I was observant as a child, keeping Shabbat and kosher. But then once, when I was a teenager, a neighbor offered me a meat sandwich. It wasn’t kosher, and I knew it. But I was hungry. In a weak moment, I ate the sandwich. And then . . . nothing happened. I was not struck down by lightning, I didn’t get sick or collapse, the sky didn’t fall. I realized that these laws actually mean nothing. So I stopped keeping Shabbat, and then it was a matter of time before I dropped religion entirely. There’s a part of me that would like to be observant again, but doesn’t my experience prove that the mitzvahs are irrelevant?


On the contrary, your experience proves just how detrimental sin can be. The consequence for breaking the Torah’s rules is not the sky falling, or being struck down by lightning. The consequence of sin is indifference. When you do bad and feel nothing, that is the greatest punishment there can be.

What happened to you is exactly what the Talmud says: “One sin leads to another.” When you do something wrong, a layer of ice forms over your soul. You become less spiritually sensitive, less in touch with G‑d, cold and apathetic. The feeling of indifference makes the next transgression easier, leading to a vicious cycle of spiritual degeneration and disconnection.

This is the deeper meaning of the biblical death penalty for sins. The death is an internal one—your soul loses its life-force, your spirit is cut off, your heart goes stone cold. When you eat non-kosher or break Shabbat, something changes inside you. The fact you feel nothing is a reflection of how deep the damage is. Your soul is numb.

But your soul can always be revived. For the Talmud teaches that just as one sin leads to another, so one mitzvah leads to another. If one sin can freeze your spirit, one good deed can bring your soul back to life, melting the ice of indifference and allowing you to feel again. The first step is hard, but the next one is easier.

You have proven the numbing power of breaking the Torah’s rules. Now prove the reviving power of keeping them, and do just one mitzvah.

Pirkei Avot 4:2; Likkutei Torah, Devarim (Shabbat Teshuvah) 64d.