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Home » B'Chukotai

B’chukotai: Material Reward

Submitted by on May 7, 2006 – 3:48 amNo Comment | 2,501 views

An Obvious Question

This week’s Parsha begins with an assurance from G-d that if we observe his commandments he will grant us many rewards including prosperity, safety, peace and national sovereignty. Many commentators have wondered why all the enumerated rewards are of a physical nature, are we not destined for spiritual reward in the world to come? Why does the Torah omit the primary rewards and emphasize only the secondary material reward?
Rashi comments on the verse, “I shall walk among you,” (Leviticus 26, 12) “I shall stroll among you in Gan Eden” “(Paradise.) This indicates that at least one spiritual reward was promised. But even if we should accept this (slightly forced) interpretation it would still seem curious that the Torah emphasizes material reward over spiritual!

Seven Answers

In his commentary, the Kli Yakar cites seven possible answers:
  1. This is not a description of our ultimate reward it is merely a promise by G-d that if we fulfill his commandments he will provide “appropriate working conditions” for us. material reward - innerstreamOur reward does indeed await us in heaven but that is not the subject of our Parsha. (Maimonidies)
  2. A description of the spiritual may introduce confusion and misunderstanding as it is beyond the grasp of the average reader. This description was therefore only revealed in the Kabbalah but not in the Torah, because Torah is accessible to all but kabbalah is reserved for Torah scholars. (Reb Avraham Ibn Ezra)
  3. Torah details only the rewards that are beyond normal expectation. It is surprising to learn that rainfall will depend on a nation’s moral behavior it is not surprising to learn that a soul returns to the heavens from whence it has come. It was therefore omitted. (Rabbi Bachya)
  4. The intention of this promise was to demonstrate divine providence over the detailed happenings of this world. The spiritual rewards were therefore omitted, as they do not reinforce this notion. (Kuzari)
  5. Before Jews received the Torah they worshiped Idolatry and prayed for prosperity. The intention of this promise was to reassure the Jewish people that they would not forfeit the material reward of  prosperity by accepting the Torah. (Rav Saadya Gaon)
  6. This promise of material reward carries promise of spiritual reward by way of inference. If the Parsha promises that G-d will walk among us while we are in the physical realm then we can a fortiori expect that G-d will walk among us when we are divested from the physical body and have returned to the spiritual realm. (Rabeinu Nissim)
  7. The material reward promised here are national affairs; they reward the conduct of the majority despite the record of the individual. Spiritual reward is, however, an individual affair; we are each rewarded in accordance with our deeds. It is therefore not appropriate to merge the two. (Nachmanidies)

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