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In its primary meaning, the Hebrew word _MITZVAH_ (/ˈmɪtsvə/ ; meaning "commandment", מִצְוָה‎, , Biblical : _miṣwah_; plural מִצְווֹת‎ _mitzvot_ , Biblical: _miṣwoth_; from צִוָּה‎ _ṣiwwah_ "command") refers to precepts and commandments commanded by God.

It is used in rabbinical Judaism to refer to the 613 commandments given in the Torah at biblical Mount Sinai and the seven rabbinic commandments instituted later for a total of 620. The 613 commandments are divided into two categories: 365 negative commandments and 248 positive commandments. According to the Talmud , all moral laws are, or are derived from, divine commandments . The collection is part of the larger Jewish law or _halakha _.

The opinions of the Talmudic rabbis are divided between those who seek the purpose of the _mitzvot_ and those who do not question them. The latter argue that if the reason for each _mitzvah_ could be determined, people might try to achieve what they see as the purpose of the _mitzvah_, without actually performing the _mitzvah_ itself (_lishmah_), which would become self-defeating. The former believe that if people were to understand the reason and the purpose for each _mitzvah_, it would actually help them to observe and perform the _mitzvah_ (some _mitzvot_ are given reasons in the Torah).

In its secondary meaning, Hebrew _mitzvah_, as with English "commandment", refers to a moral deed performed within a religious duty. As such, the term _mitzvah_ has also come to express an individual act of human kindness in keeping with the law. The expression includes a sense of heartfelt sentiment beyond mere legal duty, as "you shall love your neighbor as yourself" (Leviticus 19:18). The tertiary meaning of _mitzvah_ also refers to the fulfillment of a _mitzvah_.

CONTENTS

* 1 Hebrew Bible * 2 Rabbinical enumeration * 3 Rabbinical mitzvot * 4 Six constant mitzvot * 5 Academic treatment * 6 Mitzvot and Jewish law * 7 See also * 8 References * 9 External links

HEBREW BIBLE

The feminine noun _mitzvah_ (מִצְוָה) occurs over 180 times in the Masoretic Text of the Hebrew Bible . The first use is in Genesis 26:5 where God says that Abraham has "obeyed my voice, and kept my charge, my commandments (מִצְוֹתַי _mitzvotai_), my statutes, and my laws". In the Septuagint the word is usually translated with _entole_ (ἐντολὴ). In Second Temple period funeral inscriptions the epithet _phil-entolos_, "lover of the commandments", was sometimes inscribed on Jewish tombs. Other words are also used in Hebrew for commands and statutes, for example the Ten Commandments (עשרת הדיברות) are the "Ten Words".

RABBINICAL ENUMERATION

Main article: 613 Mitzvot

The Tanakh does not state that there are 613 commandments, and the tradition that 613 is the number of mitzvot in the Torah first occurred in the 3rd century CE, when Rabbi Simlai mentioned it in a sermon that is recorded in Talmud Makkot 23b. These are held to be representative of the following:

365 negative commandments like the number of days in the solar year, and 248 positive commandments corresponding to a person's limbs — Talmud, Tractate Makkoth , 23b

Three of the negative commandments fall under the category of self-sacrifice under Jewish Law , meaning "one should be killed rather than transgress the prohibition".

The number 613 can also be obtained by gematria (a traditional Jewish method of number substitution). The gematria value for the word "Torah" is 611, which corresponds to the number of commandments given via Moses , with the remaining two being identified as the first two of the Ten Commandments , which tradition holds were the only ones heard from the mouth of God himself . Jews are also reminded of the 613 commandments by the _ Tzitzit _, known as 'fringes' or 'strings'.

According to Rabbi Ishmael , only the principal commandments of these 613 were given on Mount Sinai , the remainder having been given in the Tent of Meeting . Rabbi Akiva , on the other hand, was of the opinion that they were all given on Mount Sinai, repeated in the Tent of Meeting, and declared a third time by Moses before his death. According to the Midrash , all divine commandments were given on Mount Sinai, and no prophet could add any new ones.

