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What is the purpose of religion?
  I've noticed that a lot of people who put down religion think it's all about scared people trying to get into heaven. This is true for many religious people, but not those who truly understand the Jewish tradition as explained below:

The Vilna Gaon was always meticulous in his performance of mitzvos. Every Succos, he would he would acquire the most beautiful and kosher esrog in order to perform the
Succos mitzvah of the waving of the Lulav & Esrog.

One year, due to extreme adverse conditions, there was a severe shortage of esrogim in Eastern Europe. A search committee was dispatched to literally scour Europe on a quest
for an Esrog. They went from town to town to town, each time coming up empty handed. They powered through town after town with the tenacity and grit of athletes trained in their
sports. Spectacular efforts were made at each stop. Nonetheless they had naught to show for it.

Finally in one town they found success - or so they thought. A man had an exquisite esrog in his possession but refused to part with it. The committee begged pleaded and offered
an enormous sum of money for the esrog. The man would not budge. They exclaimed, "This is for the holy and revered Vilna Gaon."

"With all the effort the great Rabbi is expending, surely his heavenly reward will be great when he performs this mitzvah," said the man.

"Of course," they replied.

"I will sell it to you on one condition. The Olam Haba (heavenly reward) that he earns in performing this mitzvah must go to me."

The delegation was absolutely stunned. How could they even dream of doing such a thing? Yet how could they not? Time was running out before the holiday and they had been
everywhere. Despite their cajoling, despite their negotiating, despite their groveling; the man remained adamant. They had no choice but to capitulate.

They returned to Vilna, barely in time for Succos and marched straight to the home of the Vilna Gaon.

The Gaon was ecstatic to see the esrog, but they were trembling. They didn't know how to tell him what they had committed him to. Finally they blurted out, "Forgive us Rebbi, in
order to acquire this esrog, we were forced to agree on your behalf that you would give this man all of the olam haba that you earn doing this mitzvah."

The Vilna Gaon answered clearly and immediately, "I would have consented to this agreement even if I had to give him my entire olam haba."

The Vilna Gaon was happy to serve Hashem and he was happy that olam haba was earned; but he didn't need to be the one to receive the olam haba. If it went to another Jew that was wonderful; as long as the mitzvah was done. The Gaon was truly an "eved hameshamesh es harav shelo al menas likabel pras" - a servant who serves the master not for the sake of reward, but out of love.
  Author: Von Cello
Eintrag from 02.10.2009
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