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6. Reward for a Mitzvah

April 27, 2014 | by Rochelle Lev and Rabbi Benjamin Blech

God wants us to serve Him out of love.


Required Reading Understanding Judaism p. 8-13

Required Reading Understanding Judaism p. 25-42

Required Reading Understanding Judaism , p. 14-22

Required Reading Source 1: The Ten Commandments
Exodus 20:1-14 (p. 407-408 ArtScroll Chumash, Stone Edition)

God spoke all these statements, saying:

"I am the Lord, your God Who has taken you out of the land of Egypt, from the house of slavery.

"You shall not recognize the gods of others in My presence. You shall not make yourself a carved image nor any likeness of that which is in the heavens above or on the earth below or in the water beneath the earth.

"You shall not prostrate yourself to them nor worship them, for I am the Lord, your God – a jealous God, Who visits the sin of fathers upon children to the third and forth generations, for My enemies; but Who shows kindness for thousands [of generations] to those who love Me and observe My commandments.

"You shall not take the Name of the Lord, your God, in vain, for God will not absolve anyone who takes His Name in vain.

"Remember the Sabbath day to sanctify it. Six days shall you work and accomplish all your work; but the seventh day is Shabbat to the Lord your God; you shall not do any work – you, your son, your daughter, your slave, your maidservant, your animal, and your convert within your gates – for in six days God made the heavens and the earth, the sea and all that is in them, and He rested on the seventh day. Therefore, God blessed the Sabbath day and sanctified it.

"Honor your father and your mother, so that your days will be lengthened upon the land that the Lord your God gives you.

"You shall not kill; you shall not commit adultery; you shall not steal; you shall not bear false witness against your fellow.

"You shall not covet your fellow's house. You shall not covet your fellow's wife, his manservant, his maidservant, his ox, his donkey, nor anything that belongs to your fellow."

Required Reading Source 2: The Mitzvah of Sending Away the Mother Bird
Deuteronomy 22: 6-7 (p. 1051 ArtScroll Chumash, Stone Edition)

If a bird's nest happens to be before you on the road, on any tree or on the ground – young birds or eggs – and the mother is roosting on the young birds or the eggs, you shall not take the mother with the young. You shall surely send away the mother and take the young for yourself, so that it will be good for you and will prolong your days.

Required Reading Source 3: Maimonides on the Purpose of Miracles
Foundations of Torah 8:1

All the miracles that Moses performed in the desert were done only for a specific purpose, not in order to bring proof for prophecy. If it was necessary to drown the Egyptians, the sea split and they were swallowed up within it. If we required food, God caused the manna to descend. When they were thirsty, he brought water from the rock. When the group of Korach and his followers rebelled, the earth swallowed them. And so, too, all the other signs and wonders.



(1) According to Ethics of the Fathers (Pirkei Avot), why is there no mention of the reward for specific mitzvot in the Torah? What is the reason for the exceptions to this rule?

(2) What are the exceptions to the rule that specific rewards are not mentioned for individual mitzvot? Why were these two mitzvot singled out?

(3) How did the story of Elisha Ben Abuya cause Rabbi Akiva to refine the definition of the reward of a "long life"?

(4) In what way does the presentation of the Ten Commandments differ from that of other Torah mitzvot? How does this present a challenge to Rabbi Blech's premise that all mitzvot are equal?

(5) How does Rabbi Blech interpret the term Asseret Hadibrot (Ten Commandments)? How does he use this concept to answer the challenge that the Ten Commandments appear to be more important than other commandments?

(6) Give two examples of how specific laws are contained within the framework of the "Ten Principles" revealed at Mount Sinai.

(7) Why is something as basic as the Ten Principles not included in our daily prayers?

(8) What is implicit in the words "God spoke all of these words, saying" (Exodus 20:1 – see source 1)? Why was it important that God speak all commands in one breath, if we were unable to understand them communicated that way?

(9) What is unique about the revelation at Mount Sinai, that differs from every other religion?

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