Parshas Mattos: Consequences Are Not Always Immediate

I remember calling my mother once.  My challah dough had not risen in my cold kitchen and Shabbos was fast approaching.  How, I asked her, could I get my dough to rise really fast?

My mother didn’t understand what the big deal was. “Why not just let it rise slowly? Will G-d really be so mad at you if you bake it on Shabbos? Do you really believe He’s going to strike you down with lightening?” Good question!

Most people today seem consumed with immediacy.  We strive for immediate gratification.  Given the choice between receiving $100 today or $240 in a year’s time, most people choose to get $100 today.  It’s part of our mentality.  It explains why we are so bad at saving for the future.  It feels so much better to spend today than to save for tomorrow.

G-d doesn’t work that way.  As we mentioned last week, G-d is outside of time.  For G-d, there is no past, present, or future.  So what makes us think that G-d has to punish us immediately? How is it a denial of the Torah’s divinity that G-d doesn’t strike us with lightening the moment we do something wrong?

In fact, even as humans we don’t work this way.  We rarely punish immediately.  Often as parents, we deliberately delay punishment to give children the chance to admit and apologize.  G-d does the exact same thing to us.  He waits and hopes that we will do teshuva and repent… but if we don’t, He has no choice but to punish us.

We see an instance of delayed punishment in this week’s parsha.  The tribe of Menashe is split in two.  The Midrash teaches that this is punishment for when Menashe hid Yosef’s goblet in Binyamin’s sack, causing the sons of Yaakov to tear their clothes.  Grief tears us apart and deliberately causing others grief is contrary to Jewish belief and Jewish law.  No matter how good the intentions, it is the actions that really count and Menashe’s actions result in a punishment eventually.

Just as punishments can be delayed, so too rewards.  So just as we must always keep in mind that negative behaviors might not be punished immediately, we must also rest assured that our rewards are waiting for us, too.

Shabbat shalom!

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