12 Kislev 5781 / Saturday, November 28, 2020 | Torah Reading: Vayeitzei
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The Greatest Reward    

The Greatest Reward

A true partnership and commitment to Hashem will bring us the greatest reward when we pass along His teachings to our children and to future generations…


What is the greatest reward?  According to Holocaust survivor, Frida Berger, “If you’re healthy, you’re wealthy.” So how do we merit longevity and good health? G-d promises if we emulate what He wants, surely we will be blessed. Well, we know Hashem loves shalom (peace), ethical behavior, morality, and the practice of values. He blesses us when we adhere to principles that He defines as righteous and just and then pass them on to our children. The way to a peaceful society begins with fear of Hashem, and when we fear Him we need not fear anyone else. No man-made law or statute, not even the Hippocratic oath, or swearing in front of a court of law can guarantee that justice will be served, but Hashem assures it. So a true partnership and commitment to Hashem will bring us the greatest reward when we pass along His teachings to our children and to future generations.


The Torah teaches that the greatest reward G-d can bestow on a person is children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren. We must take this gift seriously. Those whom we teach and the good deeds that we perform belong in this same category. Shifra and Pua, later identified respectively as Yocheved, mother of Miriam, Moses, and Aaron, and Miriam, sister of Moses, were midwives who helped deliver and take care of babies. They ignored the edict of Pharaoh who decreed that baby boys born to Jewish mothers must be drowned in the Nile. Instead they comforted and nourished the newborns with prayer, sang lullabies to them, and massaged any deformity. The Midrash describes how they lovingly cared for the sick and unhealthy babies. Shifra’s name means to “improve” (ie, the babies’ health). Puah refers to the gentle way in which Miriam spoke to the infants, calming them down and stopping them from crying.


First it says, “The midwives feared G-d, and they did not comply (with Pharaoh’s edict)” [Exodus 1: 17]. Then the Torah says, “And it was because the midwives feared G-d that He made for them houses” [ Exodus 1:21]. So two times it says that the midwives feared G-d. To them, obeying G-d was primary---- above all else. They knew with certainty the need to listen to Him for the simple reason that He said so. Their excuse to Pharaoh for failure to abide by his evil decree was that the Jewish mothers were quick to deliver their own babies and that the babies were already born before they could follow through with Pharaoh’s evil plan.


What do the “houses” in the above verse represent? They represent the generations of Kohanim (kings and priests) that descended from the male babies that these two saved and also from Shifra and Pua. This was a peripheral reward. The primary reward was the nachas (pleasure and pride) that these two women had from their own children and grandchildren because they treated the babies they cared for as their own, and they acted as mothers. They were thus rewarded to become mothers, grandmothers, great grandmother, and great great grandmothers and to see the fruits of their labor and witness the Jewish people thriving.


All that these two selfless women desired was Jewish perpetuity and continuity---to save the Jewish nation and watch it flourish. The greatest reward is not wealth or material amenities but rather to experience nachas—success from our children and grandchildren--- in the perpetuation of Judaism and the practical application of Judaic beliefs. The fear of G-d, Who mandated that there be no murder, no stealing, and no adultery, is what makes a society comply. A compliant nation is a healthy nation.


G-d is the Highest Authority, and we need to spread the belief in Him because secular laws do not have the soul power to convince people to be moral and ethical. Not kindness or compassion, not any promise (verbal or written) to do no harm, not logic, nor human stringencies prevent crimes. Only the fear of G-d can do that. When we listen to His voice, He will assist us with not only our own personal challenges but all that we are facing today in modern times. The greatest reward we will receive will come on the heels of the realization that we need to teach our children to fear and to love G-d now more than ever.

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