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In Melbourne Shabbat begins Fri 5 May 2017 05:10 PM and ends Sat 6 May 2017 06:09 PM
כ"ב אב ה' אלפים תשע"ב
When I offer to help people put on Tefillin I receive a variety of responses. Some people agree right away; they're thrilled by the opportunity to participate and are grateful to me for helping them fulfill such a sacred obligation.
Others are more circumspect. It might have been years since the last time they had strapped up and they're worried about looking hypocritical. However, when reassured that each mitzva is inherently and uniquely valuable and that the performance of one positive act doesn't pre-suppose absolute commitment, most people accept.
Some people however want to know "what's in it for me?" They didn't put on teffillin yesterday and have no intention of indulging tomorrow, so why bother today? It's almost as if they expect some guarantee of remuneration before rolling up their sleeve.
I usually respond by quoting the Talmud. Sechar Mitzvah Mitzvah (Avos 4:2). The reward for a mitzvah is a mitzvah. This somewhat perplexing phrase is usually explained as an assurance that one who fulfills a mitzvah will receive the opportunity to perform other mitzvos.
I get the same response every time. They think about it for a moment and then groan. What kind of offer is that? I admit, it does sound like typical rabbinic casuistry; they're struggling with the decision whether to do one thing and all I can promise them is the chance to back up again tomorrow.
That's when I interrupt with another, deeper interpretation of the words Sechar Mitzvah Mitzvah. The Lubavitcher Rebbe explained that the single most profound thing that we can do on this world is a mitzvah. When a Jew fulfills Hashem's will he connects himself with G-d. However, most of us, most of the time don't see those sparks of holiness. We believe in G-d, but we can't see Him. The Torah tells us that mitzvahs are infinitely precious, but we're forced to take that on faith.
The single greatest reward that anyone could aspire to is to understand and appreciate what is a mitzvah. How was this relationship with Hashem effected? How have I just changed the world for the better? The reward for a mitzvah is a mitzvah. If we do good deeds now, out of choice, then one day we'll find out what we just accomplished
No one is forcing you to do the right thing and I can't necessarily promise you instant gratification. Hashem gave us a list of instructions and left the rest up to us. When we freely choose to do the right thing, for no other reason than because G-d asked us to, then we can expect to be rewarded with an eventual insight into G-d and His system; and that's the greatest incentive that we can ever hope for in return.