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Is it more important to focus on reducing our aveiros than increasing our mitzvos? Does that depend on anything?

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  • Psalms 34:15 ס֣וּר מֵ֭רָע וַעֲשֵׂה־ט֑וֹב Mesilas Yesharim perek 6 אחר הזהירות יבוא הזריזות, כי הזהירות סובב על ה"לא תעשה" והזריזות על ה"עשה", והיינו (תהילים לד טו): סור מרע ועשה טוב.
    – Chatzkel
    Sep 23 at 1:12
  • @Chatzkel that seems like a pretty good answer Sep 23 at 8:57
  • It’s the beginning of an answer. It’s way more complicated and involved than that. Obviously if one is going to work on first not any aveiros he’ll hardly have any time to work on doing more mitzvohs! I mention it as a starting point. There are many who say that by doing mitzvohs that itself will help move away from aveiros
    – Chatzkel
    Sep 23 at 12:42

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There is the principle that "doing one mitzvah, leads to performing another mitzvah" - Avos 4:2. However, when one sins, the yetzer hara will do anything in his power to lead a person to performing another sin, G-d forbid. See also: Shaarei Teshuva 1:39, Shelah (Torah Shebikhtav, Re'eh, Torah Ohr).

The Derech Chaim explains:

And that which he said, "since a commandment leads to [another] commandment," is meaning to say that the doing of one commandment is also the beginning of another one, since all of the commandments are one thing. Hence one commandment leads to [another] commandment. For anything that is one is not divisible at all. So when he does a commandment - which is half a thing - that commandment leads to another; until he does all of the commandments, which are one thing. And since the whole Torah is one thing, sins - which are the opposite of the commandment - are also one thing. [So] in the same way that a commandment leads to [another] commandment, so too does a sin lead to [another] sin.

You ask:

Is it more important to focus on reducing our aveiros than increasing our mitzvos?

Well, let's look at what the above-mentioned Mishnah is teaching us. If a person does one sin, the "reward" of that is another sin, e.g. the yetzer hara tries to convince a person to "just do another sin, it does not matter". G-d helps the one who wants to purify himself, but leaves the "way open" for one who will defile himself, G-d forbid (see: Ikar Tosafos Yom Tov; and sources cited there). However, doing a mitzvah, leads to performing another mitzvah, will lead to rewards and the possibilty to purify oneself. When one does a mitzvah, one gets rewarded. What's the reward? That G-d will help him doing another mitzvah (see: Sefas Emes; Vayikra, Achrei Mot, 5:3).

So, by doing mitzvos and more mitzvos, you'll get more rewarded. You can say that this has a similair effect as reducing aveiros, but how does one do that? By increasing in observing Torah and mitzvos. By doing mitzvos, we create a (stronger) bond with G-d (see: Hayom Yom: Cheshvan 8, Likkutei Moharan 65:7:9, Shelah; Aseret HaDibrot, Yoma, Derekh Chayim, #31).

Why does one sin? Because when does one sin, that leads to another. When one does a mitzvah, he creates a "shell" so to speak, that will protect him from doing aveiros, sins. So, do more mitzvos :).

On a final note, the Lubavitcher Rebbe often expresses the importance of increasing the observance of mitzvos (and Torah study accompanied with tzedakah). See for example in his letter in Igros Kodesh, vol. 10, p.36 (although, the letter was written for a person seeking medical advice, in which the Rebbe also adviced increasing the observance of mitzvos).

וצריך להתייעץ עם רופא מומחה במקצוע שכמה טפולים חדשים חדשו בזמן האחרון המועיל בכגון דא, וכיון שלרובא דרובא הרי זה קשור גם כן עם כח המחשבה, הנה ככל שימעט בשימת לב לאופן דבורו ולא יתרגש מזה שלעת עתה אינו כדבעי, יתוסף בהצלחת הטפול ויוסיף בהטבת המצב, ופשוט שככל שיוסיף בהתמדה ושקידה בלימוד התורה והידור בקיום המצות יתוסף בברכות השי"ת נותן התורה בהמצטרך לו בכלל ובהנ"ל בפרט.

Increase your diligence and assiduousness in your study of Torah and performance of mitzvos in a most beautiful and meticulous manner (b’hiddur), as well as your service of prayer.

Understandably, all the above can be done without taking away from your health; there is enough time in the day to occupy yourself both in increasing the health of your soul and the health of your body. When you do so, [i.e., increase your Torah study, performance of mitzvos, and service of prayer,] you will feel physically better as well. (translation taken from here)

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    thanks for this (and your answer(s) on my other questions recently). Ksiva v'chasima tova! Sep 23 at 12:43

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