Kenneth Cohen

The Positive Outweighs the Negative

There is an interesting concept in Jewish Law that says that a positive commandment negates a negative commandment. In Hebrew it is called, “עשה דוחה לא תעשה.”

There is an example of this concept related to the positive commandment of circumcising a baby on the eighth day, and the laws of leprosy. There is a negative commandment that forbids a person with leprosy from cutting out the leprous growth.

If it occurred that a leprous growth was on the foreskin of a baby, the circumcision still takes place, because of this principle. The positive commandment of circumcision outweighs the negative commandment of cutting the leprous growth.

Another example of this idea is that one is permitted to wear Tzitzit and fulfill its positive commandment, even if the Tzitzit contain a forbidden mixture of wool and linen, known as “Shatnez.”

The reason for this rule is that it takes much more faith and love of Hashem to perform a positive Mitzva rather than a negative Mitzva. The observance of the negative, could be motivated by fear of punishment, instead of fear of G-d.

This could be a plausible reason for this interesting concept that a positive commandment outweighs a negative commandment.

It is also a good reminder that it is always preferred to have a positive, upbeat, attitude towards life. Negativity is counter productive and leads to fears, doubts, and unhappiness. This is another reason why the positive outweighs the negative.

About the Author
Rabbi Cohen has been a Torah instructor at Machon Meir, Jerusalem, for over twenty years while also teaching a Talmud class in the Shtieblach of Old Katamon. Before coming to Israel, he was the founding rabbi of Young Israel of Century City, Los Angeles. He recently published a series of Hebrew language-learning apps, which are available at