In this week’s Torah portion (Devarim 7:12) it says: “It will be because you listen to these laws, through keeping and performing them; Hashem, your G-d, will safeguard you…”
The Yalkut Shimoni (Psalms 49:158) says: King David said to G-d: “You gave us 613 minor and major mitzvoth I wasn’t just meticulous to fulfill only the major mitzvoth, but even more so, I fulfilled the minor mitzvoth. If a person does not heed both types of mitzvoth, he will definitely stumble on them and they will end up under his heels.”
Rashi (Devarim 7:12) explains that ‘under his heels’ refers to lighter mitzvoth that a person tends to treat with less regard. The Chafetz Chaim says, “It’s imperative to adopt a mitzvah that society generally ignores. Even though a man must keep all of the mitzvoth, still, he should embrace one specific mitzvah and be especially zealous in its performance and throughout his entire life never once violate it…” (Shemirat HaLashon – volume 1, epilogue, chapter 3). It’s those types of mitzvoth that one must keep an eye out for. The Torah assures us that if we keep even these neglected mitzvoth, we can be certain that Hashem will reward them with His covenant and kindness.
Which mitzvoth should we work on?
The Gemara says, “There are things of the highest priority which people treat lightly” (Berachot 6b). An example of this is prayer which rises up to Heaven (Rashi). A few pages later, the Talmud says that prayer is one of the four activities which require strengthening (Berachot 32b). Rashi explains, “A person should strengthen himself in this constantly with all his energy.”
The Talmud is really trying to tell us that anything that’s a spiritual matter, people tend to throw to the side and step on.
What are examples of this? One example would be prayer. The Kaf HaChaim says that if a person cannot stop talking in the synagogue during prayers, he is better off praying at home (Orach Chaim 151:8).
Another example is the prohibition against speaking of your weekday occupations on Shabbat. This includes not talking of your intentions to do a forbidden labor after Shabbos when it will be permissible to do– even if the discussion doesn’t assist your plans in any way. One shouldn’t say he will repair an appliance, send an email (i.e. Texting, Facebooking, Tweeting or Skyping), or drive a car after Shabbos (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 307:1). In addition, it is forbidden to negotiate business deals or plan strategies on Shabbos. What speech is permitted? Speech that doesn’t talk of doing any labor is permissible if the conversation is enjoyable to the participants.
A last example is Lashon Hora, which means a derogatory statement that is true. The Noam Elimelech identifies lashon hora as one of the mitzvoth which people do not take seriously, causally trampling with their heels (Al HaTorah, Shelach 17:6). The Chofetz Chaim says, “People have become used to saying whatever happens to come out of their mouth, without first considering that perhaps what they say is considered rechilus or lashon hora.”
Napoleon Hill gives us beneficial advice, “Think twice before you speak because your words and influence will plant the seed of either success or failure in the mind of another.” The Chida says, “If you want to get a portion in the World to Come cheaply, guard your tongue from evil.” Conversely, “When we speak lashon hora about someone else, we take his sins upon ourselves and he takes our mitzvoth! Therefore, the only way a person will be saved from his evil inclination is through learning the laws of Lashon Hara. In general, there is a litmus test to know if what you’re saying is Lashon Hora: Would you say the comment about him if he was standing in front of you? If not, then it is probably Lashon Hora.
If a piece of food goes down one’s air pipe it can cause him to choke or worse whether it’s a big piece or a small one, G-d forbid. So too, “Be careful with a minor mitzvah, (as you would be) with a major one, because you do not know the reward for mitzvoth” (Avot 2:1). In other words, “Don’t sweat the small stuff.” Rather, “Sweat the small stuff and the big stuff.”