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Pirkei Avot 2:16 – Do I Want a Reward?


Pirkei Avot 2:16

הוּא הָיָה אוֹמֵר, לֹא עָלֶיךָ הַמְּלָאכָה לִגְמֹר, וְלֹא אַתָּה בֶן חוֹרִין לִבָּטֵל מִמֶּנָּה. אִם לָמַדְתָּ תוֹרָה הַרְבֵּה, נוֹתְנִים לְךָ שָׂכָר הַרְבֵּה. וְנֶאֱמָן הוּא בַעַל מְלַאכְתְּךָ שֶׁיְּשַׁלֵּם לְךָ שְׂכַר פְּעֻלָּתֶךָ. וְדַע מַתַּן שְׂכָרָן שֶׁל צַדִּיקִים לֶעָתִיד לָבֹא

He [Rabbi Tarfon] used to say: It is not your duty to finish the work, but neither are you at liberty to neglect it; If you have studied much Torah, you shall be given much reward. Faithful is your employer to pay you the reward of your labor; And know that the grant of reward unto the righteous is in the age to come.

Why would you want to begin teaching the world the 7 Noahide Commandments and way of life when it is only a drop in the ocean?

It is the month of Elul at the time of writing. The Jewish month of meditation and asking forgiveness from one’s neighbor and from G-d. When someone asks you for forgiveness, it (ideally) changes your perspective toward that person, and you can forgive them. It makes your own attitude more active. So it is with G-d. If we ask for forgiveness sincerely, G-d is motivated, as it were, by us to forgive us, and He will forgive because He is merciful.

So too with our task of making the world a better place. The moment we actively engage in this, G-d gets motivated and He will help us and where we cannot finish it, He will finish it.

Non-Jews have not been given a commandment to study Torah; instead, they have been told to follow the Noahide Commandments and its specifics. This is possible only if these commandments are studied. As a result, Noahide should study the Torah, which is related to the 7 Noahide Commandments.

Is a non-Jew rewarded for his studies? We find the following in Avodah Zarah 3a-2:

Rabbi Meir would say: From where is it derived that even a gentile who engages in Torah study is considered like a High Priest? The verse states: “You shall therefore keep My statutes and My ordinances, which if a person do, and shall live by them” (Leviticus 18:5). It is not stated: Priests, Levites, and Israelites, but rather the general term “person.” From here you learn that even a gentile who engages in the study of Torah is like a High Priest. This demonstrates that gentiles are rewarded for fulfilling mitzvot, despite the fact that they are not commanded to do so.

When a non-Jew learns the 7 Noahide Commandments from the Torah because G-d gave them and confirmed them through Moses at Mount Sinai, his reward will be that he will share in the world to come.[1]

However, we should serve G-d not for the sake of receiving a reward, but because we desire to serve Him and know it is the right thing to do to have a good connection with Him in the here and now.

I’ve been struggling with the prize of the World to Come. My prior faith was entirely focused on this award. Not only that, but it would be the place where you would see all of your beloved deceased once again. But what if the World to Come is solely for the Jewish people and those of the nationos who firmly believe in the seven Noahide Commandments? So, who will I see there? It made me feel sad. Thankfully, it is up to G-d to decide who enters or does not enter the World to Come. But, if I were the only one of my loved ones, would I want that reward? Until I realized: G-d is enough for me.

So it should be with everything a person accomplishes in life for G-d, solely for G-d and without regard for reward. But with complete faith that He is righteous.

By Angelique Sijbolts


[1] Sanhedrin 105a:11

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