Arvei Nachal - Parshas Naso

Why does Hashem show favor to Tzaddikim?

(6,26) “Hashem will show you favor and grant you peace.”

Chazal taught in the gemora Berachos 20b that the ministering angels asked Hashem that the Torah writes that Hashem “will not show favor nor will He take any bribe” (Devarim 10:17), yet He shows favor to Yisrael, as it says “Hashem will show you favor”. Hashem replied: How can I not show them favor when it says in My Torah “and you shall eat and be satisfied and bless”, but they are particular to bless even if the quantity is but the size of an olive or an egg!

Now, it is clear that one does not show favor to a person unless there is a good reason for doing so, for example, because of his righteousness or wisdom. So when it says that Hashem “will not show favor” it must be referring to Tzaddikim, since it is obvious that He will not treat the wicked favorably. If so, how does Hashem’s reply to the ministering angels that Yisrael are particular to bless even on small quantites - meaning that they are very righteous - answer their question?

But we can understand it with the explanation of the Rambam on the Mishnah in the fourth perek of Pirkei Avos which says that Hashem does not show favor nor take a bribe, like the posuk that was quoted above. He explains that this means that when a person sins Hashem does not deduct from his mitzvos, but rather He punishes the person for his sin and the reward for his mitzvos remains untouched.

It seems to me that reason for this is because Chazal taught that reward is not given for the mitzvos in this world, since the reward for even one mitzvah is infinite and so cannot be contained by this finite world. But this world does suffice for finite punishment to be given here. If so, it is not possible to deduct from a person’s mitzvos because of a sin, because this would be like taking a drop from the ocean, which would leave the ocean virtually untouched. So too if the reward of a person’s mitzvos would be reduced corresponding to the amount of the sin, his reward would remain as it was without any reduction at all. However, the Marhasha wrote that when a person adds of his own volition a safeguard to a mitzvah he does receive reward for it in this world. We see from this that the power and the reward of the safeguard is not like that of the mitzvah itself, and therefore could be used as a bribe.

This is the explanation of the gemora in Berachos. Showing favor to someone means that although he does something improper, because he is righteous people are silent about it and treat him favorably. But the posuk says that Hashem “does not show favor”, and punishes the Tzaddik in this world even for a small sin. Similarly, the end of the previous posuk in this parsha “and He will be gracious to you” is the same as the expression used in the posuk in Shemos 33:19 “and I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious”, which the gemora in Berachos 7a explains means that Hashem will be gracious to a person even though he is not deserving, and that is why there are wicked people who enjoy a good life. But there are Tzaddikim who suffer a hard life because He punishes them for their sins in this world. On this the ministering angels asked from the posuk “He shall show favor to you”, which implies that since they a righteous He will keep silent and not punish them even in this world. Hashem answered that since they are particular to make safeguards to the mitzvos He can show them favor and allow them to enjoy a good life even in this world.

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