The great Sage Rav stated (Gemara Nazir 23b) a person should always endeavor to study Torah and perform Mitzvot, even if he is performing the Mitzvot for an alternative reason and not for the sake of Heaven (Afilu SheLelo Lishma – Shemitoch Shelo Lishma Ba Lishma). For, through performing the Mitzvot even for the wrong means, he will eventually come to perform the Mitzvot through the right means.
This is a an awesome statement inferring that even though a person might have ulterior motives when performing G-d’s command, nevertheless, he is encouraged to carry out the Mitzvah, rather than not to perform it at all. For eventually it is guaranteed that he will perform the act appropriately.
Such a statement requires written verification from the Torah and Rav goes on to bring proof from none other than Balak! The Torah states that in his enthusiasm to curse Am Yisrael, he applied all weapons possible at his disposal, including offering up Korbanot – sacrifices to Hashem! In total he offered up 42 Korbanot (14 sacrifices in 3 different places) in order to pray and supplement Hashem to destroy Am Yisrael.
There is no greater Shelo Lishma than that; using such a holy thing as Korbanot, a form of coming closer to Hashem, in order to ask for the destruction of Hashem’s People. Yet nevertheless, states Rav, Balak was rewarded for this action with a great descendant – Rut, who in turn was the great grandmother of King David. Thus even Balak HaRasha has a hand in the coming of Mashiach Ben David!
Although this is difficult to comprehend, nevertheless this is a fact – the power of a Mitzvah. Every act is judged by Hashem and reward and punishment are dealt accordingly.
The Gemara Sota (47a) states that in the time of Elisha, 42 children were devoured by Bears. The Gemara ascribes this tragedy in essence to the 42 Korbanot that Balak offered up. His intention was to destroy Am Yisrael and even though Hashem protected Am Yisrael at that time, nevertheless his intention was fulfilled in some respect many generations later in Elisha’s time.
How does this compliment with the statement of Rav? Surely we see over here that the outcome of Balak’s action was destructive and not beneficial? The Gemara goes on to explain, that although the outcome of his action was good (Rut), the outcome of his intention led to bad (the death of the 42 children).
Rav Nevensal comments that there are three stages involved with performing a mitzvah, each one with its own level of reward and each one worthy of performing. First, is the performance of the mitzvah even without the correct intention. Second we should vanquish all bad intentions, and third we should perform it for the sake of Heaven.
When a Non-Jew gives his wife a cup of coffee he is making her happy and ensuring a content and peaceful coexistence. Where is the difference between a Non-Jew and a Jew? It is in the intention of the action. When a Jew does the same action, if he were to pause before the action and think that he is about to perform multiple Mitzvot – VeAhavta LereAcha Kamocha – love your neighbor as yourself, Gemilut Chasadim, Vedavakta Bo – clinging to Hashem – then he would be transforming his action into one that will not only ensure him Olam Hazeh, but also Olam Habah.
There are so many Mitsvot that we perform daily. Some are due to performance from our youth, such as Tefilla – prayer, and others because it is the norm, such as preparing the meal, giving children to eat. All these actions are Mitzvot, yet with the addition of one small thought, one can transform the Mitzvah into a Mitzvah Lishma. And if Balak who performed a Mitzvah but lacked the Lishma was rewarded with a hand in the Mashiach, so much more so, will we be rewarded when we perform each Mitzvah Lishma!
Rav Shalom Schwadron’s zs”l daughter once became seriously ill with a disease. The Rav was worried that she would transmit the disease to the rest of the children and decided that he was going to take his children to stay with their grandparents until her disease would cure. On his way to the grandparents he came across the revered Mashgiach of Slobodka, HaRav Isaac Sher. Rav Isaac asked him where he was going. “Unfortunately my daughter is very sick, so I am taking my children to the grandparents until Bezrat Hashem she gets better.” Rav Isaac looked at him and said “So what?”
Rav Shalom didn’t quite understand Rav Isaac’s question and thought maybe he didn’t hear him the first time, so he repeated the reason to him again.
Rav Isaac told him the cow leads the calf. Now Rav Shalom really was confused!? The Rav continued… “you take your children because you are worried for their safety, but so does the cow take his calf when they are in need of help. What is the difference between you? Of course you need to take care of your childrens’ health, but not because you are worried, rather because Hashem has commanded you Venishmartem MeOd Lenafshotechem (Devarim 4:15), VeAhavta LereAcha Kamocha (Vayikra 18:19), Loh Ta’amod Al Dam ReAcha (16:19). That is why you are taking the children to their grandparents!”
One small thought changes going to Savta into spiritual actions and helps bring the Mashiach!