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Parshas Behar-Bechukotai (5777)

Racking Up Those Mitzvahs!

As the festival of Shavuos – upon which we celebrate the Receiving of the Torah at Mount Sinai – is almost upon us (this year it begins on Tuesday evening May 30th), I would like to share with you some “insider information” about the Torah that will greatly benefit you both in Olam HaZeh (“This World”) and especially in Olam HaBa (“The World to Come”).

The Mishnah in Pirkei Avos (“Ethics of the Fathers”) 4:22 states: “[Rabbi Yaakov] used to say: Better one hour of repentance and good deeds in this world than the entire life of the World to Come; and better is one hour of spiritual bliss in the World to Come than the entire life in this world.”

Rashi explains the first half of Rabbi Yaakov’s teaching that only in this world can a person perform mitzvos (good deeds) and earn Divine reward. In the next world he can only collect the reward that he earned in life but it is then too late to add to his spiritual fortune. Thus, one hour spent doing mitzvos in this world is a much better opportunity than the entirety of the World to Come, where one can only reap the rewards of his previous labors but earn nothing new.

In the second half of Rabbi Yaakov’s teaching he affords us a tiny glimpse into the reward that is waiting for us in Olam HaBa for all our good deeds. We are told that one hour of “spiritual bliss” in the next world is worth more than anything this world can offer.

Rabbi Eliyahu Dessler explains this as follows: Imagine if one were able to compact all the hours of joy and pleasure he experienced in his own lifetime, along with all the happiness of his friends and neighbors, into one blissful moment. Can you fathom the utter joy and pleasure of that moment? Now compound that moment with the total bliss of the lifetimes of all his contemporaries found any place on the planet, and imagine experiencing that intense pleasure. What an amazing sensation that must be! Yet all the delight and pleasure of all the generations of human history in the entire world, concentrated in one solitary intoxicating moment, still doesn’t add up to the spiritual bliss that one will experience in even one hour in the World to Come!

Now of all the mitzvos that one can perform in this world, we are taught by our Sages that “Talmud Torah K’neged Kulam – the study of Torah is equivalent to all the other mitzvos”.

The Vilna Gaon in Shenos Eliyahu explains that each and every word of Torah that we study is its own separate mitzvah with its own separate Divine reward, unlike with other mitzvos where we only receive one Divine reward for each act of mitzvah performed.

This means that if we study Torah for one hour we will potentially have “racked up” hundreds of mitzvos!! And as we learned in Pirkei Avos, the reward in store for us in the World to Come for even one mitzvah that we perform in this world is greater and more pleasurable than all the joy and bliss that this world can provide! Now that’s a whole lotta bliss!

But wait, there’s more …

The Lev Eliyahu writes that he heard from the Chafetz Chaim that since our Sages teach us that the mitzvah of Shabbos is equivalent to all the other 612 mitzvos, the Divine reward for a mitzvah performed on Shabbos is multiplied 613 times!!

Now let’s do the math. If one sits down on a long Shabbos afternoon and studies Torah for one hour (and I recommend the study of Pirkei Avos for starters), he will have accumulated hundreds of mitzvos (each word of Torah studied is a separate mitzvah), and each of these mitzvos, in turn, is multiplied 613 times. So that by the time the hour is over he will have racked up over 61,000 mitzvos (!) – with each individual mitzvah yielding a reward of spiritual bliss in Olam HaBa that is far greater than all the mansions, Ferraris, and other luxuries that this world can provide! That’s what I call a good investment!

I hope you will take me up on my “insider’s tip” and reap all the rewards that Torah study can offer.

[Sources: The Pirkei Avos Treasury Artscroll Mesorah Publications]

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