The Reward for a Mitzvah Is a Mitzvah

“Hashem spoke to Moshe, saying: Pinchas son of Elazar son of Aharon the Kohen, turned back My wrath from upon the Children of Israel, when he zealously avenged My vengeance among them, so I did not consume the Children of Israel in My vengeance. Therefore, say: Behold! I give him My covenant of peace”

(Bamidbar 25:10-12)            

Hashem commanded Moshe to inform Pinchas that in reward for taking up for Hashem’s honor and killing Zimri ben Salu, the Nasi of Shevet Shimon, together with Kuzbi bat Tzur, he would merit His covenant of peace. Pinchas would become the emblem of peace, and bring much peace to the world.

Upon reflecting on Zimri’s sin, one wonders at the reaction of the people. Instead of taking action, decrying this dastardly deed, they cried over the shame of it. They were petrified into inactivity.

Zimri’s dishonorable act was more abominable in light of the way he presented his case to Moshe. He mockingly challenged Moshe’s own marriage with Tzipporah, who was known by all to be a most righteous woman. She dedicated her life and family for the sake of Klal Yisrael. Nonetheless, Bnei Yisrael, including Shevet Shimon, Zimri’s tribe, remained silent, making no endeavor to correct matters.

Just as there is physical tiredness and depression, when a person is not lucid enough to act appropriately, so is there a spiritual lethargy, which obscures one’s ability to save the situation. Bnei Yisrael found themselves in this condition. They simply did not know how to react to Zimri’s brash act.

Pinchas was the one who saved the day. He stood out from among the others, standing up for Hashem’s sake. He grabbed his spear and slew the two sinners together. The word רומח (spear) is composed of the letters רמ''ח, a reference to the 248 limbs in a person’s body. Pinchas gathered his limbs together, under the control of his mind. In this manner, he succeeded in breaking through the paralysis which had gripped the nation. With his swift act of killing the sinners, he halted the epidemic which had already claimed 24,000 lives (Bamidbar 25:9). Hashem performed twelve miracles on behalf of Pinchas, enabling him to achieve his goal of eradicating defilement from the camp of Israel (Tanchuma, Balak 21).

Similarly, we find that when Yaakov Avinu was at Har Hamoriah, he “lifted his feet” (Bereishit 29:1). Why doesn’t it simply state that Yaakov went? When Yaakov realized that he was at Har Hamoriah, a place where the Shechinah is most concentrated, he became paralyzed and could go no further. He was so engulfed with kedushah that he could not tear himself away from the place. But he knew he had a mission of going to Charan. He therefore had to actually lift his feet in order to leave.

Chazal (Kiddushin 39b) teach, “The reward for a mitzvah is not in this world.” In this world, we can enjoy the fruits of our labor regarding mitzvot between man and his fellow man. But the reward for mitzvot between man and Hashem are reserved completely for the World to Come. How can we understand that Pinchas was rewarded in this world for fighting Hashem’s battle?

The reward granted to Pinchas in Olam Hazeh is worlds apart from the reward a king would ordinarily grant a loyal subject. A citizen of Morocco once saved the king from an attempted assassination. As a token of his gratitude, the king appointed this man to a prestigious position in his kingdom. Their constant contact would serve as a reminder to the king that this man saved his life. The reward accorded to Pinchas was of an entirely different nature. It was along the lines of (Avot 4:2), “The reward of a mitzvah is a mitzvah.” In the merit of promoting peace among Am Yisrael, Pinchas was rewarded with becoming the peacemaker between Bnei Yisrael and their Heavenly Father (Yalkut Shimoni, Bamidbar 771). One mitzvah leads to another until a wealth of mitzvot is accumulated, which is reserved for Olam Haba.

