By: Rabbi Barak Bar-Chaim
A number of years ago a congregant mentioned to me that he does not keep Shabbat at all because at all because he feels he has to travel on Shabbat to be with family members. Similarly, I have heard people arguing that those that keep a kosher home but eat out at non‐kosher restaurants are hypocrites.
The reasoning of this logic is fundamentally flawed. Imagine a person calling someone who exercises regularly but eats junk food a hypocrite, or someone deciding that since they eat junk food they should consider drinking heavily and smoking. Somehow, when it comes to spiritual matters, we tend to lose our common sense.
There is a fascinating verse in Ecclesiastes that states: “Be not overly wicked, and be not a fool; why should you die before your time?” (Kohelet 7,17) The commentators are perplexed by the the implication of this verse. The verse implies that one should be wicked, just not overly wicked. How can King Solomon suggest that a person be moderately wicked? Rashi answers that, even if a person has been wicked to a small degree, they should not continue to be wicked.
In other words, King Solomon is instructing us that everything we do counts. Doing some good things and not others does not make us a hypocrite! Even if someone feels that they cannot observe all of Shabbat, they should observe as much as they possibly can. The same is true when it comes to every aspect of spiritual observance. We should avoid the lure of an all or nothing approach. Friends, everything counts!