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In פרשת ראה the Torah identifies rewards and punishments for a person keeping the מצות. It states:

כו: רְאֵ֗ה אָנֹכִ֛י נֹתֵ֥ן לִפְנֵיכֶ֖ם הַיּ֑וֹם בְּרָכָ֖ה וּקְלָלָֽה׃

See, this day I set before you blessing and curse:

:כז אֶֽת־הַבְּרָכָ֑ה אֲשֶׁ֣ר תִּשְׁמְע֗וּ אֶל־מִצְוֺת֙ יְהוָ֣ה אֱלֹֽהֵיכֶ֔ם אֲשֶׁ֧ר אָנֹכִ֛י מְצַוֶּ֥ה אֶתְכֶ֖ם הַיּֽוֹם׃

The blessing, if you obey the commandments of the LORD your God that I enjoin upon you this day;

כח: וְהַקְּלָלָ֗ה אִם־לֹ֤א תִשְׁמְעוּ֙ אֶל־מִצְוֺת֙ יְהוָ֣ה אֱלֹֽהֵיכֶ֔ם וְסַרְתֶּ֣ם מִן־הַדֶּ֔רֶךְ אֲשֶׁ֧ר אָנֹכִ֛י מְצַוֶּ֥ה אֶתְכֶ֖ם הַיּ֑וֹם לָלֶ֗כֶת אַחֲרֵ֛י אֱלֹהִ֥ים אֲחֵרִ֖ים אֲשֶׁ֥ר לֹֽא־יְדַעְתֶּֽם׃

And the curse, if you do not obey the commandments of the LORD your God, but turn away from the path that I enjoin upon you this day and follow other gods, whom you have not experienced.

If a person keeps the commandments they will be blessed and if they do not follow them they will be punished with a curse. This presents a conundrum. The Torah in many places describes the מצות as beneficial for man to keep. As it says in Devarim, Chapter 6, verse 24 “And the LORD commanded us to do all these statutes, to fear the LORD our God, for our good always, that He might preserve us alive, as it is at this day.” There are many such verses that describe the as beneficial for us to do.

If that is the case, then why should the Torah offer a reward of a Blessing if we are to keep the Torah? The reward should be the keeping of the commandment itself. If an adult was sick and there was a medicine to cure them, it would be silly to offer them a reward for them to take the medicine. The medicine itself is beneficial. One does not need a reward for taking the medicine. Similarly, the commandments are for our benefit. Why should there be a reward for keeping them?

Additionally, if there is a material reward for the Mitzvah, then it would seem that the Mitzvah is merely a means to get the reward. In other words, the Mitzvah is merely a way to get rewards. Implying that the Mitzvah itself is not what is good but rather the material rewards. The Torah itself seems to emphasize the value of the material and physical, and put a premium on the development of the soul. By providing a material reward it seems to communicate that the material is the true value. How can we understand this?

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    Ok so God have us a good deal.What is so difficult. – mevaqesh Sep 1 '16 at 6:23
  • I believe this hinges upon the medicine metaphor. Otherwise I'm not sure how you differentiate between "reward" and "not reward", as the Torah does not use any words like that (or "punishment") to describe what is going on here. So, for the analogy to medicine to work, it must be that the mitzvos are performing a beneficial service for us (i.e. intrinsically, as opposed to "reward"). If you imply that that service is the lengthening of our lives, that appears to come from Hashem (extrinsic, more like "reward") in the pasuk you cited. So too blessing comes from Hashem. Seems great! – WAF Sep 1 '16 at 10:58
  • @mevaqesh Edited the question to make it stronger. – RCW Sep 2 '16 at 5:52
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To continue along Ray's lines (see his answer)...

Does Hashem punish us to correct evil behavior, or did He build the world so that sin causes punishment as a natural consequence?

One answer is quite clearly stated in parashas Nitzavim. “Hatzur tamim pa’alo… The Archetype, His work is perfect, for all of His ways are just; a reliable G-d with no flaw, He is trustworthy and without iniquity. Is corruption His? No – His children’s is the blemish, a crooked and perverse generation.” (Devarim 32:5) This quote is similar. Any tribulations in our lives are not His corruption, but ours.

Similarly, Yirmiyahu Hanavi writes, “From the ‘Mouth’ of the One Above, come neither the evil nor the good.” (Eikhah 3:38) Yirmiyahu is not implying that what happens to us is by chance. “Chai gever al chata’av – a man lives on his sins.” (Ibid v. 39) The suffering of the sinner is not attributed to Hashem, because it is a natural consequence of the sin. Rashi6 explains the prophet by invoking R. Yochanan’s comments on a pasuq we read the prior week, in Ki Savo, “I have placed before you life and death, the blessing and the curse; choose life so that you shall live!” (Devarim 30:19) In the same way, Bildad says to Iyov, “Since your children sinned to Him, He relegated them to the control of their iniquity.” (Iyov 8:4) And Rashi there explains that “sin inquity was made a messenger to destroy them.” (However, it is possible to say that Bildad, a character in a dialog with whom we are not all that sympathetic, is necessarily correct.) Choosing between good and evil is not choosing between whether Hashem will reciprocate with life or death. By choosing between good and evil, you are choosing to bring upon yourself one or the other.

Along these lines, the Ikkarim describes gehennom a natural consequence of one’s actions. He writes that the “fires” of gehennom” are those of shame. (Seifer haIqarim 4:33) Rabbeinu Yonah (Shaarei Teshuvah 4:1) compares a sinful soul to a sick person. Just as a sick person suffers from his illness, the sinner suffers from his sins. From his perspective, mitzvah is a commandment more in the sense of “Doctor’s orders” than of “military orders”.

