“If you follow My statutes and observe My commandments and perform them, I will give your rains in their time, the Land will yield its produce, and the tree of the field will give forth its fruit.”
The simple meaning of the posuk (verse) is that the reward for observance of mitzvot is tangible: rain will fall at the appropriate time and the Land will yield her fruit. The question to be asked is why the Torah here mentions tangible rewards in this world and ignores reward in the World to Come?
Rambam addresses our question in his Hilchot Teshuva (Laws of Repentance) [9:1] and his answer is that while, in truth, the essential reward for mitzvot is in the World to Come, the purpose of the tangible reward which the Torah mentions is to facilitate our service of God in this world. As the result of our worldly successes and blessings, we will be free to engage in Torah and mitzvot without hindrance. Rambam writes:
He promised us in the Torah that if we fulfill it with joy and good spirit and meditate on its wisdom at all times, [God] will remove all the obstacles which prevent us from fulfilling it … that we have the opportunity to study wisdom and perform mitzvot in order that we will merit the life of the World to Come.
Rabbi Yehuda HaLevi’s Answer
Rabbi Yehuda HaLevi deals with our question in his Sefer Kuzari [Part 1, paragraph 109], providing an additional level of understanding. In his opinion, tangible reward in this world is not merely a means of facilitating Divine service through which we will merit the World to Come, but an expression of the manifestation of the Shechina in our midst within this world, and an expression of God’s love for us. The Torah’s intention in mentioning tangible worldly rewards is to teach us that in fulfilling mitzvot we are able to cling to God, and He will show us signs of His love as the result of our fulfillment of His mitzvot. Tangible rewards are the sign of God’s love for those who do His will. The Torah speaks of tangible rewards because they are the means through which we can see with our own eyes that we ae desirable before the Holy One, blessed be He.
Rabbi Yehuda HaLevi writes:
Therefore we do not find in the Bible: “If you keep this law, I will bring you after death into beautiful gardens and great pleasures.” On the contrary it is said: “You shall be my chosen people, and I will be a God unto you, who will guide you.”
You shall remain in the country which forms a stepping-stone to this degree, viz. the Holy Land. Its fertility or barrenness, its happiness or misfortune, depend upon the divine influence which your conduct will merit, whilst the rest of the world would continue its natural course. For if the divine presence is among you, you will perceive by the fertility of your country, by the regularity with which your rainfalls appear in their due seasons, by your victories over your enemies in spite of your inferior numbers, that your affairs are not managed by simple laws of nature, but by the divine Will.
The place where we are privileged to see God’s love for us is Eretz Yisrael. The situation of the Land is indicative of our moral and spiritual level. When we are privileged to fulfill mitzvot, God shows His love for us through the blessings He gives to Eretz Yisrael. This is so because Am Yisrael (the Nation of Israel) and Eretz Yisrael (the Land of Israel) are suited to each other; thus God demonstrates His love for us through the blessings He gives our unique Land.
An example of God’s blessings of the Land as an expression of His love for Am Yisrael can be seen in Chazals’ (our Sages’) comment on our pesukim’s (verse’s) statement: ‘ונתתי גשמיכם בעתם’ (“I will give your rains in their time”). Chazal [Gemara Ta’anit 23a] elucidate that when Am Yisrael does God’s will, the rains will fall at the times people are in their homes, thereby causing no inconvenience. The message Chazal (our Sages) convey is that since the blessings within the Land express God’s love of His nation Israel, He provides the blessings in a controlled manner, in the most appropriate way, in the most pleasant way, as a complete manifestation of His love.
The Mikva Which Was Filled With Rain Water
An example of the fact that the blessings of Eretz Yisrael express God’s love for His nation is a story involving Rabbi Mordechai Eliyahu zt”l. When a new community in Eretz Yisrael was being established, much effort was invested in building the mikva, whose construction was completed during the dry season when it rarely rains. A mikva requires rain water, but rain was not forecast at all during that period. The builders of the mikva turned to Rabbi Eliyahu, who gave them a blessing that their mikva will be filled with rain water within a few days, and indeed, within a few days it rained and the mikva was filled.
We learned that when we are privileged to fulfill mitzvot properly, we may trust that we will receive God’s blessings as a sign of His love for us, and that these blessings will come in the most pleasant manner, and the most appropriate time. May we indeed merit this.