This week’s Torah portion of Eikev begins, “This shall be the reward when you hearken to these ordinances and you observe and perform them; Hashem, your G-D, will safeguard for you the covenant and the kindness that He swore to your forefathers ” (Devarim 27:12).
In the first medrish in the Medrish Rabba on this portion Hashem asserts: “‘Do you think I gave to you Shabbos as a detriment? I only gave it to you for your own good.’ How? Rebbe Chiya bar Abba said [that Hashem says], ‘You sanctify the Shabbos with eating and drinking, wearing clean clothes and delighting your soul; and I will give you reward.’ How do we know this? Because the pasuk in Yeshayahu (58:13) says ‘And you call the Shabbos a delight…’ What is written after that (58:14)? ‘Then you will delight on Hashem.’ ‘And he will give to you whatever your heart desires’ (Tehillim 37:4). The Jews said to Hashem, ‘When will you give us our reward for the mitzvos that we do?’ Hashem said back to them, ‘You will now eat from the fruit of the mitzvos that you do but it’s reward will be saved for the future in the World to Come and will be given to you then.’ How do we know this? From the fact that we call it in this portion, in this circumstance, ‘This shall be your reward when you hearken to these ordinances'” (Devarim Rabba 3:1). (Click here for Hebrew text.)
Why would Shabbos be a detriment to us? And in Hashem’s response, what does it mean that ‘we will eat the fruit of the mitzvah now? ‘
The Maharz”u has two ways to understand why people would think Shabbos is a detriment:
1. “[Hashem admits], It is suffering for you, for I forbade you any form of melacha (work that was done to build the mishkan) and business, as well as kindling and putting out a fire to the extent that even if an entire house is ablaze (assuming that it is a situation which is non-life threatening) it is still forbidden to put out the fire. To this [Hashem] says that the reward is much greater than the loss, for the loss is occasionally and very little and the reward is constant and in abundance.
What does it mean that the reward is constant?
The Maharz”u explains that the delight one will get from enjoying and observing Shabbos is that Hashem will always listen when this person cries out to Him. The Maharz”u proves this from pesukim in Iyov. Now we can understand what the fruit of performing the mitzvos in this world is and why it is constant. Imagine, just for observing Hashem’s Shabbos and enjoying it by eating fancy food and drinking delicious drinks while getting all dressed up, Hashem will always listen to your prayers when you cry out to Him. That is quite impressive fruit coming from your mitzvah on a consistent basis!
Somehow, this overshadows the circumstances when the house is burnt down and one loses all his possessions, and the many times when people lost their job and livelihood for the sake of Shabbos observance; why? Furthermore, the inconveniences that make the day harder, less comfortable, or supposedly not as pleasurable, like not being able to turn on and off lights, drive the car, write, or even choose things the way you want to choose them; why are they really worth it at the end of the day?
However, if one truly contemplates what it means for Hashem to listen to and answer ALL of your prayers in this world, the delight to have an all-powerful, all-knowing being willing to listen to you besides the belief and understanding of the infinite reward in the World To Come, then truly any supposed “detriments” are miniscule and insignificant. The key is that one must contemplate, imagine, and focus on the benefits and believe it is true, for then the detriments are truly insignificant.
2. The second possible detriment discussed by the Maharz”u is based on a very deep concept found in another medrish (Vayikra Rabba 13:3). “Mitzvos were only given to mankind in order to refine a person, to purify them from evil forces. [One might think] only the mitzvah of Shabbos specifically was not given to purify them from evil for they are commanded to eat, drink and to delight. There is no suffering, affliction, or purification. Not only that but you get rewarded for all the pleasure you have. However, even on Shabbos there is a refinement for one cannot eat whatever he wants just like during the week.”
This explanation is absolutely incredible if you analyze what the Maharz”u is saying! It seems people would think that Shabbos is a detriment, because if you go through all the mitzvos, there is a certain refinement that the mitzva does to a person by needing to abide by certain rules and not being allowed to do whatever one wants. For example, one cannot eat whatever he wants, there is the mitzva of kashrus. One cannot wear whatever he wants, there is the mitzva of shaatnez. Even mitzvos like tefillin have specific rules of where to place them and how to wear them; it can be a pain and a hassle to observe everything. But that was done on purpose by Hashem, to refine the human being from all negative effects inside and around him. Yet one might think that because there is a mitzvah to enjoy oneself on Shabbos then he can do whatever he wants. Eat the fanciest foods, kosher or not, drink the best wines, and wear the fanciest clothing! Imagine having a buttered pork chop, clam chowder, with chocolate mousse for dessert while wearing a Hugo Boss suit which is full of shaatnez! That might sound delicious and fancy (at least to some people), and it might be a great way to observe the mitzva of enjoying and honoring Shabbos; but what a detriment, because it is at the cost of transgressing other sins! Therefore, Hashem says it’s better to observe the rest of my mitzvos properly, as you would during the week, than to honor the Shabbos the best possible way.
Hashem says, “It is the effort that you put into doing things correctly and trying your hardest to produce proper intentions, not to do what you think is the best way to observe the mitzvos of Shabbos. If you listen to My will then I will listen to your prayers plus you will get much reward in the World to Come.”
Bonding with Hashem is the pure essence of Shabbos. Take advantage it has plenty of benefits and is well worth it!