The Info List - Mitzvah

In its primary meaning, the Hebrew word mitzvah (/ˈmɪtsvə/;[1] meaning "commandment", מִצְוָה‬, [mit͡sˈva], Biblical: miṣwah; plural מִצְווֹת‬ mitzvot [mit͡sˈvot], 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
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.


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[edit] The feminine noun mitzvah (מִצְוָה) occurs over 180 times in the Masoretic Text
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).[2] In Second Temple period
Second Temple period
funeral inscriptions the epithet phil-entolos, "lover of the commandments", was sometimes inscribed on Jewish tombs.[3] Other words are also used in Hebrew for commands and statutes, for example the Ten Commandments (עשרת הדיברות) are the "Ten Words".[4] Rabbinical enumeration[edit] Main article: 613 Mitzvot The Tanakh
does not state that there are 613 commandments. The tradition that the number is 613 began in the 3rd century CE, when Rabbi
Simlai claimed it in a sermon, apparently to make the point that a person should observe the Torah
every day with his whole body.[5]

" Rabbi
Simlai gave as a sermon (darash Rabi Simlai): 613 commandments were communicated to Moses, 365 negative commands, corresponding to the number of solar days [in a year], and 248 positive commands, corresponding to the number of the members [bones covered with flesh] of a man's body." — Talmud, Tractate Makkoth, 23b

Writing in the 12th century, Abraham
ibn Ezra observed that there were over a thousand divine commandments in the Bible, but fewer than 300 applied to his time.[5] Nachmanides
found that the number was in dispute and uncertain.[5] The number 613 is a rabbinical tradition rather than an exact count.[5] In rabbinic literature there are a number of works, mainly by the Rishonim, that attempt to enumerate 613 commandments:

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 [God-]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
Yisrael Meir Kagan
(the "Chafetz Chaim") - this work only deals with the commandments that are applicable at the present time.

According to Rabbi
Ishmael, only the principal commandments of the 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.[6] The number 613 can 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.[7] Jews
are also reminded of the 613 commandments by the Tzitzit, known as 'fringes' or 'strings'.[8] Rabbinical mitzvot[edit] 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
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[9] (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[edit] Out of the 613 Mitzvot
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[edit] In modern Biblical scholarship, six different law codes are considered to compose the body of the Torah's text:[citation needed]

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[edit] Main article: Halakha In rabbinic thought, God's will is the source of, and authority for, every moral and religious duty.[citation needed] 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 [מצות עשה‬] and negative commandments (prohibitions) – mitzvot lo ta'aseh [מצות לא תעשה‬]. 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
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

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[edit]

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


^ "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
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
Ten Commandments
in the Old Testament" The Ten Commandments
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 ..." ^ a b c d Drazin, Israel (2009). "Chapter 31: Are There 613 Biblical Commandments?". Maimonides
and the Biblical Prophets. Gefen Publishing House Ltd.  ^ Midrash
to Leviticus 27:34; Talmud, Yoma 80a. ^ Makkoth 24a ^ Rashi
Numbers 15:39 (from Numbers Rabbah
Numbers Rabbah
18) ^ Vital, Dovid bar Shlomo (1536). כתר תורה [Keser Torah] (in Hebrew). Istanbul. Retrieved January 15, 2013. 

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Sefer HaMitzvot (Hebrew full text)

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