In rabbinic literature there are a number of works, mainly by the Rishonim , that were composed to determine which commandments belong in this enumeration:

* Maimonides ' _ Sefer Hamitzvot _ ("Book of Commandments"), on which there is a critical commentary by Nachmanides ; * _ Sefer ha-Chinuch _ ("Book of Education"), attributed to Rabbi Aaron ha-Levi of Barcelona (the Ra'ah); * _Sefer ha-Mitzvoth ha-Gadol_ ("Large book of Commandments") by Rabbi Moses ben Jacob of Coucy ; * _Sefer ha-Mitzvoth ha-Katan_ ("Small book of Commandments") by Rabbi Isaac ben Joseph of Corbeil ; * _Sefer Yere'im_ ("Book of the fearing") by Rabbi Eliezer of Metz (not a clear enumeration); * _Sefer Mitzvot HaShem_ ("The book of God's Commandments") by Rabbi Boruch Bentshar of Sokol; * _Sefer ha-Mitzvoth_ by Rabbi Yisrael Meir Kagan (the "Chafetz Chaim") - this work only deals with the commandments that are applicable at the present time.

RABBINICAL MITZVOT

The Biblical mitzvot are referred to in the Talmud as _mitzvot d\'oraita _, translated as _commandments of the Law (Torah)_. In contradistinction to this are rabbinical commandments, referred to as _mitzvot d\'rabbanan _. _ Mitzvot d'rabbanan_ are a type of _takkanah _. Among the more important _mitzvot d'rabbanan_ are:

* To recite a blessing for each enjoyment * To ritually wash the hands before eating bread * To prepare lights in advance of Shabbat (to have peace in the home, and to act in contradiction to customs of Karaite Judaism ) * To construct an Eruv to permit carrying to and within public areas on Shabbat * To recite the Hallel psalms on holy days * To light the Hanukkah lights * To read the Scroll of Esther on Purim

These seven rabbinical commandments are treated like Biblical commandments insofar as, prior to the performance of each, a benediction is recited, i.e.:

Blessed are You, O LORD our God, King of the universe, Who has commanded us ...

They give rise to the phrase "_Keter Torah_" ("The Crown of the Torah") as the numeric value of _Keter_ is 620 (613+7).

The divine command is considered implied in the general law to follow any instructions of the religious authorities ( Deuteronomy 17:11, and 32:7; Shab. 23a). In addition, many of the specific details of the Biblical mitzvot are only derived via rabbinical application of the Oral Torah (Mishna/Gemarah); for example, the three daily prayers in any language and the recitation of the Shema ( Deuteronomy 6:4-7) twice a day in any language, the binding of the tefillin and the fixing of the mezuzah ( Deuteronomy 6:8-9), and the saying of Grace After Meals ( Deuteronomy 8:10).

SIX CONSTANT MITZVOT

Out of the 613 Mitzvot mentioned in the Torah, there are six mitzvot which the Sefer Hachinuch calls "constant mitzvot": "We have six mitzvot which are perpetual and constant, applicable at all times, all the days of our lives".

* To know God , and that he created all things. * Not to have any _god(s)_ beside God (lit. _in his face_). * To know God's Oneness. * To fear God. * To love God. * Not to pursue the passions of your heart and stray after your eyes.

ACADEMIC TREATMENT

In modern Biblical scholarship , six different law codes are considered to compose the body of the Torah's text:

* The Ten Commandments . * The Covenant Code follows, and provides more detailed laws. * The Ritual Decalogue , roughly summarising the Covenant Code, is presented after a brief narrative describing the design for the Ark of the Covenant and Tabernacle . * The Priestly Code , containing extensive laws concerning rituals and more general situations, is given from above the _mercy seat_ in the Tabernacle, once the Ark and Tabernacle have been completed. This code is extended further when events occur not quite covered by the law, causing Moses to ask Yahweh for greater clarification. * The Holiness Code is contained within the Priestly Code, close to the end, but is a distinct subsection placing particular emphasis on things which are holy, and which should be done to honour the holy. It also contains the warnings from Yahweh about what will occur if the laws are not followed, as well as promises for the event that the laws are followed. * The Deuteronomic Code is remembered by Moses, in his last speeches before death, both covering the ground of prior codes, but also further laws not recorded earlier, which Moses has, by this point, remembered.

In Biblical criticism, these codes are studied separately, particularly concerning the features unique, or first appearing, in each. Many of the mitzvot enumerated as being from one or other of these codes are also present in others, sometimes phrased in a different manner, or with additional clauses. Also, themes, such as idolatry, sexual behaviour, ritual cleanliness, and offerings of sacrifice, are shared among all six codes, and thus, in more religiously motivated theological studies, it is often the case that the mitzvot are organised by theme, rather than the location in which they are found within the Bible.

