Relative Value of Mitzvot

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Dear Rabbi Simon,
I was wondering if you could please recommend a book that addresses the concept of the spiritual “economics” of Mitzvot, that is, how to gain merit in Hashem’s eyes? I listened to a rabbi yesterday and he mentioned Ishmaelites as having the merits of circumcision, tefilah etc. [ie, he was circumcised, and his name is associated with Hashem hearing his prayers. These features—circumcision and prayer—continue to characterise the descendants of Ishmael=Arabs and Muslims generally.] I need to wrap my head around it.
Many thanks

Dear Sabrina
It is difficult to assign value/impact to mitzvot and rank them accordingly. Ultimately, we cannot know the reward for mitzvot (see Avot 2:1, Artscroll Siddur p. 550), plus so much is dependent on the specific circumstances. Putting to one side the particular case of Ishmael (and his modern-day descendants), I can recommend a modern classic which is a sophisticated introduction to mitzvot generally, with an emphasis on meaning and philosophical underpinnings. This is Horeb by the great Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch. Originally written in a rich 19th century German, it is still in print in English translation. Get it from Torah Treasures in Golders Green or online retailers.
I hope this is helpful.
Rabbi Rashi Simon

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Ask the Rabbi: Quinoa on Pesach
Dear Rabbi Simon,
Where do you stand on quinoa (and the kitniyot ban) for Pesach?
Many thanks,
Dear Tzippy,
In line with other American authorities, I am in favour of quinoa. Although I reject completely the voices (mostly from Israel) seeking to abolish the ban on kitniyot entirely, IMO we do not need to include in the prohibition pseudo-grains that were unknown in the Old World until modern times. Best to buy with a Pesach hechsher though, to be free of any possible wheat contamination.
Rabbi Rashi Simon
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