The Goal of Prosperity is Mitzvot Observance

It is written, “If you walk in My statutes and observe My commandments and perform them, then I will provide your rains in their time, and the land will give its produce and the tree of the field will give its fruit” (Vayikra 26:3-4).

Scripture seems to be telling us that the Holy One, blessed be He, rewards man in this world when he observes mitzvot. Therefore how is the teaching in the Gemara fulfilled, namely: “There is no reward for mitzvot in this world” (Kiddushin 39b)?

We may explain this according to Rashi, who said: “If you walk in My statutes…. It means that you must toil in the study of Torah; and observe My commandments – you shall toil in the study of Torah in order to observe and fulfill.” From the fact that the Torah placed the study of Torah before the observance of mitzvot, we learn that it is impossible for a person to fulfill mitzvot unless he puts time into diligently studying the Torah. When one puts an effort into studying Torah, one ends up observing mitzvot. This is why some people observe certain mitzvot but not others, for they fail to put an effort into Torah study and instead they focus all their efforts into this fleeting life. Hence they take pleasure in this life, but not in observing Torah mitzvot. Yet one who puts an effort into learning Torah will find great pleasure in it, as well as in the mitzvot, and he will end up observing them in great detail, for that will be the fruit of his labors.

Going Further and Further in Torah Study

An indication that Torah study enables a person to fulfill all the mitzvot lies in the fact that the word amal (arduous study) is composed of the same letters as ma’al (using something sacred for a mundane purpose). In other words, one who studies Torah will not betray it, betrayal consisting of appropriating something that is holy for oneself, for example by appropriating Torah mitzvot by accomplishing some of them while rejecting others, as a person does with something that belongs to him. Yet when someone puts an effort into studying Torah, he fulfills “If you walk in My statutes” – like someone who walks with his face turned towards a specific place, and who goes from place to place in order to arrive at his goal without getting tired on his journey, for he knows that he will be able to rest when he reaches his destination. Thus one who studies Torah in this world will not grow tired from all his effort, for he goes further and further in the rungs of Torah. Our Sages have praised the talmidei chachamim by saying, “Talmidei chachamim have no rest either in this world or in the World to Come” (Berachot 64a). Here Rashi explains that “if you walk in My statutes” means going from yeshiva to yeshiva and from Beit HaMidrash to Beit HaMidrash. In fulfilling “If you walk in My statutes,” we merit to arrive at “observe My commandments,” meaning the fulfillment of all the mitzvot. As for one who concerns himself with this fleeting life, that habit will prevent him from fulfilling the mitzvot of the Torah, which constitute eternal life, for he puts no effort into them.

What our Sages meant by saying, “The reward for a mitzvah is a mitzvah” (Pirkei Avoth 4:2) is that when a person fulfills the mitzvah of Torah study, the Holy One, blessed be He, enables him to perform all the mitzvot, and in this way his reward in the World to Come will increase. Thus Rabbeinu Yona Zatzal explained in his commentary on Pirkei Avoth: “Not that this is the reward, for how could it represent a reward? This is not so, for the reward is in the World to Come. In this world, however, we benefit from the result of the mitzvah, insofar as it helps us to perform other mitzvot. Thus the capital grows in the World to Come.”

Hashem Gives Generously

How can a person arrive at observing all the mitzvot? It is by studying Torah with the goal of putting it into practice, as Rashi states. The Holy One, blessed be He, also gives abilities to a person in this ephemeral world, enabling him to perform all the mitzvot, easy or difficult. In fact many mitzvot depend upon physical things, mitzvot such as leket, shikcha, peah, masserot, and bikkurim. The Holy One, blessed be He, gives man the study of Torah in order for him to observe and accomplish, for otherwise how can he fulfill mitzvot without material goods?

Hashem gives him all this so he can fulfill them. One who studies Torah merits to fulfill all the mitzvot, and it is therefore fitting for him to receive the possessions of this world, not as a reward, but as a means of performing all the mitzvot. This is what constitutes, “I will provide your rains in their time” – “your rains” constituting of materiality. The Holy One, blessed be He, gives man material possessions in proportion to what he needs to fulfill mitzvot. Once He opens His storehouse, He gives in abundance, as it is written: “I will pour out upon you blessing without end” (Malachi 3:10). In other words, a person will receive even more than what he needs to perform mitzvot.

However a person who does not devote himself to Torah study is not given the possessions of this world, for he does not study and therefore cannot fulfill mitzvot. In fact only one who studies Torah has the ability to fulfill all the mitzvot. If a person says before the Celestial Court when he is being judged, “I was poor and did not have the ability to fulfill mitzvot because of my poverty,” the Court will tell him: “You did not have enough sustenance because you did not put enough effort into learning Torah. If you had studied, the Holy One, blessed be He, would have given you enough to perform the mitzvot, for He only gives material goods in order to perform them, and the Sages have said: ‘I have acted wickedly and destroyed my livelihood’ [Kiddushin 82a].”

Some may object by saying that there are many wealthy people who do not study Torah. We reply that the Ba’alei HaTosafot have already answered this by saying, “The Holy One, blessed be He, created three gifts in the world: Wisdom, strength, and riches. Whoever merits one merits them all. When does this occur? When they come through the power of the Torah’s wisdom and the fear of Heaven. Otherwise there is no strength or wealth that can help man in any way” (Da’at Zekenim 32:1). Jeremiah said, “Let the wise man not glorify himself with his wisdom, and let the strong man not glorify himself with his strength, and let the rich man not glorify himself with his wealth. For only in this may one glorify himself – contemplating and knowing Me” (Jeremiah 9:22).

These three abilities, when they do not come from the Holy One, blessed be He, will be to the detriment of the one who possesses them. Our Sages have taught that the verse, “Riches hoarded by their owner to his misfortune” (Kohelet 5:12) applies to Korach (Sanhedrin 110a). The Sages also say, “Two rich men arose in the world, one in Israel and one among the nations of the world – Korach in Israel and Haman among the nations of the world – and both of them were destroyed from the world. Why? Because their gifts were not from the Holy One, blessed be He, but they snatched it for themselves” (Bereshith Rabba 22:7).


Hevrat Pinto • 32, rue du Plateau 75019 Paris - FRANCE • Tél. : +331 42 08 25 40 • Fax : +331 42 06 00 33 • © 2015 • Webmaster : Hanania Soussan