After many, many years, my wife convinced me that we had to do some “freshening up” in our house. I wasn’t convinced. It’s not like we didn’t do some work soon after we moved in just 22 years ago. But, OK, as they say, “Happy wife; happy life,” so I acquiesced. Besides, as she is the source of all blessing in our home, if she’s happy we’ll get more bracha and parnasa.
When I spoke to the guy who was going to do the work, he gave me a quote which took my breath away. It was not a small sum, but then again, we’d been saving for this so I bit the bullet — and my tongue — and we moved forward with it. I was a bit sticker-shocked anyway, until I spoke with a relative who is an excellent interior designer, with whom my wife worked to decide on things.
She knew what we were having done (having been our go-to expert for consultation) and when she heard the price, she was amazed. “Wow!” she exclaimed. “That’s a great price! I recently did similar work in (expensive Jewish area not to be named) and it cost four times that amount!”
All of a sudden, I realized that I shouldn’t be upset by the cost, but grateful to have gotten such a bargain! It may have been a lot of money, but not for what we were getting in return.
Imagine you were going to buy a piece of jewelry for $1000. I mean, I’m not going to do that for a while because we just did this work on the house, but hypothetically-speaking. Anyway, you would say, “$1,000 is a lot of money.” You might think it over for a while. But let’s say I told you this was a special sale. The actual value is $15,000. Tomorrow it will be back up to regular price. You’d jump at the chance immediately because $1,000 is NOTHING when you’re getting such a valuable item in exchange.
This is similar to how Yaakov Avinu responded when Lavan wanted him to work seven years for Rachel. That was a ridiculously low “price” for what he’d be getting in return. That’s why it seemed “like a few days” to him, because he knew what a bargain he was getting.
I started to think about mitzvos this way. People might think that Judaism has a lot of rules (it does) that make life difficult (they don’t really) and that we’d be better off without so many do’s and don’t’s (not in the slightest.) However, if you contemplate how the reward for a mitzvah is so much greater than its cost, you realize what a bargain you’re getting.
The Vilna Gaon was seen holding his tzitzis and crying. Someone asked him why and he said, “When we’re alive, for a few pennies, we can buy tzitzis and put them on our garments. We’ll earn tremendous merit for doing this simple mitzvah. However, once we die, all the opportunity is gone. That’s why I’m crying.” As he said, it costs just pennies to do the mitzvah but the reward you get is unfathomable. Another huge bargain.
Every kindness we offer, every word of Torah studied, every time we look to make sure a food is Kosher, we are turning small acts into unlimited benefit. It’s like when I used to write letters to my grandparents in Toronto. If I found a Canadian penny or two, I’d include it. They would respond by sending me two American dollars. It was a really awesome return on my investment.
Now multiply that by millions and that’s kind of how Hashem works. Did my grandparents need the pennies? Of course not. I doubt they were relieved to get them and excitedly took them to the supermarket to complete the change when they made a purchase. But it wasn’t about the pennies. It was about the fact that I thought of them and Hashem wants us to think of Him too.
So, we do tiny, insignificant gestures that don’t affect Him, and out of love and affection, He responds by showering us with bracha, hatzlacha, good health, family, and eternal reward and closeness to Him. It’s an unbelievable bargain and we should realize that.
If we do, we’ll be so ecstatic to keep Shabbos, daven, give tzedaka, and so much more. If we make the cheshbon, a clear reckoning, we’ll realize that we’re getting something so valuable for such a pittance. We will be excited by the opportunity and jump at the chance to do more and more.
I’ve always wondered what it was about Jews and paying retail; how we always love a deal. Perhaps it’s just in our blood to realize that we don’t always “get what we pay for.” No way. We get so much more.
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