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After Noach came out of the Ark, he got drunk and found himself in an embarrassing position, as he lie on his bed, naked. His wicked son, Cham, abused him but his righteous sons, Shem and Yefes, covered him with a garment to hide his shame. They were both duly rewarded; each with a type of covering. But Rashi tells us that Shem’s reward was much greater. Whereas Yefes was granted burial, in the End of Days, in the Battle of Gog and Magog, Shem was provided with a garment of mitzvah; the talis of tzitzis. Why? Rashi says that Shem “devoted himself to this duty with more eagerness than Yefes.” From the Midrash it seems that he initiated the mitzvah and Yefes only joined him afterwards.
From this we should learn the tremendous difference between the reward for two people who did the very same mitzvah; yet one tried harder.
It is told that the wife of the Vilner Gaon, who was herself a great tzadekes, made a pact with a friend of hers that whoever dies first should visit the other in a dream and relate what it is like in the World-to-Come. The other woman passed away first and, indeed, she revealed herself to the Vilner Gaon’s Rebbetzin who inquired about the system of reward in the World of Truth.
The visitor replied that every single factor is taken into account. “For example,” she explained, “You know how we would go together, every Thursday, to collect food from the wealthy to distribute to the poor. Well, do you remember that week that we were so disappointed because our biggest donor was not home when we came to his door?”
The Rabbanit replied that she remembered that day very well.
“And do you remember that, as we walked away, I noticed him coming and pointed him out to you? Then we returned to his house and received the usual, generous contribution?”
“I remember it all,” said the Gaon’s wife.
“Well,” concluded the righteous woman, “In the Books of Heaven, our mitzvah was recorded. But there is a difference. As far as the actual mitzvah of going and collecting food and distributing it to the poor, you and I are listed similarly. But in my book, there is an extra notation that I picked up my hand and pointed to our benefactor, while you did not. And the difference in reward for my mitzvah, with one extra wave of the hand, and yours, is too great and remarkable to describe!”
That is why the Sages recommended that we pray at the shul most distant from our home; in order to get reward for every single step we take.
And that is why the Mesillas Yesharim encourages us to do every mitzvah with absolute meticulousness, because if we leave out any part of the mitzvah, even though we have performed the essential mitzvah properly, the reward will be so much less. And we should not fool ourselves, the Ramchal continues, by arguing that we will be satisfied with even the minimal amount of reward in the Garden of Eden; we don’t have to be among those who “sit up front.”
That, he says, is a very flimsy excuse whose fallacy is obvious if only we are honest with ourselves. Are we satisfied with the honor bestowed upon us in this world, if our friend gets a bit more? No way. Even though we know that the honor itself is nothing more than imagined. How much more so will we be upset if we see others getting more real reward, in the World-to-Come, than we do; knowing, very well, that with a little bit more effort we could have had that too.
So let us not make a grave mistake which we will regret for eternity. Let’s be diligent in mitzvahs, to perform them perfectly, and then we will be happy in this world and the World-to-Comel
Shema Yisrael Torah Network