Chapter 1: Mishna 3: Part 2
Antignos Ish Socho received (the Torah transmission) from Shimon HaTzadik.
He would say: Don't be like slaves (servants) who serve the master in order
to receive reward. Rather be like slaves without any intention to receive
reward. And the fear of Heaven should be upon you.
How come the Tanna didn't teach us more directly "Serve G-d
Our love of G-d is supposed to be fundamental, emanating from
our sense of being an attachment to the Divine reality. It is
supposed to be independent of our feelings of appreciation for the
good that G-d has done for us, or in order to receive good from G-
d. Teaching us to "serve out of love" could be misinterpreted as
being based on feelings of love one should have due to the
wonderful things G-d has done for us. For that certainly could
lead one to feelings of love for G-d, and one who serves G-d in
response to good that has been received, or in anticipation of
that good, is considered a completely righteous person. However,
the Tanna is teaching us the fundamentally proper way to serve,
motivated by an intrinsic desire to serve G-d and to fulfill His
will, independent of any reward, leading to an inherent attachment
to the Divine. Greater than simple appreciation, this drive is
motivated by the recognition of the reality and the greatness of
the Divine, leading to a fundamental desire to fulfill His will.
(In response to the following question: The second half of
the Mishna presents a non-existent example as the desired
behaviour! It would have sufficed to simply teach that one should
not serve in order to get reward. The Maharal explains the
Simply teaching "Do not serve G-d in order to get reward"
would have implied a PROHIBITION on doing so, which is not
correct. We have shown that a person serving in this way is in
fact a righteous person. The Tanna wants, instead, to teach the
fundamental way of service, which is independent of any reward.
Therefore the conclusion of the Mishna is necessary "Rather be
like a servant who serves with no intention of receiving reward."
On the other hand, the Tanna could not simply teach "Serve G-
d as a servant who does so for no reward" as the paradigm for
correct service, since such an example is virtually non-existent.
Rather, the two contrasting statements are necessary to
communicate the message fully: Don't be like a servant who is
motivated by the reward, which is not the essence of service and
does not emanate from love of the master; rather serve as one who
is not motivated by reward -- even though this is not common --
but by love, the inherent desire to serve and be close.
After counselling us on "ahava," service motivated by love,
we are also taught about "yirah," fear. For the natural attitude
of one who loves another is closeness and connection. This
closeness has the potential to neutralize fear and awe.
("Familiarity breeds contempt...") So the Tanna teaches us that
even though you are supposed to serve out of love, becoming closer
to G-d, this should not lead you to relate to Him like you would
to a friend or peer. Remain conscious of the enormous gap between
G-d, who is "in the heavens," and you, who dwells on the physical
earth. This will ensure that your love and closeness to G-d will
not neutralize your awe of the Divine.
(If we love G-d, if we are close to him, if we are "buddy-
buddy" with G-d, rationalizations for improper behaviour become
much easier, we can easily "take Him for granted," become less
careful about transgressions. "G-d understands." "He won't
mind." Our awe of G-d and fear of potential punishment avoids
The proper term for fear and awe is "yira'at shamyim," fear
of heaven, for it emanates for a recognition of the contrast
between Divine and Transcendent G-d (in heaven), and finite,
physical man (on the earth). We never find the term "ahavath
shamayim," love of heaven, for love emanates from an attachment
and closeness ("...to love G-d...and attach yourself to Him."
Devarim 30:20), and "shamayim" is far removed from us.
After Shimon HaTzaddik taught of the foundations of the
worlds existence, Antignos taught how man, for whom this world was
created, is supposed to serve his Creator, which is the
fundamental purpose of his existence.
The teaching of Antignos embraces the totality of service of
G-d, embodying both love and fear. An individual action can be
motivated by either love OR fear. But MAN is supposed to
constantly embody both traits simultaneously, leading to an ideal
relationship with his Creator. It is appropriate that this
integration of love and fear be taught by Antignos, as an
individual, while the coming Mishnayoth are authored by "pairs" of
Tanaim. Each pair will be split between one teaching a behaviour
based on love and one based on fear. But in the essence of
service of G-d, which is what Antignos is teaching, there must be
an integration and unification of love and fear.
(I would like to add a few paragraphs from an article I wrote
on the subject of repentance motivated by love and fear, which
raises issues that will give added insight to what the Maharal
In Netivoth Olam, Netiv Ahavath Hashem, at the end of Ch. 2,
the Maharal brings the Gemara in Avoda Zara (19a) and our Mishna.
He explains that one who serves in order to get reward is not
committed to truly SERVING; rather he is actually working for
someone else to get a payoff for himself. This is legitimate when
serving a human master, says the Maharal, for no servant's
CREATION can be said to be for the owner, and he has no inherent
responsibility for service to another. Man, however, was created
for the purpose of serving G-d, and as such, his service should be
performed for no other reason than that it is intrinsically man's
purpose ("avodah b'etzem"). So the service should be with no
intention of receiving any "payoff."
There is an intermediate level, one who serves G-d out of
recognition of all the good G-d has bestowed upon him. This is
more elevated than one who serves for the "payoff," but it is
still not "avodah b'etzem." True "avodah m'ahava," service of G-d
from pure love, is independent of anything G-d does for us, and
even if we are subjected to difficulties and suffering (lo
aleinu), since we exist to serve G-d as our inherent mission of
our existence, we willingly do whatever we are asked to do. This
is true service, "m'ahava."
In Netiv HaTshuva, Ch. 2, the Maharal discusses the
distinction between Tshuva m'ahavah (repentance motivated by love)
and Tshuva m'yirah (motivated by fear) discussed in the Gemara in
Yoma (86). Tshuva m'ahava brings immediate rectification, while
tshuva m'yirah requires a healing process that comes from G-d.
Explains the Maharal: One who serves G-d from love has the love
and attachment to G-d from within himself (m'tzad atzmo), while
the one who serves G-d from fear is dependent on something outside
of himself, the fear coming from G-d. Therefore the therapeutic
nature of tshuva also requires input from G-d.
We operate on many different levels, with many different
motivations. Much of our lives are devoted to fulfilling others'
expectations of us, or trying to acquire things which are outside
of us. This makes our mission as well as our success dependent on
things which reside outside of us, rather than having our
motivations and standards of accomplishment be dependent on our
recognition of what our potential is, and driven by our sense of
what our responsibilities are, what G-d created each one of us
(individually) to accomplish.
This drive emanates completely from within us, and is
independent of anything outside of us. It is up to us, and
depends on our attitude, as well as our sense and recognition of
responsibility. This is the secret to serving G-d with no
intention of receiving reward.
The class is taught by Rabbi Shaya Karlinsky,
Dean of Darche Noam Institutions, Yeshivat
Darche Noam/Shapell's and Midreshet Rachel for Women.