Rashi (14;34) brings a not-so-easy-to-comprehend medrash that says that HaShem guaranteed Bnei Yisrael that they would have to break down their houses (because of tzara'as of the house form) and would find treasure underneath it. Why are we getting a reward for the tzara'as which was caused by sin in the first place? The answer is that punishments are not all there to ‘smack us’ for doing bad - they are so that we can grow from them and become better than we were before the sin. This is how Bnei Yisrael could receive reward for punishments; because they are actually receiving reward for having utilised the punishment to grow spiritually from the punishment. In a similar vein, one who has sinned and has done Teshuva for the sin is now in a stronger position than if he did not do the sin at all; for he successfully proved his strength to separate from the sin and is less likely to repeat it (Rambam hil. Teshuva 7;4). The same question can be asked when Samson (sefer Shoftim 16;28) asks HaShem to give him the merit of one of his eyes, which had been knocked out by the Philistines, in order to give him the strength to bring down the roof of the party. How could he ask for reward for his eyes having been poked out; that was a punishment for being swayed by the physical beauty of Delilah? Again, the answer is that he is asking for the reward of having grown from his punishment and corrected himself. [Heard from R' Frand]

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