry Tuvia through the river. Tuvia was a heavy man and it would require great effort to take him through. Nevertheless the man happily went along lifting Tuvia above his back and meandering slowly through the river.
Tuvia was so impressed that half way through the crossing he told the man “I am very grateful for your enthusiasm and appreciate what you are doing for me. You should know that when I get back to my position as Senior Judge to the King I will make sure you are highly rewarded.”
The man seemed shocked and disappointed at hearing Tuvia’s comments.
“Are you no longer the Senior Judge?” He asked.
Tuvia shook his head, “I used to be, however evil people have overthrown me. One day soon I will be back and you will be rewarded!”
The man was startled and notwithstanding the heavy burden anymore threw Tuvia into the river.
Wading his way back through the river to the other side the man’s face told it all. His friends gathered round and shouted “what happened?” Were you not strong enough to hold onto him?
“No it’s not that,” he exclaimed.
“You spectators don’t understand. So long as I believed that he had the power to overturn any judgement in the country I was happy and had the willpower to go ahead. With such eagerness I could carry even the heaviest of people.
However, once I learned that he was not so powerful, my enthusiasm and hope waned.
I no longer had the strength to carry him; hence I had to throw him in the river.”
The Ben Ish Chai explains from here how important it is to approach everything in life with hope and happiness.
When we are happy and believe in what we are doing, when we see G-d Almighty in front of us as our Father and King of Kings and we eagerly perform His Will nothing can stop us. The happiness carries us through.
There will be stumbling blocks along the way, but remember life is like a camera….. Focus on what’s important. Capture the good times. Develop from the negatives. And if things don’t work out – Take the next shot!
Being happy, knowing and internalising that we are the children of G-d and that He loves us guarantees us blessing in this world and the next.