Seder Olam rabbah Chapter 30
(Dan. 8:21) "The rough he-goat is the king of Greece; the mighty horn that is between his eyes, that is the first king." (Dan. 11:3-4) "A valiant king will arise ... and when he arises, his kingdom will be broken and separated in the four directions of the sky." That is Alexander the Macedonian who ruled for 12 years. Until that time there were prophets prophesying by the Holy Spirit; from there on (Prov. 22:10) "bend your ear and listen to the words of the wise," as it is said (Prov. 22:18-19): "How pleasant if you will preserve them in your body ... that your trust shall be in the Eternal." And it is said (Prov. 22:20-21): "Behold, I wrote for you triple ... to tell you the trustworthiness of true teachings." And so it says (Deut. 32:7): "Ask your father and he will tell you, your elders and they will inform you." I could think of old men from the market place, the verse says "they will inform you." From this you learn that an elder is a man who has acquired wisdom.
Maimonides’ Introduction to Perek Helek
Introduction to Chapter ten of Mishna Sanhedrin
...Imagine a small child who has been brought to his teacher so that he may be taught the Torah, which is his ultimate good because it will bring him to perfection. However, because he is only a child and because his understanding is deficient, he does not grasp the rue value of that good, nor does he understand the perfection which he can achieve by means of Torah. Of necessity, therefore, his teacher, who has acquired greater perfection than the child loves in childish way.
Thus, the teacher may say, “Read and I will give you some nuts or figs; I will give you a bit of honey.” With this stimulation the child tries to read. He does not work hard for the sake of reading itself, since he does not understand its value. He reads in order to obtain the food. Eating these delicacies is far more important to him than reading, and a greater good to him. Therefore, although he thinks of study as work and effort, he is willing to do it in order to get what he wants, a nut or a piece of candy. As the child grows and his mind improves, what was formerly important to him loses its importance, while other things become precious. The teacher will stimulate his desire for whatever he wants then.
The teacher may say to the child. “Read and I will give you beautiful shoes or nice clothes.” Now the child will apply himself to reading for the sake of new clothes and not for the sake of study itself. He wants the garments more than the Torah. This coat will be the end which he hops to achieve by reading. As his intelligence improves still more and these things, too, become unimportant to him, he will set his desire upon something of greater value. Then his teacher may say to him: Learn this passage or this chapter, and I will give you a denar or two.” Again he will try to read in order to receive the money, since money is more important to him than study. The end which he seeks to achieve through his study is to acquire the money which has been promised him.
Now, all this is deplorable. However, it is unavoidable because of man’s limited insight, as a result of which he makes the goal of wisdom something other than wisdom itself, and assumes that the purpose of study is the acquisition of honor, which makes a mockery of truth. Our sages called this learning not for its own sake. They had in mind the kind of person who performs the commandments and energetically studies Torah not for their own intrinsic worth but with some other purpose in view. Ur sages warned against this and said, “Do not make the Torah a crown for self-glorification or a spade with which to dig” (Ethics of the Fathers 4”7). They hinted at what I have just explained to you, that the end of wisdom is neither to acquire honor from other men nor to earn more money. One ought not to busy oneself with God’s Torah in order to earn one’s living by it; nor should the end of studying wisdom be anything but knowing it. The truth has no other purpose than knowing that it is truth. Since the Torah is truth, the purpose of knowing it is to do it.
A good man must not wonder, “If I perform these commandments, which are virtues, and if I refrain from these transgressions, which are vices which God commanded us not to do, what will I get out of it?” This is precisely what the child does when he asks, “If I read, what will you give me?” The child is answered in some such way because, when we know his limited understanding and his desire for something other than a real goal, we answer him on the level of his folly, as it is said in Proverbs 26:5: “Answer the fool according to his folly.” Our sages have already warned us about this. They said that one should not make the goal of one’s service of God or of doing the commandments anything in the world of things.
Antiginos of Sokho- a man who had achieved perfection and grasped the truth of things-meant precisely this when he said: “Do not be like the servants who serve their master for the sake of receiving a reward, but be like servants who serve their master without expecting a reward” (Ethics of the Fathers 1:3). He meant by this that one should believe the truth for the sake of the truth. We say of such a man that he serves out of love.
To him the sages have applied the verse: “His profound desire is in God’s commandments” (Ps. 112:1). Rabbi Eliezer added: “. . . in His commandments, but not in the reward of His commandments” (Avodah Zarah 19a).* All of this is clear proof of what we have said. A passage from the Sifre makes the point even better. “Should you be tempted to say, ‘I will study Torah in order to become rich, or in order to be called Rabbi, or in order to receive a reward in the world to come,” Scripture says (Deut. 11:13): ‘To love the Lord your God’-whatever you do, do it only out of love.” It has now been made quite clear to you that this is what the Torah means and our sages make fundamental. Only a disturbed fool whose mind is deranged by folly and by fantasy will refuse to recognize this truth. Abraham our Father achieved this level; he served God out of love. We, too, must be aroused to move in this direction.
However, our sages knew that this is s a very difficult goal to achieve and that not every man could achieve it. One may understand the goal and still reject it, falling to apprehend that it is a principle of faith. Men do not do anything except to achieve profit or to avoid loss. Most men would regard any other action as useless and meaningless. Under these circumstances it is hard to say to one who is studying Torah, “Do certain things and refrain from doing certain other things but not out of fear of divine punishment and not in order to acquire a reward.” This is an exceedingly difficult thing to do because most men have not achieved such truth that they are able to be like Abraham our Father.
Therefore, in order that the masses stay faithful and do the commandments, it was permitted to tell them that they might hope for a reward and to warn them against transgressions out of fear of punishment. It was hoped that they might be urged to strengthen their intentions so that they would ultimately grasp the truth and the way toward perfection, just like the child in the analogy which I cited above.
It was for this reason that the sages charged Antigonos of Sokho with indiscretion. They had him in mind when they said, “O wise ones, be careful with your words” (Ethics of the Fathers 1:11). The masses, after all, lose nothing when they do the commandments out of fear of punishment and out of hope for reward, since they are not perfect. It is good for them insofar as it strengthens and habituates them in loyalty to what the Torah requires. Out of this effort they may be awakened to the knowledge of the truth and serve God out of love.
This is what the sages meant when they said, “A man ought always to labor in the Torah, even if not for its own sake! For doing it not for its own sake, he may come to do it for its own sake” (Pesahim 50b).