“It is very difficult, if not impossible, to be certain about the lightness or severity of punishment for a particular transgression.
The essential question is: Am I for God or against Him?
If one is against Him, then one is a rebel, and it doesn’t make any difference whether it be a light charge or a severe charge.
And extenuating circumstances do not count.
In war, men are killed for a trifle.
And in life, too, failure to perform a certain small duty may have very serious consequences.
One simply has to be constantly on the alert and attentive to all the possibilities.
At the moment of decision, one cannot determine to what extent a person merits punishment.
Only after the performance of the action can one distinguish its true nature, whether it belongs to the outer shell or the holiness.”
From Pebbles of Wisdom from Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz