Day 40 of the Omer

מִמַּאֲמָרֵי רַבֵּנוּ הַזָּקֵן בִּשְׁנַת תקנ"ה בְּליאָזנאָ: שְׂכַר מִצְוָה מִצְוָה, הַמִּצְוָה בְּעֶצֶם עַצְמוּתָהּ הִיא הַשָּׂכָר וְהִתְגַלּוּת הָעַצְמוּת תִּהְיֶה לֶעָתִיד, אֲבָל זֶהוּ הַקֶּרֶן קַיֶּמֶת שֶׁל הַמִּצְוָה, אָמְנָם פֵּירוֹתֶיהָ אָדָם אוֹכֵל בָּעוֹלָם הַזֶּה, וְהוּ‎א בְּכָל מִצְוָה וּמִצְוָה בְּעִנְיָנָהּ, דְכַאֲשֶׁר צָרִיךְ לְאוֹתוֹ דָּבָר הוּא נַעֲנֶה.

The Alter Rebbe delivered the following maamar in Liozna in the year 5555 (1795):

“The reward for a mitzvah is a mitzvah.”1 The very essence of the mitzvah is itself the reward for the mitzvah. This essence will be revealed in the Ultimate Future. That is [only] the principal of the mitzvah, which is preserved [for the future].2 However, the fruits of the mitzvah (i.e., its side benefits) are enjoyed by a person in This World. [This applies] to every mitzvah, each in its own way. When [the person who fulfills the mitzvah] needs its particular influence, he receives it.3

A Story with an Echo

The word mitzvah derives from the root צוה (“to command”). In addition, on a non-literal level of interpretation, Chassidus perceives it as deriving from the root צות (“to connect”). Seen in this light, the reward for the observance of a command is the connection that it fashions — between the Giver of the command and the individual who fulfills it.

However, this bond with G‑d is so powerful that it cannot be revealed in the present era. Only in the Ultimate Future, when the essential G‑dliness within every entity is revealed, will this bond be manifest.

At the same time, every mitzvah also brings secondary benefits to the one who fulfills it. It is a fundamental tenet of the faith that G‑d rewards mortals in this world, too, for carrying out His will,4 though we can never be sure when that reward will come, or in what form. G‑d, in His wisdom, finds the proper time and place.5

In the letter that cites the above-quoted teaching of the Alter Rebbe, the Rebbe Rayatz tells the following story.

A group of chassidim in a Russian village had been imprisoned through the activities of an informer. When the charges against them were dropped and they were released, they wrote a letter to the Alter Rebbe telling him of G‑d’s kindness. One of the chassidim, R. Shimon Blecher, a man of very meager means, wanted to hire a special courier to deliver the message to the Alter Rebbe as soon as possible.

When his chassidic brethren learned of his plans, they protested that it was wrong for him to deprive his family of this money. R. Shimon insisted, however, and explained that the satisfaction he could bring to the Rebbe was worth more to him and his family than material benefits.

The matter was brought before the mashpia, the local chassidic mentor, who ruled that R. Shimon could undertake the expense. The courier was dispatched and the letter delivered. Some time later, when the Alter Rebbe sent a chassid to that region to collect tzedakah, he also sent a personal letter to R. Shimon, thanking him for his initiative and giving him a distinctive blessing — that he should always be a bearer of good tidings. Within a short time the Alter Rebbe’s blessing bore fruit, and R. Shimon and his family were granted a unique measure of health and prosperity.

The Rebbe Rayatz concludes there: “‘The reward of the mitzvah is the mitzvah,’ but for fulfilling the mitzvah of ahavas Yisrael with self-sacrifice, R. Shimon was granted both material and spiritual blessings.”