Incentive by Jerry M. Karp


Shiluach Hakan, mentioned in Parshat Ki Teitzei, and Kibud Av Vaem are the only Mitzvot for which the Torah explicitly mentions the reward for their performance.  The reward for Shiluach Hakan is described as “Limaan Yitav Lach Vihaarachta Yamim,” “in order that it will be good for you and that you will have a long life.” For Kibud Av Vaem, however, the Torah in Parshat Vaetchanan writes, “Limaan Yaarichun Yamecha U’Limaan Yitav Lach,” “so that you will have a long life and it will be good for you.”  Why is the order of the rewards for these two clearly linked Mitzvot different for each?

The Netziv gives an explanation for the change in the order of the rewards.  He believes that the reward of “you will have a long life” refers to one’s life in Olam Hazeh, and that the reward of “it will be good for you” refers to one’s experience in Olam Haba.  The Mitzvah of Kibud Av Vaem, he explains, is completely rational to us.  Therefore, its main reward should be in Olam Hazeh, the rational world.  However, the Mitzvah of Shiluach Hakan is a Chok, and we do not understand the reason for it, so its reward is in Olam Haba, which we also cannot comprehend.

The Netziv suggests an alternate explanation based on the Mishnah in Pirkei Avot.  R’ Yaakov says that an hour of the experience of Olam Haba is greater than all of Olam Hazeh, but an hour spent in learning and good deeds is better than all of Olam Haba.  At first glance, these statements are contradictory.  After all, which is greater: Olam Hazeh or Olam Haba?  The Netziv suggests that for a person who performs Mitzvot because he fears punishment and wants reward, Olam Haba is greater, since the reward in Olam Hazeh is incomparable to that of Olam Haba.  However, to a person who performs Mitzvot because he truly loves serving Hashem, Olam Hazeh is much greater, since one can only serve Hashem in Olam Hazeh. 

In this spirit, the Netziv suggests another reason for the wording of the rewards.  Indeed, Kibud Av Vaem is a rational Mitzvah, but the Torah adds in Vaetchanan the words “Kaasher Tzivcha Hashem Elokecha,” “as Hashem has commanded you.”  The Torah’s intent is that one should not do the Mitzvah because it is rational, but because it is a commandment from Hashem.  If a person can perform the Mitzvah at this level, it is because he truly loves the service of Hashem.  For this reason, the primary reward is in Olam Hazeh.  However, according to the Netziv, the incentive for the performance of a completely irrational Mitzvah is the reward for doing so.  As a result, the primary reward is in Olam Haba.

May all the Mitzvot that we perform be motivated by a sincere desire to serve Hashem.

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