In the special Haftarah that we read for Shabbos Hagadol we hear the prophet Malachi tell of the messianic era. After centuries and millennia of toil – devoted Yidden who toiled, guided only by their unwavering faith will finally be recognized and rewarded. Obviously, their reward will be commensurate with their efforts and will be granted on several levels. One distinction that will be made involves those who “serve Hashem and those who do not serve Him” [Malachi 3:18]
The Gemara [Chagiga 9b] teaches us that both of the people referred to in the passuk have been righteous, that is why they receive divine rewards. The harsh condemnation of an incomplete tzaddik as “one who does not serve Him” is solely in reference to that tzaddik’s lack of total dedication. How is this lack of totality expressed ? He has only reviewed his learning 100 times and not 101.
An idea that explains this seemingly harsh statement is an analysis of motives. What drives us to achieve and excel in our Avodas Hashem ? Sometimes it is nothing more than a type A personality that looks to overachieve in everything. While every effort spent in divine service deserves recognition, there is a special place reserved to reward those that toil purely for the sake of Heaven. There is nothing to gain (qualitatively) from reviewing one’s learning that extra hundred and first time, yet one whose avodah is purely lishma will do it, while those who only seek to excel will not.
This Pesach we will all perform many, many acts of avodah – the cleaning, cooking and even learning to insure that we will have a memorable Pesach. Lest an impure thought creep into our motives – lest we be driven by a mundane desire to just “do it right” – let us remember the admonishing words of Malachi. Even when there will be ‘no difference’ and even when all is already done – let us exert our best efforts in recognition of the true reason. We were once slaves to Pharaoh in Egypt – and now, gloriously so, we are slaves to the Almighty.