“DO not sin excessively,” scripture says (Ecclesiastes 7:1). What is that supposed to mean? It is OK to sin a little?
Don’t steal $1 million, but it’s OK to steal $10,000? Don’t besmirch a person’s reputation so badly that he will never find a job again; just take him down a couple of notches so he loses his seniority?
The Talmud says that these absurd implications of the scriptural verse are just what the verse seems to mean, and just what it cannot mean (Shabbat 31b).
So, what does it mean?
The Talmud says: If you’ve eaten onion and get bad breath, will you eat another onion? That is, if you’ve sinned once, do not sin twice.