Is G-d Bribing us to Keep the Torah? - בחוקותי

Tuesday, 24 May, 2022 - 9:05 pm

Is G-d Bribing us to Keep the Torah? 

In the final portion of the book of Leviticus, we read of the reward for keeping the commandments; the Torah relates G-d's words: 

If you follow My statutes and observe My commandments and perform them,
I will give your rains in their time, the Land will yield its produce, and the tree of the field will give forth its fruit.
Your threshing will last until the vintage, and the vintage will last until the sowing; you will eat your food to satiety, and you will live in security in your land. (Leviticus 26:3-5)

The commentators raise two questions: (1) Why does the Torah describe a reward that is physical, rain, an abundance of produce, etc., and not a spiritual reward in the afterlife? (2) Why does G-d promise a reward altogether? After all, our sages teach that one should serve G-d motivated by love and not by the ulterior motive of a reward.

One answer the commentators offer is that the Torah addresses most people who are not on the level of serving G-d for its own sake and need to be motivated by reward. This explains why the Torah only mentions the material reward and does not explicitly mention the spiritual award. Because the Torah is addressing the majority of people who do not relate to abstract spiritual reward and are motivated only by the tangible and materialistic. 

Chassidic philosophy offers a deeper insight. 

The purpose of life is for the Torah, G-d's will and wisdom, to penetrate every area of our life and every aspect of our personality. When the reward for keeping the Torah is manifest in material blessings, that demonstrates that every area of our life, not only the spiritual and sublime but also the physical and material, is permeated with the Torah, which is the conduit for Divine energy and blessing. 

This explains why Jewish writings emphasize the blessing and abundance that will be available in the Messianic era. Maimonides emphasizes that the "the good will flow in abundance and all the delights will be freely available as dust," and "the occupation of the entire world will be solely to know G-d." Although people will be fully immersed and engaged in the spiritual pursuit of knowledge of G-d, nevertheless, it is essential to emphasize the material abundance in order to emphasize that in the Messianic era, the physical world itself will be in tune with its spiritual source. The pain and suffering that we experience during exile is a result of the unnatural disconnect between the physical world and its spiritual source. The Messianic era will heal the divide between the creation and its creator; thus, the connection to G-d, the source of life, will express itself in the material abundance of the physical world.

Adapted from the teachings of the Rebbe, Lekutei Sichos Bechukosai vol. 37

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