If you follow My laws…I will provide the rains in their time, the land will give its produce, and the tree of the field will give its fruit…. (Lev. 26:3-10)

The obvious question here is why does the Torah detail the earthly rewards for following its precepts? Shouldn't there be more of an emphasis on the spiritual rewards, which far surpass any physical reward?

Wheat stalks will tower like palm trees….

The same question applies to the emphasis on physical phenomenon that will take place in the Messianic era. From these verses the sages derive that in the Messianic era, plants will yield their produce on the same day they are planted; that entire trees will be edible, not only their fruit; and that even non-fruit-bearing trees will bear edible fruit. (Torat Kohanim ad loc.) The Talmud describes the Messianic era as a time when the earth will produce delicacies and silk clothing, when wheat stalks will tower like palm trees and grains of wheat grow as large as two kidneys of a large ox. (Ketubot 111b)

Even though all this will certainly happen, isn't the emphasis on the physical wonders misplaced, or at least out of proportion in relation to the heightened divine consciousness that will be ours in the Messianic era? Of course, we could answer this question by noting that not everyone is refined enough yet - or all the time - to appreciate abstract, spiritual rewards. The Torah must therefore detail the palpable rewards that await us for obeying G‑d's will; this will motivate even those of us who are not mature enough to value only heightened divine consciousness.

Although this is certainly true, it is an insufficient answer, since it leaves these verses and statements of our sages irrelevant for those among us who are spiritually mature enough not to need such enticements to serve G‑d. Even though the Torah generally addresses the majority, there must certainly be a way of answering this question that speaks to all of us. [Translators note: This is especially true in light of the explanation given above, that the observance of the Torah's laws referred to in these verses is such that the individual becomes one with G‑d's will, just as an engraved letter is one with the stone on which it is engraved. Surely, such an individual does not need the enticement of material reward to serve G‑d!]

This may be understood through a parable: When a person is truly and profoundly happy, he has to express this happiness in his physical body. His face will smile, his hands will clap, and his feet will begin to dance; nothing short of this will do. The same is true of all the emotions: the test of whether the emotion has truly entered our consciousness and affected our essence is the extent of its effect on our body. This is because when the core of a person's being has been touched, it affects his entire person.

Only when the mechanical parts of the body are affected can it be said that the essence of the soul has been touched….

In contrast, it is easy for us to fool ourselves into thinking a certain way or feeling a certain way. When we do this, what we think or feel affects us only superficially. We have not been touched deeply, and this way of thinking or feeling will have no lasting effects on our behavior. Only when the mechanical parts of the body are affected can it be said that the essence of the soul has been touched. The same is true of spiritual life. When one has achieved true oneness with the Torah all of his being will be affected - even the physical aspects of his existence. So, the material rewards spoken of here are not only an incentive to keep the Torah, but the true indication that the Torah has permeated our lives so much that our observance produces tangible results.

The difference between the tangible rewards of the present order and the miraculous rewards of the Messianic future is due to the fact that only in the future will we be able to infuse our entire beings with divine service and consciousness. The results of our divine service will therefore be concomitantly all-pervasive. Just as there will be no dichotomy between us and our divine source, there will be no dichotomy between the physical world and its divine source, and the physical world will be able to express perfectly G‑d's infinite beneficence. The Torah and the Sages therefore describe the magnificence of the Messianic era in detail, for this opulence will express most fully the consummation of the purpose of Creation, making this lowest world a true vehicle for divine consciousness.

[Adapted by Moshe-Yaakov Wisnefsky from Likutei Sichot, vol. 37, p.79 ff; Copyright 2001 chabad of california / www.lachumash.org]