We’ve spent quite a bit of time discussing how the mitzvot that we do will be rewarded in the world to come. Sara Yocheved Rigler outlines a beautiful analogy to explain this issue: “Two women would regularly collect charity for the poor of their community. The two friends agreed that whoever died first would come back and tell the other what the Next World was like. After some time, one of the women died. A short while later she appeared to her friend in a dream and reported: ‘Do you remember the time we were searching for the home of a certain rich man? Suddenly I saw the street number. I pointed at it and said, ‘There’s the address.’ Well, here in this world I’m being rewarded for lifting my index finger and pointing to the address!’
It is the will of the Compassionate God to give us infinite spiritual reward for every mitzvah. To do this, every good action of ours is divided up into its component nanoseconds, and reward is conferred for each one.
For lighting Shabbat candles, you are rewarded for:
– Looking for the candles in the supermarket aisle
– Putting them into your shopping cart
– Lifting them out of your shopping cart onto the checkout counter
– Paying for the candles
– Carrying the candles home
– Taking out your candlesticks before Shabbat
– Putting your candles into the candlesticks
– Getting the box of matches from the drawer
– Lighting the match
– Lighting the candles with the match
– Saying the blessing
An awareness of this can invest the most humdrum life with significance and turn the most mundane action into a spiritual experience.
And what about the punishment for sins, for those actions that hurt others and/or distance us from our Creator? The good news is that good actions are recorded with indelible markers; no subsequent action can erase them. Sins, by contrast, are recorded with washable markers. They can be erased …”