This week's Parsha, Re'eh, contains a number of Mitzvot. It includes the guidelines for Kosher animals, the laws of the Sabbatical year, and the observances of the Pilgrimage festivals. It also includes Moshe Rabbenu's revelation that he is placing before the Jewish people both a blessing and a curse- the former when they observe G-d's commandments, and the latter if they go astray. 

Despite this extremely bold statement, it sometimes seems that Torah observance is a task with no reward. It is certainly "easier" to live a non-observant life. Why, for example, should we pass up an enticing meal, simply because it comes from a non-Kosher kitchen? Surely, our only reward for doing so is brittle matzah and watery borscht? And why should we keep Shabbos when we could have just as much fun, perhaps more, if we drove our cars, used our telephones, and went shopping? It certainly seems as if beginning to observe Shabbos provides less gratification than we might get from treating it as a normal day. So what exactly did Moshe Rabbenu mean when he said that a blessing has been laid before us, for when we keep these mitzvot? 

The answer to this question can be found in Pirkei Avos. We read, "Ben Azzai would say... For a mitzvah brings another mitzvah... For the reward of a mitzvah is a mitzvah". Initially, this seems to raise more questions than answers. How exactly does a mitzvah bring another mitzvah? And in what way is this mitzvah- or the "chain" of consecutive mitzvot- a reward for one's endless toil in Torah study, or Kashrus stringency? 

To understand the second statement ("For the reward of a mitzvah is a mitzvah"), we must first understand how exactly a mitzvah "brings" another mitzvah. This can be interpreted in two ways. The first interpretation is that others, who have observed the mitzvah being performed, will rush to perform the same mitzvah. For example, a woman may observe her Rebbetzin lighting Shabbos cables. She may look up to her Rebbetzin, and seek to emulate her, and the next Friday, will hasten to do so herself. As such, the Rebbetzin's mitzvah led to yet another mitzvah being performed by her accquaintance. Another interpretation is that after one performs a mitzvah once, they will begin to do it regularly, simply out of habit. For example, if one decides to read and study the daily Torah portion one day, they may feel compelled to do it again the following day. After a day or two, it becomes a habit, and not studying the daily Torah portion becomes unthinkable! In this way, too, their initial mitzvah led to yet another mitzvah, and so on. 

Through these interpretations we can understand how the mitzvah also serves as a reward. In the first example, of one's mitzvah inspiring another to perform the same mitzvah, then the reward is the fact that they have brought meaning, joy, and Torah observance to yet another person. To grant someone these things is a great gift, and brings one a feeling of satisfaction and gratification greater than that which one gets from engaging in non-spiritual activities. This reward- the repeated mitzvah- leads the person to perform more mitzvot, and in this manner the cycle continues, with each individual seeking to perform more mitzvot. 

The reward for performing mitzvot as a habit is also great. When mitzvot first become a habit, one slowly begins living a Torah observant lifestyle. They start to keep Kosher, and in doing so they honour G-d and bring holiness into their everyday life. They may dedicate a certain amount of time each day to the study of Holy texts, and will be amazed by the new knowledge imparted to them. Their outlook is refreshed and renewed. And as their lifestyle continues in this manner, they reap the benefits- more mitzvot, performed both by them and those around them! 

Of course, it isn't always obvious that one is being rewarded for their efforts. But when someone truly loves G-d, the mere knowledge that their actions please Him are a reward. In this way also, the mitzvah is the reward. Even when Torah observance is hard, and perhaps seems impossible, we must persevere and continue performing mitzvot- even one more may bring the arrival of the Moshiach (may it happen speedily and in our days)! 

If you'd like to read more Parsha articles, please visit my website, Jewish Thoughts!

Published by Lily Smythe