A woman, let’s call her Mrs. Cohen, once complained to me that her husband was so absorbed in Torah study day and night that he was detached from his surroundings. Registration for yeshivot was taking place, and their son asked his father if he would put in a good word for him in a prestigious yeshiva, in order to guarantee him a place for the upcoming year. The man reassured his son that he had nothing to worry about. He would make every attempt to get him into the yeshiva of his choice. After a few days, the woman asked her husband if he had inquired into the yeshiva. He replied that the entire matter had escaped his memory. He would take care of it now, he said.

The next day, Mr. Cohen was traveling on the bus. A very distinguished-looking man sat next to him and posed a difficulty in his Torah study, which had been bothering him for a long time. Mr. Cohen offered him a satisfying solution. As they continued talking, Mr. Cohen said that he was seeking a yeshiva for his son for the upcoming year. The other man mentioned that he worked at a specific yeshiva and told the father he had nothing to worry about. He would arrange for his son’s acceptance. It would be their privilege to accept the son of such a learned father.

We see, time and again, how one who involves himself in Torah study has his needs provided by others (see Berachot 35b). Furthermore, “If someone takes upon himself the yoke of Torah, the yoke of government and the yoke of worldly responsibilities are removed from him” (Avot 3:5). One who dedicates himself to the cause of Torah and Hashem’s glory receives special siyata di’Shemaya to have his needs fulfilled. Pinchas brought about a tremendous kiddush Hashem and therefore merited future opportunities for promoting peace, without any effort involved. These opportunities would increase his Heavenly reward manifold.

How did Pinchas merit such greatness? It was due to the fact that “he stood up from amid the assembly” (Bamidbar 25:7). Pinchas was sitting among the Sanhedrin, the Torah giants of the nation, and speaking in words of Torah. Conversely, the rest of the nation “settled in Shittim.” They reached the nadir of sin by transgressing with the daughters of Moav and paying homage to their idols. Wasting time from Torah study will bring a person to terrible sins.  Sitting idle can bring one to serving idols. Indolence invites the Yetzer Hara, who seduces a person to sin. Conversely, Pinchas sat among the great men and thereby merited sanctifying Hashem’s Name. He received the singular blessing of “My covenant of peace” (Bamidbar 25:12).

Regarding Yaakov Avinu, Rashi expounds (Bereishit 37:2), “Yaakov sought to dwell in tranquility, but then, the ordeal of Yosef sprung upon him.” How unsettling can be the desire to settle! Yaakov merely sought to sit in peace, without actually doing it, and he was smitten with the incident of Yosef. All the more so should one be concerned about suffering when he sits idly, not intending to spend his time in Torah and mitzvot.

How far does the transgression of bitul Torah extend? Does one transgress every time he closes his sefer? I would like to suggest that one never really closes his sefer. Even after he has ended his learning session and left the Beit Hamidrash, he can still be attached to his study. His mind can be connected to Torah at all times. He should view the time away from Torah study merely as an intermission between sessions, in order to re-energize himself for further study with renewed vigor. When a person eats or sleeps, he should feel that he is not merely indulging in physical pleasure, but fortifying his body in order to serve Hashem to the best of his ability.

“In the way a man wishes to go, he is led” (Makkot 10b). If Hashem observes a person who truly desires to walk in His ways and observe His mitzvot, He grants him the strength to fulfill these desires. David Hamelech proclaims (Tehillim 119:62), “At midnight I arise to thank You for Your righteous ordinances.” David Hamelech awoke each night, precisely at midnight, in order to sing and give praise to Hashem (Berachot 3b).

Chazal (ibid.) relate that a harp hung in David’s room. A northerly wind would come and blow through its strings. This would awaken David at midnight. This miracle shows us how Hashem helps those who wish to do His will. They often receive siyata di’Shemaya above the laws of nature, in order to enable them to continue on their road of righteousness.

Pinchas, who demonstrated by his bold act that he wished to preserve peace, merited another mitzvah. Hashem gave him more opportunities to bring peace between Bnei Yisrael and their Heavenly Father.

In Summary


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