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How Do you Measure Rewards?

Posted on 07/25/2013 @ 03:49 PM

This week’s parsha, Eikev, contains passages from the second paragraph of the Shema, whereby Moses reminds the Israelites that there are consequences to their actions, both positive and negative. Follow the Commandments and you will be rewarded. Do not follow the Commandments, and future generations will suffer. I like to use this as my daily ‘think before you do’ lesson.

But then, inevitably, I struggle with the way people act. So often I see people focus on the idea of reward as something tangible that they get, for themselves. It could be as little as a piece of candy, or as big as a monetary reward, and that drives their actions. If they aren’t going to receive something of sufficient value, why should they put themselves out or be burdened by a task? And that’s fair, but is there a bigger picture we can look at? Think pay-it-forward or good deed snowballs. Will my actions make the world a better place? If I spend the extra time working with a teen, will they have a greater impact on their region or chapter? If I give up my seat on the bus for a woman who is pregnant, will she be just a little more comfortable? Why isn’t a positive outcome enough? What am I am willing to give up (time, a seat) without expectation of rewards?

This week BBYO got an amazing look at the reality of rewards. Earlier this week we received word that a match was found from a bone marrow donor drive held at East Coast Kallah in 2010. Someone – one of our own – now has the ability to help save a complete stranger’s life. What does the donor get from this? Lots of additional tests, a painful procedure, and possibly a lot of ice cream and jello. They won’t walk away with money or gifts. In fact, they’ll probably miss school and have to make up the work. They also get the amazing feeling that comes from making a tough decision that will have greater impact on someone other than themselves.

We spend a lot of time talking about the third outcome of the Educational Framework, whereby we want our teens to find ways to improve the world. If they think that rewards are always tangible and for themselves, how can we expect them to truly make a difference? It raises an interesting question: what is the reward for helping someone else?

This Shabbat Message was prepared, without tangible reward, by Aleeza Lubin, DJE for the Midwest Hub

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