R. Chaim Vilozhiner (Derekh haChaim 1:21) derives a similar idea of gehenom as consequence of sin from a gemara in Eiruvin. “The wicked deepen gehennom for themselves.” (Eiruvin 19a) What you get in the World to Come is the consequence of the mitzvos you do. R. Chaim takes this one step further to also make the full sequence sin to changes in the soul to reward and punishment in general. Each sin, he writes, causes a flaw in your soul. In true Divine Mercy, the punishment is both the natural consequence of this flaw and a key tool for healing it.

The Ramchal too (Derekh Hashem 1:4:5) writes, “Sin detracts from one’s perfection.” Rav Eliyahu E. Dessler (Michtav meiEliyahu, vol I, pp 114-114) explains the expression “aveirah goreres aveirah – one sin is followed by [another] sin” by saying that after repeatedly doing a given sin, it becomes part of one’s nature; so that no conscious decision is required next time the situation arises.

It is equally valid to argue that Hashem rewards or punishes in response to the person's action. Rather than setting up a causal system. It's just a matter of perspective. Since Hashem is outside of the flow of time, the difference between saying He set something up during creation or performs acts during the course of the timeline is a matter of which angle of looking at things is more useful for a given question. The reality, as with most theological question, is beyond human comprehension. We just have approximating models. At times, those models will contradict.

(All of the above is taken from my High Holiday Reader for people who would otherwise be bored in synagogue.)

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See Rambam, commentary on Mishnayot, Introduction to the chapter called "Chelek":

אמנם הַיִּעוּדִים הטובים והנקמות הרעות הכתובות בתורה עניינם הוא מה שאספר לך, והוא זה: כי הוא אומר לך אם תעשה הַמִּצְוֹת האלה אֲסַיֵּעַ לך על עֲשִׂיָּתָן והשלמוּת בהן, ואסיר מעליך המעיקים כולם. לפי שהאדם אי אפשר לו לעשות הַמִּצְוֹת לא כשהוא חולה ורעב או צמא, ולא בשעת מלחמה ומצור. ולכן יָעַד שיסורו כל אלה העניָנים, ושיהיו בריאים ושקטים עד שֶׁתִּשְׁלַם להם הידיעה ויזכו לחיי העולם הבא.‏

Good outcomes and bad vengeances which are written in Tora - I will explain you what they are. He (G-d) say you: "If you do these commandments, I will help you realize and perfect them". . .for a person is unable to perform commandments when he is sick or hungry or thirsty, or in war time or Under Siege. Therefore He set it up such that these would all be avoided, and people would be healthy and calm until they'd perfectly their divine knowledge and merited the world to come.

הנה כי אין תכלית שכר עֲשִׂיַּת התורה שתהיה הארץ שְׁמֵנָה, ושיחיו שנים רבות, ובריאוּת הגופות, אלא שיהיו נעזרים על עֲשִׂיַּת התורה באלה הדברים כולם. וכמו כן אם עברו על התורה, יהיה עונשם שֶׁיֶּאֶרְעוּ להם אותן הרעות כולן, עד שלא יוכלו לעשות מִצְוָה, וכמו שנאמר #דברים כח מז-מח#: "תַּחַת אֲשֶׁר לֹא עָבַדְתָּ אֶת יְיָ אֱלֹהֶיךָ בְּשִׂמְחָה וּבְטוּב לֵבָב מֵרֹב כֹּל, וְעָבַדְתָּ אֶת אֹיְבֶיךָ...". ‏

The purpose of doing the Tora is not fertile land or long life, or health; but these things should enable us to do the Tora. Likewise, if they transgressed Tora, their punishment is not all these disasters, which result to impossibility to make mitsvot, as the verse said, "In exchange for you don't serve G-d with happiness and wholeheartedly, living in wealth, you will serve your ennemy.

וכשתתבונן בזה התבוננות שְׁלֵמָה, תמצא כְּאִלּוּ הוא אומר לך: אם עשית קצת מִצְוֹת מאהבה והשתדלות – אֶעֱזָרְךָ לעשותן כולן, ואסיר מעליך המעיקים והמונעים. ואם תעזוב דבר מהם דרך ביזוי, אביא לך מונעים ימנעוך מֵעשותן כולן, עד שלא יהיה לך שלמוּת ולא קיום בעולם הבא. ‏

And when you think about this completely, you will see that He is saying to you: if you did some commandments out of love and [sincere] effort - I will help you do them all, and I will remove the tormentors and impediments from you. But if you will leave a part of them by disregard, I will send to you impediments which will prevent you from making all the mitsvot, so that you will not acquire perfection and you will no longer exist in comming world's live. This is the explanation.

וזהו עניָן אמרם זכרונם לברכה #אבות פ"ד מ"ב#: "שכר מצוָה – מצוָה, ושכר עבירה – עבירה".‏

And this is the meaning of wises's statement "Reward for mitsva is mitsva, and reward for transgression is transgression."

So, you see that the reward is intrinsecly linked to the making-mitsva topic. But the reward for a mitsva is itself mitsva according to Rambam. It is one of the answers to your question. the reward is to continue with mitsvot.

  • @WAF If you want, you can translate, or I try to continue, how you want.. is good – kouty Sep 1 '16 at 11:13
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In the book Darash Moshe parsha Reeh (artscroll) he says exactly this. the verse does not say "A blessing, if you obey the commandments" as you translated (and as it says by the curse) but rather "A blessing, that (asher) you obey the commandments". He deduces that the mitzva is itself the blessing.

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    First of all that I'd a drush; second, and more importantly, even reb Moshe does not deny that there is also reward for mitzvot besides for their being their own reward. So this does not answer the question at all. – mevaqesh Sep 1 '16 at 6:24
  • +1 very beautiful, I was convinced that rambam also comment like this but I found something else, see my answer quoting Rambam. – kouty Sep 1 '16 at 21:05

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