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משנה אבות פרק א משנה ג

אַל תִּהְיוּ כַעֲבָדִים הַמְשַׁמְּשִׁין אֶת הָרַב עַל מְנָת לְקַבֵּל פְּרָס, אֶלָּא הֱווּ כַעֲבָדִים הַמְשַׁמְּשִׁין אֶת הָרַב שֶׁלֹּא עַל מְנָת לְקַבֵּל פְּרָס, וִיהִי מוֹרָא שָׁמַיִם עֲלֵיכֶם:

Mishna Avos 1:3

Do not be as servants who are serving the master in order to receive a reward, rather be as servants who are serving the master not in order to receive a reward; and may the fear of Heaven be upon you

גמרא מסכת עבודה זרה דף יט עמוד א

במצותיו חפץ מאד אר"א במצותיו ולא בשכר מצותיו והיינו דתנן הוא היה אומר אל תהיו כעבדים המשמשין את הרב על מנת לקבל פרס אלא היו כעבדים המשמשין את הרב שלא על מנת לקבל פרס

Gemara Avoda Zara 10a

“He delights greatly in His mitzvot.” Rabbi Elazar says: The person delights in His mitzvot themselves and not in the reward for performing His mitzvot. And this is the same as we learned in a mishna (Avot 1:3): Antigonus of Sokho would say: Do not be like the servants who serve the master on the condition of receiving a reward; rather, be like the servants who serve the master not on the condition that they receive a reward.

ספרי, עקב מח יב:

לאהבה את ה' אלוקיכם, שמא תאמר הריני אלמד תורה בשביל שאקרא חכם, בשביל שאלמד בישיבה, בשביל שאאריך ימים לעולם הבא, תלמוד לומר לאהבה את ה' אלוקיכם, למוד מכל מקום, וסוף הכבוד לבוא".

Sifrei Ekev 48:12

"to love the L-rd your G-d": Lest you say: I will learn in order to sit in sessions; so that I merit eternal life in the world to come; it is, therefore, written "to love the L-rd your G-d" — Learn in any event; honor will come as a matter of course.

רמבם הלכות תשובה פרק י הלכה א

אַל יֹאמַר אָדָם הֲרֵינִי עוֹשֶׂה מִצְוֹת הַתּוֹרָה וְעוֹסֵק בְּחָכְמָתָהּ כְּדֵי שֶׁאֲקַבֵּל כָּל הַבְּרָכוֹת הַכְּתוּבוֹת בָּהּ אוֹ כְּדֵי שֶׁאֶזְכֶּה לְחַיֵּי הָעוֹלָם הַבָּא, :

Rambam Hilchos Teshuvah 10:1

Let no man say: "Behold, I perform the precepts of the Torah, and engage myself in its wisdom so that I will receive all the blessings described therein, or so that I will merit the life in the World to Come;

Question: How can we reconcile this with:

מסילת ישרים פרק א ------ Meslat Yesharim (path of the just) ch.1

יסוד החסידות ושרש העבודה התמימה הוא שיתברר ויתאמת אצל האדם מה חובתו בעולמו ולמה צריך שישים מבטו ומגמתו בכל אשר הוא עמל כל ימי חייו.

The foundation of piety and the root of perfect service [of G-d] is for a man to clarify and come to realize as truth what is his obligation in his world and to what he needs to direct his gaze and his aspiration in all that he toils all the days of his life... והנה מה שהורונו חכמינו זכרונם לברכה הוא, שהאדם לא נברא אלא להתענג על ה' ולהנות מזיו שכינתו ...ומקום העידון הזה באמת הוא העולם הבא, כי הוא הנברא בהכנה המצטרכת לדבר הזה.

...that man was created solely to delight in G-d and to derive pleasure in the radiance of the Shechina (divine presence). ... The place of this pleasure is, in truth, in Olam Haba (the World to Come).

This seems to be saying that"perfect service of Hashem" and the "gaze and aspiration in all that one toils all the days of his life" is solely for the purpose of reaching Olam Haba.

Is this not what the Mishna, The Gemara, The Sifrie, and the Rambam call serving the master in order to receive reward in Olam Habah?

