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The Agnostic’s Reward

The Agnostic’s Reward


And it will be, if you will diligently obey My commandments which I enjoin upon you this day, to love the L‑rd your G‑d and to serve Him with all your heart and with all your soul: I will give rain for your land at the proper time . . . you will eat and be sated. Take care lest your heart be lured away, and you turn astray and worship alien gods and bow down to them. For then the L‑rd’s wrath will flare up against you . . . (Deuteronomy 11:13–17; recited daily in the second paragraph of the Shema)

Rabbi Yitzchak Meir Alter (1798–1866), founder of the illustrious Gerrer chassidic dynasty, once met a scoffer pushing his wayward agenda.

“I have broken every precept for decades now, and I have a wonderful life . . .”Rebbe,” he claimed, “I can prove that the Torah is false. The second paragraph of the Shema foretells terrible punishments for those who deviate from the ways of righteousness. I have broken every available precept for decades now, and I have a wonderful life, blessed with financial success, good health and a happy family.”

“The fact that you can ask such a question,” the rebbe responded, “implies that, at the very least, you have once read through the words of Shema?”

“Of course, rabbi, even a sinner like myself has visited a synagogue and prayed once or twice.”

“Then I’ll have you know,” the rebbe continued, “that whatever you have received in life until now is inadequate. Our G‑d is so forgiving and generous, that saying the Shema even once entitles you to rewards and happiness beyond even your wildest dreams.”

Rabbi Elisha Greenbaum is spiritual leader of Moorabbin Hebrew Congregation and co-director of L’Chaim Chabad in Moorabbin, Victoria, Australia.
Artwork by Sarah Kranz.
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Stephanie GA July 8, 2013

Agnostic I can't find anywhere on the internet where I could get a good description of the word, "Agnostic". This cannot be a reliable religion to follow. Reply

Anonymous damascus, md via June 20, 2011

his good life is all superficial. He woulld not have asked this question if he did not feel that despite all his good fortune something was missing. Reply

Avi suffern, new york September 3, 2008

excellent comment Reply

Anonymous August 21, 2008

A powerful lesson. It seems to me that the Gerrer Rebbe was encouraging a fellow Jew to use the Mitzvah of saying the Shema as a stepping stone to do more mitzvohs.

He was obviously gifted at encouraging Jews in a positive way. Reply

Anonymous Cda August 19, 2008

Rewards beyond our wildest dreams Thank you, Rabbi, for this very liberal answer.

Ii like it much better than the usual answers such as: , "well you're overdue with your prayers"; taxes, correspondence, and bed-side vigils for the sick, lame, poor, so on and so forth,.

How wise of you to take such confidence in the omnipotence of the Divine Word - reciting the Shema, even once and to leave it to imaginative mystery the beautiful blessings shored up for those who do so much more ... in heaven. Thank you for responding with such an even hand. Reply