In order to be pious one would first need to observe all the mitzvahs
scrupulously rather than simply, and with an eye toward the many details. In
fact, lots of us overlook the finer details and are willing to settle for
the broad outlines. But not the pious, and regardless of the type of mitzvah
they are fulfilling.
For as most know, there are mitzvahs that we do at G-d’s behest alone that
have not any apparent worldly benefits (like donning Tephillin or Tzitzit,
and the like), and there are others that have clear societal benefits (like
giving charity, comforting mourners and the like). And one could fulfill
either type either “stingily”, so to speak, or generously when it comes to
To be truly pious, one would need to be sure that his Tephillin, for
example, were not only the requisite size, color, and composite of parts,
but that it had been written by the best of scribes, who’d been as
punctilious as he could be with the script, who’d taken pains to concentrate
on the text he was transcribing in a spirit of holiness, etc.
The rest of us would certainly make the effort to buy halachically
sanctioned Tephillin and to fulfil the mitzvah, but we’d nonetheless do
without all the “ruffles and flourishes”, and would be satisfied with that.
But not so the pious person. He or she would want every detail to be as
perfect as is humanly possible.
The same care would go into his or her way of fulfilling the interpersonal
mitzvahs we cited. While we’d all want to concentrate on the great good and
betterment we’d bring into the world when we fulfill them, the pious would
be keenly aware of all the circumstances involved, and extraordinarily
sensitive to the needs and feelings of the people concerned, as we’ll explain.