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    Worth of commandments – Ask the Rabbi

    Q. Are all the commandments worth the same?

    app android mitzvot mitzvos commandments 613A. The second chapter of Pir’kei Avot insists that there are “lighter” and “heavier” mitzvot.

    Maimonides develops this idea. The verse, “And God saw that the wickedness of man was great on the earth” (Gen. 6:5), is interpreted in this way: “A nation whose sins are more than its good points is immediately destroyed. So it is with mankind as a whole: if its sins are greater than its merits it is immediately destroyed. This is not calculated according to the number of sins and good deeds, but according to their importance. There is a good deed which is weightier than many sins and vice-versa… Only God knows how to weigh and measure good deeds as against sins” (Hil’chot T’shuvah 3:2).

    This last sentence is highly significant. It is not a subjective human judgment that determines which sin is “heavier” and which is “lighter”.

    In countless conversations I have been told, “I keep the ethical laws and they are more important, aren’t they? The intricacies of Shabbat are all very well if you want them, but how can they be as valuable as being a good person?”

    Maimonides is adamant: it’s not up to me to decide the relative value of the commandments. It’s up to God, and my job is to “be as careful with an apparently light mitzvah as seriously as an apparently heavy one” (Avot 2:1).

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