In life we often experience antithetical outcomes. We can try hard at something certain that our efforts will pan out yet the results can be quite discouraging. This is true no matter how great our conviction and dedication to our endeavor may be.

Some of us may find that despite our devoutness and meticulousness not only do we not experience improvement in our daily lives, we do not even maintain the status quo, and sometimes even experience a decline.

All too often this brings us to question our Sages and mentors and sometimes even God and the path He proscribed for us.

Rabbi Ze’ora, one of the great Sages of the Land of Israel was faced one day with exactly this situation!

The Sages teach us that one who recites the ‘Amidah right after the blessing of  ‘Geulah’ (Redemption) without interruption is guaranteed that no ill will come to him during that day.

Rabbi Ze’ora took this teaching quite seriously, expecting a guarantee that no harm will come his way. Nevertheless, the day came when he was taken away to perform the public service of perfuming  the King’s Palace.  To Rabbi Ze’ora this was clearly a punishment.

But His contemporaries pointed out to him that it was not every day that one could see the King’s Palace. In fact, many people would actually pay good money to see its interior.

What Rabbi Ze’ora perceived as a punishment was in fact a reward!

The lesson that the Sages of the Land of Israel teach us here is that reward and punishment are sometimes nothing more than a matter of perception.

May God give us the keenness and perceptiveness to see the events in our lives in their proper light! 

Michael Linetsky is the Director of the Talmud Yerushalmi Institute whose mission is to bring the Talmud Yerushalmi and the teachings of the land of Israel back to the conscience of the Jewish people.