The Jewish Eye
Pirkei Avos - A High Price For An Esrog?
One year there when was a dire shortage of Esrogim the Vilna Gaon sent a delegation to procure him an Esrog. Unfortunately after combing the neighboring countries they still could not find one. Finally their efforts bore fruits and they found someone with a kosher esrog suitable for the Vilna Gaon. The problem was that the owner refused to part with it for all the money in the world. After the delegation begged and begged the owner finally said he would give the Vilna Gaon the esrog on one condition; the owner would get the Schar in Olam Haba that the Vilna Gaon would earn for the mitzva of shaking the esrog that year.
Realizing they had no choice they took the esrog and with trepidation traveled back to Vilna to tell the Gaon about the esrog and the high price they paid. When they came to the Gaon ashen faced and brought him the esrog he asked them what was troubling them. When they told him the story the Gaon broke out in a huge smile and exhibited tremendous happiness. Confused, the delegation asked him why he was so happy. He explained that since he understood the tremendous reward for mitzvos it detracted from his service of Hashem. Now that he will shake the esrog without any reward whatsoever he can do the mitzva like it says in Pirkei Avos (1:3) "Hevu KaAvadim Hamishamshim Es HaRav Shelo Al Minas Likabel Pras"; Be like a slave that serves his master not for the purpose of receiving a reward.
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