Thursday, July 17, 2008

Occasional Vort V

by Netanel Livni

The Midrash BaMidbar Rabba says (21:1):

פינחס בן אלעזר בן אהרן הכהן אמר הקב"ה בדין הוא שיטול שכרו לכן אמור הנני נותן לו את בריתי שלום

“Pinchas, the son of Eleazar, the son of Aaron the priest.” Said the Holy One Blessed is He: Justice demands that he receive his reward “Thus say: Behold, I give unto him My covenant of peace”

The Hatam Sofer asks a very obvious question on this midrash. Do not all understand that שכר מצוה בהאי עלמא ליכא – there is no reward for mitzvas in this world? All of a sudden Pinchas becomes the one exception and deserves immediate reward?

Click here to read moreThe Hatam Sofer explains that we must distinguish between two different approaches that people have toward mitzvoth. The righteous person is never satisfied with the mitzvoth he has performed. Each mitzvah is another link in a chain of personal growth which never truly finishes. Thus, there is no obvious concrete point in time at which justice demands that the righteous person receive their reward. Thus, their work is never completed in this world and the rewards must come in the next one. On the other hand, the wicked person considers every good deed he performs to be an autonomous and voluntary act which is not connected to any bigger picture. Thus, the good deeds of the wicked man are lacking a larger context in his life. Justice would seem to demand that reward be granted for such acts as soon as possible.

Pinchas, of course, was a tzaddik. However, the nature of the act for which he was rewarded was such that he naturally never wanted to have to commit anything like it ever again. Unlike the rest of his Divine service – this particular act was one towards which he related as an unfortunate necessity. Thus, justice demanded that he receive his reward in this world and not in the next.

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