IMHO we cannot answer this by saying:

since the Mesilat Yesharim is written for gradual improvement, His statement about thinking about the World to Come is only the motivation for someone at a low level, whereas someone who is at the level of piety (חסידות) should serve only for God's honor with no thought of reward, similar to the different motivations he gives for different groups of people in chapter 4, which are focused on reward and punishment at worst, and self-improvement at best. Serving God for the sake of reward leads to serving him for its own sake, but such a person is still "far from perfection" (chapter 16), and that at the beginning of the book, the reader isn't expected to be at such a level

because the MY writes clearly in his opening statement, that he is teaching us במה צריך שישים מבטו ומגמתי בכל מה שהו עמל כל ימי חייות - to what he needs to direct his gaze and his aspiration in all that he toils all the days of his life" so this is obviously not just a beginners's entry level exercise, but rather the ultimate end toward which one toils and aspires all his life.

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    Related (possibly duplicate?): judaism.stackexchange.com/questions/90620/… – Alex May 29 '18 at 16:32
  • @Alex I'm discussing the Ramchal's view in accordance with the Gemara Sifrei etc. Not specifically the Rambam's view as that post is. – RibbisRabbiAndMore May 29 '18 at 16:37
  • True, which is why I did not say that it is definitely a duplicate. But it is likely that an answer that can address the contradiction between the Rambam's statements pro and against worship for olam haba will also address the contradiction between the pro and against statements here. – Alex May 29 '18 at 16:53
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Your question is essentially how the Mesilat Yesharim can say a person should always aspire towards the reward of the World to Come, against the other sources which say a person shouldn't serve God in order to merit the World to Come.

The Ramchal himself explains clearly (in Mesilat Yesharim chapter 19) that the ideal isn't the reward in the World to Come, but to serve God in order to increase God's honor.

אמנם ודאי שמי שמתכוין בעבודתו לטהר נפשו לפני בוראו, למען תזכה לשבת את פניו בכלל הישרים והחסידים, לחזות בנועם ה' לבקר בהיכלו, ולקבל הגמול אשר בעוה"ב לא נוכל לומר שתהיה כונה זו רעה.

אכן לא נוכל לומר גם כן שתהיה היותר טובה, כי עד שהאדם מתכוין לטובת עצמו, סוף סוף עבודתו לצורך עצמו.

אך הכונה האמתית המצויה בחסידים אשר טרחו והשתדלו להשיגה, הוא שיהיה האדם עובד רק למען אשר כבודו של האדון ב"ה יגדל וירבה.

However, he whose motivation in his divine service is to purify his soul before his Creator in order to be worthy of sitting among the Just and the Pious, "to gaze upon the pleasantness of G-d and to dwell within His sanctuary", and receive the reward in the World to Come, we certainly cannot say that his motive is evil.

On the other hand, we also cannot say that this is the best of motives. For as long as a person is motivated by his own benefit, in essence, his divine service is for his own self-interest.

But the true motivation which is found among the Pious, who have exerted themselves and strove to attain it, is for one to serve solely in order to raise and increase the honor of the Master, blessed be He.

(translation copied from here)

The easiest answer is that the Mesilat Yesharim is written for gradual improvement. His statement about thinking about the World to Come is only the motivation for someone at a low level, whereas someone who is at the level of piety (חסידות) should serve only for God's honor with no thought of reward.

This would be similar to the different motivations he gives for different groups of people in chapter 4, which are focused on reward and punishment at worst, and self-improvement at best. Serving God for the sake of reward leads to serving him for its own sake, but such a person is still "far from perfection" (chapter 16). It could be that at the beginning of the book, the reader isn't expected to be at such a level.

However, I think his statement in chapter 1 may still be universally applicable. Rabbi Chayim Friedlander observed (in his commentary to Da'at Tevunot 58) that what the Mesilat Yesharim says in chapter 1is that taking pleasure in God in the World to Come is a person's obligation in the world. According to the Ramchal, God's desire is to do good to his creations. Yet when people do bad actions, they prevent him from doing that, and (as if it were possible) weaken him and force him to punish them (Da'at Tevunot 48). So receiving reward is not necessarily just a selfish motivation, but it can also be doing a kindness to God (מתחסד עם קונו, Mesilat Yesharim chapter 19) by allowing him to do more kindness to us.

