Our Sages tell us that the “reward of a mitzvah is the mitzvah itself.” Every mitzvah achieves a refinement and spritualization of both the individual performing the mitzvah and the object with which the mitzvah is performed. This effect, however, remains invisible to the physical eyes and senses. The true reward for our performance of mitzvot will be realized when the curtains are parted and we will finally see and appreciate all we’ve accomplished in the thousands of years that we have been faithfully observing the mitzvot. This can be compared to the artist seeing the finished painting, the “reward” for the many hours he invested in the piece of art.
This will be accomplished during theinitial stage of the Messianic Era. At that time we will be elevated to the spiritual state of Adam and Eve before they ate from the Tree of Knowledge. We will have finely honed spiritual senses and will be freed from the struggle between good and evil which accompanies us now on a daily basis. This reward will be wholly earned, a direct result of our ages-long efforts.
But G‑d promises that the reward for our efforts will not be limited to that which we have directly earned—that which is humanly possible to achieve. During the Resurrection Era, the second of the Messianic Eras, we will be treated to a reward which can only be viewed as a gift from Above, for its greatness is such that finite human efforts can never earn such bounty.
According to kabbalistic teachings, there are three stages in our relationship with G‑d:
- Nowadays, we can know that He does exist, and we can have some appreciation for His deeds, but we have no comprehension whatsoever of His nature. That is akin to a blind-from-birth individual trying to appreciate colors.
- During the first period of the Messianic Era we will gain the spiritual senses necessary to appreciate and comprehend G‑dliness. But this will be limited to certain qualified manifestations and expressions of G‑d. His absolutely infinite and transcendent essence will remain elusive, no matter the heights the human mind and heart will attain.
- During the Resurrection Era we will be able to fully relate to — and even intellectually comprehend! — G‑d’s very essence. Indeed, this is an impossibility—but it will be a gift from a G‑d who created the concepts of “possible” and “impossible,” and therefore is at liberty to manipulate them at will.