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Thursday
Sep122019

A GOOD COMPENSATION PACKAGE OR A REAL PARTNERSHIP?

Reward is not for someone who is obligated to work, but for one who binds himself in a kind of consensual, contractual agreement to work for specified compensation, such as a hired worker. We work now and get paid in a timely fashion. The next day, in fact – and even before that! * There is a deeper relationship in the grand enterprise of refining and settling the world, whereby we are partners in Creation.

By Rabbi Boruch Merkur

All of Elul is devoted to spiritually preparing for Rosh HaShana, Judgement Day. The judgement, however, curiously pertains to material concerns. (Likkutei Sichos 29, pg. 143)

Is it about us or our King? Is the head of the Jewish year really founded on the concern for reward – material reward, no less? Isn’t the piety of a Jew expressed by being “servants who serve the master without the expectation of receiving a reward”?

***

A Jew, a Yehudi, rejects idolatry and pantheism. Judaism is the seismic shift expressing how to a Jew, G-d is everything. Every relationship traces back to the one G-d. He is our Father, our King, our Judge and Teacher, our Brother (“achosi kala”), even our Child (“ad sh’kara la Imi”)! In Elul we refer to Hashem as “Dodi,” our Beloved. Yet G-d is also our Shepherd, our Hero-Warrior (ala Krias Yam Suf), and G-d is our Master and Employer – our Boss!

When He is Master, we are His avadim, His servants or slaves. When He is Boss, we are His hired workers. But we’re more than that. We are G-d’s partners in the grand enterprise of Creation: “All who recite … ‘VaYachulu’ … is as if he becomes a partner to the Alm-ghty in the act of Creation” (Shabbos 119b, beg.)

When we speak of reward, the focus is not on being G-d’s child or even His royal subjects – “im k’banim…im k’avadim…” Although we crown G-d as King on Rosh HaShana, and the foundation of our avoda is to serve G-d as subjects or servants – our servitude to G-d is not a relationship that elicits reward. As “property of his master,” the slave’s whole purpose is to serve him: “I…was created to serve my Master.” Although “A master is obligated to provide his slave with food and drink, as well as clothing and shelter” (Rambam’s Laws of Slaves 1:9), these provisions don’t constitute compensation for labor. It is, rather, the obligation to provide for someone in your care: “One who acquires a Jewish slave acquires for himself a master” (Kiddushin 20a). (Likkutei Sichos Vol 29, pg. 141.)  

Reward is not for someone who is obligated to work, but for one who binds himself in a kind of consensual, contractual agreement to work for specified compensation, such as a hired worker. “Ha’yom laasosam, l’machar l’kabel s’charam” (Eiruvin 22a) – we work now and get paid in a timely fashion. The next day, in fact – and even before that:

A taste of reward is granted in advance, within the avoda itself (prior to when compensation is due, “b’yomo titen s’charo – on that day provide his wages”) – immediately when we start the job. (Seifer HaSichos 5751, pg. 802)

The compensation package is rich with ongoing benefits, even prior to completing the job – before we even show up at the workplace!

“Since the avoda and reward are one and the same … payment is due even before beginning the job.” (Ibid) 

And compensation supports us in our real-life struggles, resonating in the most practical way possible:

The main thing is for avoda to emerge from tranquility and the feeling of being settled (“When you come to the land … and inherit it and settle it”) in the literal sense, tranquility of soul and body. G-d gives each Jew all he or she requires – materially and spiritually, and in abundance – from His full, open, holy, and broad hand.

This support is required (not as reward but) first and foremost for the sake of the avoda itself [so we may serve G-d in the optimal way], as Rambam writes regarding the material blessings promised in the Torah: “G-d promises us … that He will remove all the obstacles in our way of serving Him, such as illness, war, famine, and the like. G-d also bestows us with all the resources required to strengthen our capacity to live a Torah life, such as being sated, having peace, and plenty of silver and gold.

In addition to granting us what we need to serve Him, G-d is also obliged, as it were, to provide compensation during the time of “ha’yom laasosam,” as it says, “on that day provide his wages.” This very timely compensation is not solely a spiritual reward … but also a material reward, a preview foreshadowing the worldly reward of the Messianic Era,* “for in that era there will not be famine or war … goodness will be in great abundance and all delicacies will be as common as dust” – (including) material luxuries.

*Footnote: 73: In fact, since Torah and Mitzvos will be fulfilled to perfection in the Messianic Era (as above Section 9), the abundance of Yemos HaMoshiach is necessary (not just as compensation, but also) for the sake of the avoda itself [to have all that is needed to serve Hashem in the best way possible]. (Ibid pg. 804).

The extent of our compensation package does not only cover material needs – but even pleasure, believe it or not! We learn this from the verse, “When you enter your friend’s vineyard and partake of grapes to sate your soul’s desire.” It is a Mitzva for the vineyard owner to let them eat from the produce they work with” (Rambam’s Laws of S’chiros Ch. 12, beg.):

This Mitzva embodies the service of working G-d’s “vineyard” or “field” (for G-d is called “your friend”)  … G-d provides all their needs for food (in fact, not just food but all their needs, for they are all referred to as “consumption”) – including bare necessities (working the field) as well as delights (working the vineyard). (Seifer HaSichos 5751 Vol 2, pg. 798, Footnote 18)

Nothing is withheld from the Jew; everything is provided for him, not as a reward so much as for the sake of his perfect service of G-d.

***

As mentioned above, there is a deeper relationship in the grand enterprise of refining and settling the world, whereby we are partners in Creation. The Rebbe describes the symbiotic relationship as follows.

G-d gets pleasure, as it were, from the fulfillment of His “desire to have a dwelling in the physical world” (as in the saying, “nachas ruach lefanai sh’amarti v’naaseh retzoni – I get pleasure from the fact that I spoke and My will was done”) and Jews get pleasure “lachazos b’noam Hashem – to behold the glory of G-d,” from the revelation of G-dliness achieved through their Divine service. (Likkutei Sichos Vol. 29, pg. 143).

The ultimate pleasure, what we derive from our partnership with G-d, is “lachazos b’noam Hashem,” echoing the Chassid’s urgent desire – especially as we approach Rosh HaShana – “to see our king,” with the true and complete Redemption with the Rebbe Melech HaMoshiach at our head.

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