When a person is contracted to do a job, when the work is defined, when the compensation is agreed upon and the worker does the job, then they receive the agreed-upon compensation. If the employer is gracious, they will also thank the worker. If the employer is generous and wants to show appreciation for a job well done, they may also include some type of tip or bonus, depending on the type of work and circumstances. However, as a rule, the employer pays the worker what was agreed.
The Chidushei HaRim on Numbers 25:11 explains that the Jewish people have, among the many types of relationships with God, a contractual one. God gives us life and in turn, we serve Him. If we serve Him, we are deserving of our divinely prescribed life in this world. However, it is apparently also in God’s nature to go over and above the mere terms of the contract. God is generous. He is so generous that he gives us continued life and rewards, even when we aren’t necessarily deserving. Nonetheless, according to the Chidushei HaRim, the basis of what we receive from God is earned by our actions, actions that are expected of us. It’s our job, it’s our duty and so our “salary” is based on those required actions.
Enter Pinchas. Pinchas, together with the leadership of Israel, is confronted with a scene of rebellion and promiscuousness that gives Moses pause. Pinchas realizes that to quell the rebellion he needs to immediately take matters into his own hands. He must act. He undertakes a dangerous and unsanctioned act of vigilantism and kills the rebellious ringleader and his immodest partner. Nobody commanded Pinchas to take such an act and risk himself. It turns out that Pinchas’ lethal act stopped the advance of the plague that had erupted as a result of God’s anger, and which killed 24,000 people in the space of a few moments. Thereafter, God goes on to describe Pinchas’ reward for his actions.
The Chidushei HaRim elaborates that in this case, the rewards that Pinchas receives are truly earned. There was no bonus here. Pinchas did not need to do what he did. It was not part of any contract or prior obligation. Pinchas over-extended himself to do what he understood to be right, to do something that he felt God would want, though neither he nor anybody else had been commanded or expected to do so. That deserved its own reward beyond any contractual understanding with God.
May we always aim to do the right thing, whether it’s demanded of us or not.
Dedication: On the Brit Milah and naming of our grandson, Oded Chaim Spitz. Mazal Tov!