Rabbi, you say that we’re supposed to be good without anticipating rewards. What do you mean? Isn't there the concept of heaven, and rewards, in Judaism?


A man once complained: “I’ve had a committed, meaningful relationship with my wife for the past 25 years. What do I have to show for it now?”

How unwise. Is there anything more valuable than exactly that—a 25 year meaningful relationship with your spouse?

Entering marriage with the idea that somehow you will be repaid and rewarded for what you do is a recipe for future disappointments. Marriage is about giving; it is about sharing your personal life with another.

Our relationship with G‑d, too, is not one that is tit-for-tat. Yes, there are rewards, just as there are in marriage; but just as it is unwise to get married for some come kind of benefit or reward, so too, we do not fulfill our G‑dly obligations just because we want to benefit from them.

In the words of our Sages in Ethics of Our Father, “Do not be as servants who serve their master for the sake of reward. Rather, be as servants who serve their master not for the sake of reward.”1

The chassidic masters take this a step further. They ask: Why fulfill a commandment in anticipation of a tangible reward when there is a much greater reward possible? Because, the fact is that our understanding of heaven is limited; the reward that we will receive there is certainly not comparable to the kinds of delights we have here on earth.

Heavenly reward is closeness to G‑d, having a relationship with that which is True and Good, with our Father in Heaven. This reward is infinitely greater than the basic, tit-for-tat kind of reward we would receive if we were merely being paid for a job well done.

When we live a life of goodness, we’re in a dedicated, meaningful relationship with a very special SomeOne–a delight much greater than any reward that one could possibly deserve.2

Please see Does G‑d Give Us Candies?