“Heed carefully the seemingly less important mitzvah as well as the seemingly strict and important one, for you do not really know the value of each and every mitzvah.” These words of the Mishnah are amply brought out in the following story about the value of the mitzvah of Kiddush.
In Jerusalem there lived a deeply pious and kind man by the name of Zakkai. He loved mitzvos and observed them with all his heart and all his soul. A remarkable thing happened to Rav Zakkai. He lived to a very, very ripe old age, far beyond that of his compatriots. Naturally, everyone marveled at this and finally he was asked, “Tell us, what is the secret of your extraordinary long life?”
“I will tell you,” he answered. “All my life I have attempted to behave in purity and holiness. I never insulted or dishonored my fellowman. Finally, I never missed saying Kiddush on Shabbos.”
When the people heard this, they asked, “Why do you choose the mitzvah of Kiddush from all the other ritual ones to be especially wary of?”
And he answered, “I had a grandmother who was a very poor woman. One Friday, she noticed there was no wine in the house. There was no money either so what could she do? She had a very precious and important object, which she sold and with the money brought wine for Shabbos.
“Her deed found great favor in the eyes of the Almighty and He sent blessings on the work of her hands so that she became wealthy. When she died she left her children 300 barrels of wine. Therefore, this particular mitzvah always had such importance to me.
“My whole life I have been extremely careful about observing it and the Almighty has blessed me, too. In my house today can be found many barrels of wine and every week I give from the wine to the poor of the city without charge.”