Talmud Tips

For the week ending 16 April 2016 / 8 Nisan 5776

Kiddushin 37 - 43

by Rabbi Moshe Newman
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Rabbi Yaakov said, “There is no reward in this world for fulfilling a mitzvah.”

The gemara explains that we see that Rabbi Yaakov holds this opinion from what he teaches in a beraita, that whenever the Torah stipulates the reward for fulfilling a particular mitzvah, it refers only to the reward for the mitzvah in the World-to-Come. Although this concept is a matter of dispute between Tana’im, the Rambam cites the view of Rabbi Yaakov as the halacha. (Laws of Teshuva 8:1)

The Rambam raises an apparent question on his ruling from the beginning of the next chapter, since we see, as we see in many verses in the Torah, that we are promised reward in this world for mitzvah fulfillment, such as peace and success (and punishment in this world for transgressions). We say twice daily, in the second paragraph of the Shema: “I (G-d) will give the rain of your Land at its time, the early rain and the latter rain, and you will gather in your grain, your wine and your oil. And I will give grass in your field for your livestock, and you will eat and be satiated. (Deut. 11:14-15) This seems to indicate a reward in this world for mitzvah observance, contrary to the teaching of Rabbi Yaakov, and the ruling of the Rambam in the previous chapter.

The Rambam explains the matter in depth and with great clarity. He writes that “G-d gave us this Torah, which is a tree of life. Whoever fulfills what is written within it and comprehends it with complete and proper knowledge will merit the life of the World-to-Come.” This is the ultimate reward for the fulfillment of the mitzvot. However, there are also “benefits” in this world that we are promised, not as an ultimate reward, but to help and enable our mitzvah observance, such as being bestowed with wealth and peace. This is not a “reward” inasmuch as it is an “opportunity”. As the Rambam states, “He will grant us all the good that will reinforce our performance of the Torah, such as plenty, peace, an abundance of silver and gold, in order that we not be involved throughout all our days in matters needed by the body; but, rather, we will be able to dwell unburdened and have the opportunity to study wisdom and perform mitzvot in order that we will merit the life of the World-to-Come.”

  • Kiddushin 39b

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