Parshas Acharei Mos By: Malka Schneps
Imagine two brothers who lived long ago. Let’s call them David and Shimon. David and Shimon left their parents’ home to travel overseas for an extended period of time for business reasons. During their travels, both brothers would send their father gifts from time to time. On their journey home, the two brothers spoke about the gifts they had sent their father during their travels abroad. “I am sure Father will be pleased with my gifts. Each time I sent him a gift, I pictured the smile and the embrace he would give me upon my arrival back home!” said David. “After all the fine gifts I sent him, Father will sit me near him at the head of the table!” exclaimed Shimon. “And in the future, he will give me fine gifts in return!” “Shimon, I sent my gifts for the right reasons. Did you only send them to get something in return?” asked David. “You are also hoping to get something out of sending gifts to Father — you said so yourself. You said you want him to smile when he sees you, and embrace you!” Shimon retorted. “I stated two objectives in sending my gifts. One was that Father would be pleased. I truly want to make him happy. But the second reason is just as pure. I hope that my gifts will help build our relationship and bring us closer. After all, isn’t that the ultimate purpose of a gift?”
54 / THE MONSEY VIEW
It says in this week’s parsha, “Ush’martem es chukosai v’es mishpatai asher ya’aseh osam ha’adam vachai bahem; Ani Hashem — You shall keep my statutes and my ordinances, which a man shall do and he will live by them; I am Hashem” (Vayikra 18:5). The Sfas Emes quotes Rashi and explains that “and he will live by them” is a reward that will take place in Olam Haba. Rashi also adds that the Torah states, “Ani Hashem,” because Hashem is faithful to pay a reward. The Sfas Emes then notes that it says in Pirkei Avos (2:1), “Consider the loss of a mitzvah against its reward.” Clearly, whatever time, energy and money we invest in any mitzvah will be repaid beyond measure. The Sfas Emes points out that these ideas seem to suggest that we should do mitzvos with the motivation of a reward. He explains that the true reward of any mitzvah takes place in the next world, which is not physical. That reward is a deep closeness to Hashem that cannot be attained in a physical world. The word olam, which means world, has the same shoresh as the word ha’alam, which means hidden or concealed. This physical world conceals Hashem. When we do mitzvos, we build up s’char — a reward of closeness to Hashem that we can only truly experience when we get to the next world, where physical barriers fall away. If a person does a mitzvah in order to attain s’char in Olam Haba, it is still lishmah be-
cause, ultimately, the true purpose of the mitzvos is to enable us to come close to Hashem. The Sfas Emes contrasts this with the idea of doing mitzvos for a prize. He notes that Chazal also say, “Do not be like servants who only serve their master for the sake of reward” (Avos 1:3). The word for reward used here is pras, which means prize, not s’char. The Sfas Emes notes that the word pras has the same shoresh as the word prusa, which refers to a separation. Whereas doing a mitzvah to attain closeness to Hashem brings us to “vachai bahem” — living through them — doing mitzvos for personal gain disconnects us from Hashem, Who is the source of life. This is the opposite of “vachai bahem.” In the story above, David sent gifts to his father for the right reasons: to make his father happy and to build their relationship. Shimon, on the other hand, was looking for a prize: that his father should bestow honors upon him and give him gifts in return. If we only do mitzvos in order to attain a prize, we are doing the mitzvos for the wrong reasons and we disconnect from the source of life. But if we do mitzvos in order to attain the ultimate reward of experiencing closeness to Hashem, then we are doing the mitzvos for the right reasons and we will merit vachai bahem — we will live by them. May we all be zoche to attain true closeness to Hashem, the true reward in Olam Haba.
The Monsey View