(Courtesy: Lazar Gurkow)
Everything But the Pillow:
In this week’s parshah, we learn that a creditor is permitted to demand collateral before offering a loan, even if the debtor is impoverished. However, the Torah enjoins us not to demand an article that the debtor would require during the normal course of his day. For example, if a debtor leverages his only pillow, the creditor must return it for use during the night.
The Torah concludes with the words, “and he will bless you, and it shall be for you as an act of charity before G-d.” Rashi, in his primary commentary on the Torah, explains that even if the debtor will not bless you for this kind act, it will be a meritorious act before G-d.
Reb Levi of Bardichev, an early Chassidic Master, expanded upon Rashi’s idea: Some perform a kind deed because they seek the blessing or good graces of the recipient. This verse teaches us that the best way to perform a mitzvah is not for the reward, though it will inevitably come, but simply for the sake of G-d. And it shall be for you as an act of charity before G-d. We should perform this charity because G-d commanded us to, not because there is something in it for us.
This concept can be taken one step further. Charity should be given for the sake of the mitzvah alone, not even for the sake of the reward promised by G-d.
Rabbi Israel Baal Shem Tov was once informed by heavenly decree that he had lost his share in the world to come, whereupon he joyfully declared that he now had the opportunity to serve G-d with no ulterior motive, not even that of heavenly reward. Soon he was informed that his heavenly portion had not only been restored but had in fact been doubled.