We all love a good insider trick or piece of knowledge we didn’t have before that can help us. Segulos, special practices which are auspicious for certain outcomes, are extremely popular, and in general, we all like having an edge on the competition when it comes to being successful.
You might get a hot tip from someone who understands a certain industry better than you, like commodities or cryptocurrency, and you’d be more likely to act on that guidance since it’s coming from an expert. Well, the Jewish People have a lot of experts on a lot of things, but one of the surest resources we have is the brain trust known colloquially as, “Chazal,” referring to our Sages.
In the Mishna in Pirkei Avos, they advise us to serve Hashem not as a servant who expects a reward, but as one who does not expect a reward. Some who learn this Mishna ask, “Wait a minute, do you mean to say there’s no reward? Forget it. I’m outta here!” But they are mistaken. Certainly there is a reward for everything we do, and even for things we stop ourselves from doing. But that isn’t the point of this advice. It’s quite different, and I recently had an experience which sheds light on this.
I needed to go to the airport so I ordered an Uber/Lyft/Javer, whatever Ride Share app you prefer, and it gave me my price. The driver was about 15 minutes away so we brought out bags to the driveway and waited. When he arrived, he asked where we were going. When I told him we were going to the airport, he said, “Oh no, I’m sorry but to go there I have to charge you $20 extra. I have to cover the gas and the tolls.” I told him the app was supposed to include all that and he replied that they don’t pay him enough for them. I had no choice, so we got in the car.
It was a very quiet ride to the airport, except for my wife and I texting each other about our shock and dismay at what had happened. When we got to the airport, I handed the driver a twenty-dollar bill, and took our bags from his car. But that wasn’t quite the end of it.
You see, at the end of the ride, these apps ask you to rate the driver, and to give him a tip. Based on the length and cost of the trip, I likely would have tipped the driver more than $20. I understand that many people rely on tips and I do my best to show appreciation to them. They’re working on my behalf and may not be getting paid enough. When they go out of their way for me, I like to go out of my way for them. But this time, I tipped nothing. He’d already gotten his money by extorting the twenty dollars and I never want to see that driver again. By demanding the extra money, he actually lost out.
A different time, I drove with a driver who was courteous, kind, and friendly. He was professional and seemed to be doing his best to make the ride pleasant. I gave him a larger tip than normal, because I felt he cared about doing a good job for me rather than just caring about his wallet.
But didn’t Chazal teach us this so long ago? Yes, indeed. The Mishna speaks of our motivation in serving Hashem, and how it translates. We are going to get our money one way or the other, but if we “force” Hashem’s hand, He’s likely to give us what we deserve, not what He’s capable of tipping. And that has huge downside potential.
Consider this. If we want Hashem to reward us for what we do, don’t you think He’ll see the disingenuousness of our behavior? If our hearts aren’t in it, and we’re just following the Torah for self-preservation and for our own benefit, we won’t really be serving Him, but ourselves.
Any employer can tell you that the person who asks for money for each little thing they do for the company is not seen as an asset. They are in it for themselves and don’t really care about the organization. Bosses recognize that as good as someone may be at their job, if their main focus is themselves, you can’t count on them when things get tough. They are not nearly as valuable as the loyal employee who wants to see things done right, even if it’s more work for him or her.
And that’s why the Mishna suggests we serve Hashem with no intention of getting a reward. Not because there isn’t one, but because our main focus is the good of the organization, being the world, and to make our boss happy, being HaKadosh Baruch Hu.
When we work as loyal servants, happy with whatever wage He gives us because we know we’re doing something beyond money with our service, Hashem sees and appreciates that we’re putting Him first. And guess what? At the end of the ride, we will get rated. Were we a five-star driver with a clean car and friendly conversation, or were we a barely passable three-star driver who played obnoxious music and ignored his passengers as he got them to their destinations?
How Hashem felt about our performance will stay with us forever, and more than that, if He’s happy with how much we extended ourselves for His comfort on the journey, He’ll be ecstatic to be able to lavish us with reward, because He is the ultimate “big tipper.” And oh yeah, you’re welcome.
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