The Gemara (Avodah Zarah 18a) relates that one time, Rav Chanina Ben Tradyon went to visit Rav Yosi Ben Kisma, who had fallen sick. Rav Chanina asked him, “Am I going to merit a place in the next world?” Rav Yosi answered, “Do you have any special merit?” Rav Chanina responded, “One time I confused my own money, which was set aside for Purim, with charity money, and accidentally gave it away to the poor (and he did not repay himself from charity).”
This Gemara is quite perplexing. Here we have the great Rav Chanina Ben Tradyon, the incredible tzaddik and talmid chochom, who at this time was busy being moser nefesh to teach Torah (and ultimately was killed for this), and this is the incident that Rav Chanina assures himself with of his place in Olam Haba?
The Rambam (Peirush HaMishnayos, end of Makkos) explains as follows: It is amongst the essentials of emunah that when a person performs one mitzvah lishmah out of his love for Hashem, he can merit entrance into Olam Haba. Rav Yosi was asking Rav Chanina, “Do you have that special, perfect, and unadulterated mitzvah?” Rav Chanina responded by recounting that special mitzvah involving the tzedakah money.
The Rambam teaches us that a person can only merit Olam Haba with that special voucher of a perfect mitzvah. This is his lottery ticket. While he will no doubt receive reward for all his mitzvos, he still needs that one precious mitzvah to unlock the door. I do not comprehend the depth of why this is so, but this is what the Rambam tells us.
I believe that we all have those special moments. We just need to be cognizant of how and where they present themselves. It is not when we perform a glorious mitzvah that earns us the admiration of others. Those mitzvos cannot possibly be perfectly lishmah, even though our intention was not for any honor or glory. This is possibly why Rav Chanina was not even satisfied by his mesirus nefesh to teach Torah, for there was some recognition of his efforts. It was the unknown, quiet action of giving up his Purim funds that he was banking on.
What counts are the times when our mitzvah goes unnoticed. It may be an act of charity or kindness, it may be a few challenging minutes of Torah learning, but perhaps it may not be an action at all. One of the greatest opportunities to earn Olam Haba is exercising the virtue of silence – silence in not showing off, and, more importantly, silence when we are slighted or mistreated, and silence to avoid arguments or lashon hara.
My hunch – and the Rambam seems to support this notion – is that what we consider “heavy weight mitzvos” that will rack up big points in Olam Haba may very well not be where our eternal wealth lies. It is more likely that our wealth lies in the more discrete mitzvos, the ones that don’t earn us fanfare not only in the eyes of others but in our own eyes as well.
I think that increasing our value for our silent mitzvos will transform our way of living. If we would realize the incredible greatness of doing the right things in the personal matters of our lives, we would become different spouses, fathers, mothers, sons, and daughters. We would place even more importance on the “silent” mitzvos than on the louder, more pronounced, ones.
The next time we endure the bitter challenge of biting words or disrespectful behavior, we need to remember that that is our “lottery ticket.” That is where we will earn our millions.
May we be zoche to constantly be mekadeish sheim Hashem, both in public and in private.