Rebbi asked R. Yishmael the son of R. Yosie, “What do the wealthy people of Eretz Yisroel do to merit (wealth)? (He replied) they give tithes (maaser) as it is written aaser t’asser (lit. You should truly give a tithe). Meaning give a tithe (aaser) in order to become wealthy (t’aaser is spelled similarly to titasher- to become wealthy). (Shabbos 119A)
Zera Shimshon points out that the wording of the Gemorra “give maaser IN ORDER to become wealthy” implies that we can do this mitzvah with the intent to be rewarded! He asks how is this consistent with the mishna in Pirkei Avos (1/3), “Do not be like servants who serve their master for the sake of receiving a reward but rather be like servants who serve their maser without the express intention of receiving a reward…”
He answers in light of two Gomorras.
The first ax Gemorra is in Mesechta Berochos (31A), “Rabbah said, ‘A man may employ devious tactics with his crops by bringing them into his house while still in its chaff so he will not have to give maaser‘“.
In other words, Raba teaches us that there is way to circumvent this mitzvah and eat crops without separating maaser. Since crops are chiyav in maaser only if it is brought into a house after the chaff is removed, one is permitted to bring it into a house before the chaff is removed in order to be exempt himself from (at least) the Torah obligation to give maaser.
The other Gemorra is in Mesechta Sotah (14A). “R. Simlai expounded: Why did Moshe Rabainu yearn to enter Eretz Yisroel? Did he want to eat its fruits or satisfy himself from its bounty? (Surely not.) Rather Moshe said to Hashem, “There are many mitzvos that were commanded to Yisroel which can only be fulfilled in Eretz Yisroel. I want to enter Eretz Yisroel in order to fulfill them!” HaKodesh Baruch Hue replied to him, ‘Is it only the reward (for fulfilling the mitzvos) that you want? I will ascribe them to you as if you did them!'”
From the fact that Moshe accepted Hashem’s response and didn’t continue to plead with Hashem, we see that Moshe’s was very concerned to receive reward for doing the mitzvos.
The Maharsha asks how can we understand this? Seemingly this openly contradicts the mishne in Pirkei Avos (1/3), “Antiginos of Socho…. would say, ‘Do not be like servants who serve their master for the sake of receiving a reward but rather be like servants who serve their maser without the express intention of receiving a reward…'”!
The Maharsha answers that this principle, to serve Hashem without intending to receive reward, is only concerning mitzvos that we are obligated to do. However, in the case of Moshe there was not yet an obligation to perform them, since they still didn’t enter Eretz Yisroel, there is nothing wrong to wanting to get rewarded for doing that mitzvah. (In Parshas V’eschonnon Zera Shimshon gives another explanation of this Gemorra.)
Concludes Zera Shimshon, that is now easy to understand why we can perform the mitzvah of giving maaser even with the intent to receive reward. Since we could exempt ourselves (by bringing the crops in the house without removing the chaff) it is as if we are not yet obligated in the mitzvah. In such a case the Maharsha says that we can serve Hashem in order to get rewarded.
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