  • But this doesn't fit his words! The Ramchal says (as quoted in the question): "שהאדם לא נברא אלא להתענג על ה' ולהנות מזיו שכינתו ...ומקום העידון הזה באמת הוא העולם הבא, כי הוא הנברא בהכנה המצטרכת לדבר הזה." The Ramchal says we were created for the sake of this reward, not just that we should start out relating to it. Are we only supposed to start our lives in line with the purpose we were created, and then move on to something else? – Micha Berger May 30 '18 at 15:31
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    @MichaBerger The purpose we were created is different than the motive for our actions. The Ramchal doesn't say explicitly that we should always have this in mind. I recognize how you see the indication to the contrary (and I myself offered a second answer), but I supported the first answer from other places in the Mesilat Yesharim. Either way chapter 19 poses a difficulty, and you would have to explain it, either as I did in the second answer or some other way. – b a May 30 '18 at 16:24
  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation (mainly about a suggested edit) has been moved to chat. – Monica Cellio Jun 1 '18 at 1:46
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As I pointed out here, the Rambam you cite as being against worship for the sake of Olam Haba is contradicted by what he writes in several other places, including the immediately preceding halacha.

Hilchos Teshuva 9:2

ומפני זה נתאוו כל ישראל נביאיהם וחכמיהם לימות המשיח כדי שינוחו ממלכיות שאינן מניחות להן לעסוק בתורה ובמצות כהוגן וימצאו להם מרגוע וירבו בחכמה כדי שיזכו לחיי העולם הבא

For these reasons, all Israel, [in particular,] their prophets and their Sages, have yearned for the Messianic age so they can rest from the [oppression of] the gentile kingdoms who do not allow them to occupy themselves with Torah and mitzvot properly. They will find rest and increase their knowledge in order to merit the world to come. (Chabad.org)

Hilchos Melachim 12:4

לא נתאוו החכמים והנביאים ימות המשיח לא כדי שישלטו על כל העולם ולא כדי שירדו בעכו"ם ולא כדי שינשאו אותם העמים ולא כדי לאכול ולשתות ולשמוח אלא כדי שיהיו פנויין בתורה וחכמתה ולא יהיה להם נוגש ומבטל כדי שיזכו לחיי העולם הבא כמו שביארנו בהלכות תשובה

The Sages and the prophets did not yearn for the Messianic era in order to have dominion over the entire world, to rule over the gentiles, to be exalted by the nations, or to eat, drink, and celebrate. Rather, they desired to be free to involve themselves in Torah and wisdom without any pressures or disturbances, so that they would merit the world to come, as explained in Hilchot Teshuvah. (Chabad.org)

The Mishnah in Avos is not necessarily normative. In Rosh Hashana 4a the Gemara raises a contradiction about the propriety of giving charity in order to receive benefit. The Gemara there states that for Jews it is proper but for non-Jews it is improper.

ומאן דעבד הכי לאו מעליותא היא והתניא האומר סלע זו לצדקה בשביל שיחיו בני ובשביל שאזכה בה לחיי העולם הבא הרי זה צדיק גמור לא קשיא כאן בישראל כאן בעובדי כוכבים

But even so, is not the action still a meritorious one, seeing that it has been taught: ‘If a man says, I offer this sela’ for charity in order that my children may live and in order that through it I may merit the future world, he may still be a wholly righteous man?’ — There is no contradiction; this statement applies to Israelites, there we speak of heathens. (Soncino translation)

Tosafos there cites the Mishnah in Avos which seems to say that it is not proper to do any mitzvah for the reward. Tosafos's conclusion is that this Mishnah is also specifically for non-Jews. In other words, accoding to Tosafos there is no Mishnaic dictum telling Jews to not worship for reward.

והא דתנן פרק קמא דמסכת אבות אל תהיו כעבדים המשמשין את הרב על מנת לקבל פרס היינו באומות העולם שתוהין על הראשונות

The Penei Yehoshua, commenting on Tosafos, argues that the Mishnah in Avos is only chassidus (piety) and an eitzah tovah (good advice), but not normative practice.

