|Tractate Peah, Chapter 1
A merit (i.e. a good deed) has principal (i.e. immediate benefit) and it has fruit (i.e. future benefit to the person who performed it),2 as it is said, “They say about the righteous man that it is good for him, that they will eat the fruit of their deeds.” (Yeshayahu 3:10)3 A transgression has principal (i.e. immediate damage to the person who committed it), but does not have fruit (i.e. future damage),4 as it is said, “Woe to the wicked man, it is bad for him. The product of his hands will be done to him.” (Yeshayahu 3:11)5 If so how is it true [when it says the following:] “And they will eat the fruit of their ways and will be full of their own schemes?” (Mishlei 1:31)6 [But rather,] a transgression that makes fruit (i.e. bad consequences in the future) has fruit (i.e. causes future damage to the person), [but a transgression] that does not make fruit (i.e. bad consequences in the future) does not have fruit (i.e. future damage to the person who committed it).7
מסכת פאה פרק א
זכות יש לה קרן ויש לה פירות שנאמר (ישעיהו ג:י) אִמְרוּ צַדִּיק, כִּי-טוֹב: כִּי-פְרִי מַעַלְלֵיהֶם, יֹאכֵלוּ. עבירה יש לה קרן ואין לה פירות שנאמר (ישעיהו ג:יא) אוֹי, לְרָשָׁע רָע: כִּי-גְמוּל יָדָיו, יֵעָשֶׂה לּוֹ. אם כן מה אני מקיים (משלי א:לא) וְיֹאכְלוּ, מִפְּרִי דַרְכָּם; וּמִמֹּעֲצֹתֵיהֶם יִשְׂבָּעוּ? עבירה שעושה פירות יש לה פירות, שאין עושה פירות אין לה פירות.
- The Tosefta continues on a similar subject as the previous Tosefta. It is not related to any Mishna.
- Most commentators on the Tosefta think that fruit and principal are references to this world and the Afterlife. However they argue which one refers to which, because it is not clear from the context. For various opinions see Tosefta Kepshuta and Higayon Aryeh. However, I have chosen not to explain it that way. I think that it is referring to immediate benefit and future benefit in this world for the person who performed the good deed. If a person helps someone at the least it makes him feel good right away, which is an immediate benefit. And the person whom he helped today may help him in return tomorrow, which would be a future benefit.
- The verse is taken literally in this case. The verse says that it is good for the righteous in the present tense, referring to immediate befit, and then it says in the future tense that the righteous will eat the fruit of their deeds, referring to future benefit.
- On a similar note a person who commits a bad act causes damage to himself by committing it. The damage can be emotional that a person feels bad about what he did, or it could be physical that he may be searched for by others for committing his crime. However, as long as he does not get caught, his transgression will not cause him anymore grief in the future in this world. Obviously in the Afterlife God will punish him, but as I already mentioned above in note 2, this Tosefta is not talking about Afterlife.
- This verse as well is interpreted literally as the previous verse. It says that it is bad for the evil person in the present tense, meaning that he causes immediate damage to himself by performing the transgression. However the second half of the verse seems to be in contradiction with the Tosefta’s explanation. It says that an evil person will reap the product of his hands, meaning that he will get punished in the future (i.e. his evil deed will cause him future damage). However the Tosefta says that a transgression does not have fruit, which is not what the verse implies.
- The verse in Mishlei clearly says that evil people will reap their own fruit, meaning that they will get future damage. So it is in contradiction with the Tosefta’s previous statement that evil deeds do not have fruit. The question is very puzzling to me, since the previous verse from Yeshayahu said the same thing, although the Tosefta chose to ignore that.
- The Tosefta resolves the question by clarifying that transgressions that have future consequences cause future damage where is transgressions that do not have future consequences do not cause future damage. A good example of this may be if a man cheated on his wife with another married woman. His act has major future consequences, because it will probably result in divorce, a custody battle over children and possibly a ruination of his mistress’ family as well. However, if a person steals a candy bar from a supermarket, as long as he does not get caught most probably nothing will neither happen to him nor to the supermarket. As I already explained, since the Tosefta is not talking about punishment from God the question of why bad things happen to good people and good things to bad people does not come into play here. All the Tosefta is talking about is natural consequences of a person’s actions.