MITZVOT AND JEWISH LAW

Main article: Halakha

In rabbinic thought, God's will is the source of, and authority for, every moral and religious duty. In this way, the _mitzvot_ thus constitute the divinely instituted rules of conduct. In rabbinic thought, the commandments are usually divided into two major groups, positive commandments (obligations) – _mitzvot aseh_ and negative commandments (prohibitions) – _mitzvot lo ta'aseh_ .

The system describing the practical application of the commandments is known as _ Halakha _. _Halakha_ is the development of the _mitzvot_ as contained in the Written Law (Torah), via discussion and debate in the Oral Law , as recorded in the rabbinic literature of the classical era, especially the Mishnah and the Talmud . The _halakha_ dictates and influences a wide variety of behavior of traditionalist Jews .

Many of these laws concern only special classes of people—such as kings, _ Kohanim _ (the priesthood), Levites , or Nazarites —or are conditioned by local or temporary circumstances of the Jewish nation, as, for instance, the agricultural, sacrificial, and Levitical laws.

The majority view of classical rabbis was that the commandments will still be applicable and in force during the Messianic Age . However, a significant minority of rabbis held that most of the commandments will be nullified by, or in, the messianic era. Examples of such rabbinic views include:

* that the grain-offering of Judah and Jerusalem will be pleasing to God as in the days of old, and as in ancient years (Malachi 3:4) * that today we should observe the commandments (Babylonian Talmud, Tractate Avodah Zarah 3a, 4b); because we will not observe them in the world to come (Rashi) * that in the future all sacrifices , with the exception of the Thanksgiving-sacrifice, will be discontinued ( Midrash Vayikra Rabbah 9:7) * that all sacrifices will be annulled in the future ( Tanchuma Emor 19, Vayikra Rabbah 9:7) * that God will permit what is now forbidden ( Midrash Shochar Tov , Mizmor 146:5) * that most mitzvot will no longer be in force (Babylonian Talmud, Tractate Niddah 61b and Tractate Shabbat 151b).

There is no accepted authoritative answer within Judaism as to which _mitzvot_, if any, would be annulled in the Messianic era. This is a subject of academic debate and, not being viewed as an immediately practical question, is usually passed over in favor of answering questions of the practical _halakha_.

SEE ALSO

* Aveira (Transgression) * Dharma (Hindu/Buddhist/Sikh) * Emil Fackenheim * Fard (Islamic) * Law given to Moses at Sinai * Mitzvah goreret mitzvah * Pay it forward * Seven Laws of Noah * Tao (Chinese) * Volunteerism

REFERENCES

* ^ "mitzvah". _Random House Webster\'s Unabridged Dictionary _. * ^ Philip Leroy Culbertson, _A word fitly spoken_, 1995, p. 73. "See also Lieberman, Texts and Studies, 212, where he shows that the Greek _entole_ is parallel to _mitzvah,_ both coming to suggest a particular emphasis on charitable alms." * ^ _The Journal of Jewish studies_ Volume 51, 2000 "Note, however, by way of example, the funerary epithet philentolos (lover of the commandments), coined from the stock LXX word for commandment, _entole_ (Heb. _mitzvah_), and the LXX allusions in that most favoured of all Romano-Jewish ..." * ^ Mark Rooker, _The Ten Commandments: Ethics for the Twenty-First Century_, 2010, p. 3. "The Significance of the Ten Commandments in the Old Testament" The Ten Commandments are literally the “Ten Words” (aseret haddebarêm) in Hebrew. The use of the term dabar, “word”, in this phrase distinguishes these laws from the rest of ..." * ^ Israel Drazi (2009). _ Maimonides and the Biblical Prophets_. Gefen Publishing House Ltd. p. 209. * ^ Makkoth 24a * ^ Rashi Numbers 15:39 (from Numbers Rabbah 18) * ^ Midrash Sifra to Leviticus 27:34; Talmud, Yoma 80a. * ^ Vital, Dovid bar Shlomo (1536). כתר תורה (in Hebrew). Istanbul . Retrieved January 15, 2013.

EXTERNAL LINKS

* Maimonides Sefer Ha Mitzvot (Hebrew full text)

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