|Art: Boris Dubrov|
''And you shall take for yourselves on the first day, the fruit of the hadar tree...'' [Emor 23:40]
The Vilna Gaon had a great love for the mitzvah of the four species. Year after year, Vilna's vendors streamed to the Gaon's house with choice etrogim, and he would select the one he thought was the nicest.
One year, a vendor showed the Gaon an exquisite etrog. The Gaon was very impressed and was willing to pay its full price.
''I do not wish to sell the etrog for money'' responded the vendor. ''Rather, I desire the reward that you will garner for performing the mitzvah of the four species.''
''I readily agree'' said the Gaon. ''I will take the etrog, and you will receive my reward.''
All those who visited the Gaon that Sukkot saw him savoring his beautiful etrog to a far greater degree than in previous years.
To calm their curiousity, the Gaon explained: '''Throughout my entire life, I have yearned to fulfill the words of our Sages [Pirkei Avot 1:3] ''Be like servants who serve their master, not for the sake of receiving a reward.'' A person must not serve Hashem simply in order to receive a reward. This is extremely difficult, however, as we are constantly aware that we will receive a reward each time we perform a mitzvah, But this year I was given the opportunity to perform a mitzvah with the knowledge that I would not be receiving any reward for doing so!''
''I am so fortunate to have merited such an opportunity. This is why you find me so overjoyed.''
Source: Rabbi Yisroel Bronstein
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