Where’s My Reward?
The Midrash Tehillim says that the Giants Og and Sichon were more formidable adversaries than Pharaoh and his army. Moshe had battled Sichon and won. Now he faced a war against the mighty Og.
Yet before this war, Moshe seems to be worried. Hashem has to reassure him – Al Tirah Otoh (3:2) – do not fear him, for I (Hashem) will place him and his people in your hand.
What was bothering Moshe? Surely a man of the spiritual status of Moshe should not fear Og?
Og was not a normal adversary. He was a Giant with a formidable history.
Og was called “Hapalit”, the escapee. He escaped from the Mabul (Targum Yonatan), from the war of the four kings against the five kings (Rashi), and from the war waged by the Ammoni nation against his people (Rashbam). What was the secret of his longevity?
Rashi cites the Midrash, which explains that Moshe was concerned because Og had a special merit for doing a kindness to Avraham hundreds of years earlier. At that time, Avrahams nephew Lot was taken captive. Og ran to Avraham to relate to him the news. Og had intended that Avraham should go to battle against the Four mightiest Kings, where he would be killed, opening the way for Og to take Sarah (Avraham’s wife) for himself. Nevertheless this relating of news caused Avraham to save Lot’s life and bring about a Kidush Hashem in the world.
Hashem rewarded Og with an additional 500 years because of this merit!
Now Moshe faced this formidable foe, and was worried, perhaps this merits reward was still standing in Og’s favour.
Let us focus a moment on what is happening here. Og the despicable giant, has a bad intention, yet nevertheless is rewarded for his good actions? Has he not been rewarded enough? The Pesikta DeRabi Elazar brings down that he was rewarded by becoming the King of Bashan. How much reward does a man like this really deserve for a seemingly small and unintentional good deed? And surely Moshe the greatest prophet that ever lived, the True Servant of Hashem should not fear such a giant?
Before we answer let us turn for a moment to our current exile.
Chazal tell us that we find ourselves in the Galut Edom – the exile of Eisav. This exile has lasted for two thousand years. It is the longest exile of our people. But when will this exile end? The prophet Zechariya tells us exactly when! (2:12) Achar Kavod Shelachani. Rashi explains that the time will come only once the merit of Eisav has been removed. Which merit are we talking about? Eisav was well known to honour his father Yitzchak. He would be exemplary when it came to Kibud av Va Em. The Zohar (1:146b) states that it is that Kavod showed to his father, that gave him the merit to rule over us for thousands of years! Hence Zecharia states only after the Kavod has ended; only after that merit has ended will Hashem defeat the wicked.
We see that the ramifications of a good deed are long lasting.
Have you ever heard of Nebuchadnezzar? He was the mightiest Leader Babylon ever saw. The Gemara relates that in his early days Nebuchadnezzar served as a secretary and scribe for a previous Babylonian monarch. Once, when Nebuchadnezzar was absent from work, other royal secretaries of the king drafted a letter to be sent to the Jewish king of Judah, Chizkiah. The letter began: “Greetings to King Chizkiah! Greetings to the city of Jerusalem! Greetings to the great G-d!”
When Nebuchadnezzar returned to work and discovered how the letter was written, he was furious. “You call Him ‘the Great G-d,’ Nebuchadnezzar protested, “and you mention Him last?!”
In an isolated moment of moral conduct, Nebuchadnezzar insisted that the letter be redone, and written as follows: “Greetings to the Great G-d! Greetings to the city of Jerusalem! Greetings to king Chizkiah!”
The problem was that the messenger had already been dispatched to Jerusalem with the first version of the letter in his hand. So Nebuchadnezzar ran out to call the messenger back and redo the letter. How far did he need to run? Merely three steps before he caught the messenger to give him a second version of the letter.
Our sages see this episode as the ultimate cause for Nebuchadnezzar’s royal success. In the merit of his taking three steps to honour G-d, Nebuchadnezzar received the crown of royalty for three generations!
This world is a physical world. Our sages note that Behay Alma – in this world there is no reward – no payment for good deeds done. The real payment is infinite and in the next world. Yet Hashem chooses to “reward” the wicked in this world in order to finish from them in the next.
Moshe understood that there is an eternal payment for acts of good; he was worried that Og’s merit still warranted him being alive. Therefore Hashem had to tell him, do not worry, his time has come, he has enjoyed enough reward for his actions.
The reward granted to these wicked people for their good actions in this world seems massive. Og the giant gets long life, lives as a mighty ruler; Nebuchadnezzar receives the monarchy for generations. Wow all that for such a small action. Yes! Even small actions count. Yet we must note that the real reward for our deeds is in the next world. We must realise that Hashem guards each and every mitzvah we do, every Amen we say, every Shabbat we keep, every act of kindness, it is all there in front of Hashem.
From the reward these wicked people received for their seemingly small acts of good, we can fathom the reward that we will receive for every Mitzvah – Ah how lucky we are!
Lehatslachat Raya Bat Liora Yehudit
Rabbi Shaul Yonatan Tawil