בתוספות ד"ה בשביל שיחיה בני והא דתנן פ"ק דמסכת אבות עכ"ל ועיין במהרש"א אבל הר"ן ז"ל בדרשותיו כתב בענין אחר דידוע הוא שיש הפרש והבדל בין צדיק גמור ובין חסיד וראיה לדבריו דלקמן בפירקין רמי קראי אהדדי כתיב צדיק ה' בכל דרכיו וכתיב וחסיד בכל מעשיו נמצא דלפי"ז לא קשיא דהכא בישראל נמי לא קאמר אלא דהוי צדיק גמור כשאומר בשביל שיחיה בני אבל חסיד לא הוי משא"כ ההיא דאבות משנת חסידים היא כדאמרינן בעלמא מאן דבעי למיהוי חסידא לקיים מילי דאבות ולענ"ד הדבר ברור דההיא דבשביל שיחיה בני לא גרע מעובד מיראה ואפ"ה איתא בסוטה דאקריינהו בחלמא דתרוייהו צדיקי גמורי אתון מר מאהבה ומר מיראה וא"כ על כרחך ההיא דאבות עצה טובה היא שלא לעבוד אלא מאהבה גמורה

Similarly the Ben Yehoyada there writes that the Mishnah in Avos is chassidus and not discussing an actual prohibition.

ועוד נ"ל בס"ד דהמקשן מתרץ הברייתא עם המשנה כמ"ש המפרשים ז"ל דההיא דאבות משנת חסידים היא ואינו אוסר מדינא ומ"מ שפיר מקשי בהא דכורש דאמרת שהחמיץ ובודאי אי לא עביד מילי דחסידותא אינו נחשב דהחמיץ ודוק

The Sifrei does not mention worship in general. It just discusses studying Torah, and it just says that one should even learn without thought of earning olam haba.

Also, the Mesilas Yesharim that you cite does not say how one should worship; it merely says what the reason for the creation of man was. Therefore there is no contradiction to begin with.

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My answer which addresses the specific nature of this particular question notwithstanding, the easiest way to answer general questions of this type is to cite the statement of Meiri in his commentary to Masechet Shabbat 55a:

אין עיקרי האמונות תלויות בראיות של פשוטי מקראות ואגדות וכבר ידעת שאין משיבין באגדה

The principles of belief are not founded on proofs from the simple meanings of verses and aggadot; you already know that we do not respond in aggadah.

  • Can you please elucidate as to what you mean by quoting this Meiri? – RibbisRabbiAndMore May 29 '18 at 19:31
  • What I mean is that it is not necessarily valid to create a contradiction about basic Jewish hashkafa based on a quote from a Gemara or Midrash, because fundamental beliefs are not necessarily determined from a random statements of Chazal. – Alex May 29 '18 at 20:20
  • And from where, if not from our holy chazal, ARE fundamental beliefs determined from? – RibbisRabbiAndMore May 29 '18 at 20:26
  • @RibbisRabbiAndMore Perhaps ask that as a separate question. – Alex May 29 '18 at 20:40
  • I would understand the Meiri which says "אין עיקרי האמונות תלויות בראיות** של פשוטי מקראות ואגדות**" to mean that The principles of belief are not founded on proofs from the simple meanings of verses and aggadot to apply to PROOFS from even a simple meaning... But when the Chazal is telling us directly and specifically what the correct belief is, then its not a PROOF, and the meiri is not reffering to this. These Chazals surely can be used as sources.[PS Are we discussing principles of belief here, that you apply the Meiri here?] – RibbisRabbiAndMore May 29 '18 at 20:50
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"so this is obviously not just a beginners's entry level exercise, but rather the ultimate end toward which one toils and aspires all his life."

I think you could say this though. The point of muser being to take a small amount of time each day when needed to reset a person and refocus them. That being said at the moment when a person needs muser for said re focus they aren't necessarily on a high level and so any meditation which helps them do the right thing regardless of how aspirational it is would be a very positive thing. The flip side of striving for reward would be yiras haonesh (the fear of punishment) which is also addressed in this book.

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