From New World Encyclopedia
The Torah (seen here) is the scriptural source of the commandments (Mitzvot) in Judaism

Mitzvah (Hebrew: מצווה, "commandment"; plural, mitzvot; from צוה, tzavah, "command") is a word used in Judaism to refer to the commandments, of which there are 613, given in the Torah (the first five books of the Hebrew Bible) or any Jewish law at all. The term can also refer to the fulfillment of a mitzvah as defined above.

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. For example, the term mitzvah could be understood to express any act of human kindness, such as the burial of the body of an unknown person.

The word "Mitzvah" is also used in the context of a coming of age ceremony for Jewish youth. The specific terms used are Bar Mitzvah (for boys) and Bat Mitzvah (for girls).

Enumeration and Significance of 613

According to Judaism, all moral laws are derived from divine commandments. The Rabbis extrapolated a total of 613 mitzvot or commandments from the Torah, which were to be followed by observant Jews.[1] The number of these commandments represented "365 negative commandments like the number of days in the solar year, and 248 positive commandments like the number of bones in the human body" (Talmud, tractate Makkoth, 23b).

According to the Midrash, all divine commandments were given on Mount Sinai, and no prophet could add any new one (Midrash Sifra to Leviticus 27:34; Talmud, Yoma 80a). However, Rabbi Ismael (90-135 C.E.) states that only the principal commandments of the 613 were given on Mount Sinai, the remainder having been given in the Tent of Meeting. According to Rabbi Akiva (c. 50–c. 135 C.E.) 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 tradition, of the 613 commandments, 248 are mitzvot aseh ("positive commandments" commands to perform certain actions) and 365 are mitzvot lo taaseh ("negative commandments" commands to abstain from certain actions). Three of the negative commandments can involve yehareg ve'al ya'avor, meaning “One should let himself be killed rather than violate this negative commandment,” and they are murder, idol-worship, and forbidden relations.

According to the Talmud (tractate Makkoth 23b), a Biblical verse states that Moses transmitted the "Torah" from God to the Jewish people: "Moses commanded us the Torah as an inheritance for the community of Jacob" (Deut. 33:04). However, there were two commandments which God delivered directly to the Jews: the first two of the Ten Commandments; these are phrased in the first person. The Talmud calculates that the numerical value of the Hebrew word "Torah" is 611. Thus, Moses's 611 commandments combined with the two directly from God add up to 613. For a time, Gematria (numerology in the Hebrew Bible) was a significant feature in Jewish religious thought, and it was said that the number 611 (the numerical value for torah) was the number of commandments given via Moses while the remaining two were given by the Mouth of God Himself.

Many Jewish [[philosophy|philosophical and mystical works (e.g. by Baal ha-Turim, the Maharal of Prague and leaders of Hasidic Judaism) find allusions and inspirational calculations relating to the number of commandments. Other works dispute that exactly 613 mitzvot exist.

The tzitzit ("knotted fringes") of the tallit ("[prayer] shawl") are connected to the 613 commandments by interpretation: principal Torah commentator Rashi bases the number of knots on a gematria: the word tzitzit (Hebrew: ציצת (Biblical), ציצית, in its Mishnaic spelling) has the value 600. Each tassel has eight threads (when doubled over) and five sets of knots, totaling 13. The sum of all numbers is 613. This reflects the concept that donning a garment with tzitzit reminds its wearer of all Torah commandments.

The Mitzvot and Jewish law

In rabbinic thought, God's will is the source of, and authority for, every moral and religious duty. In this way, the mitzvot constitute the divinely instituted “rules of conduct.” Consequently, while Judaism regards the violation of the mitzvot to be a sin, Jewish ideas concerning “sin” differ from those of other religions.

In rabbinic thought, the commandments are usually divided into two major groups:

  • positive commandments (obligations) – mitzvot aseh מצות עשה
  • negative commandments (prohibitions) – mitzvot lo ta'aseh מצות לא תעשה

The system describing the practical application of the commandments is known as Halakha or Jewish Law. Halakha is the development of the mitzvot as contained in the written law, via discussion and debate in the Oral law, as recorded in the rabbinic literature of the classical era, especially the Mishnah and the Talmud.

Halakha dictates everything the traditionalist Jew does from the moment he or she wakes up to the moment they go to sleep. It is very extensive, and includes codes of behavior applicable to virtually every imaginable circumstance, as well as many hypothetical ones. More generally, in Judaism, it is viewed that proselytes, on being initiated into Judaism, must be familiarised with commandments both of great and of small importance (Yeb. 47b).

Many of these laws concern only special classes of people, such as kings or 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 era. 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 today we should observe the commandments, 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 authoritative answer accepted within Judaism as to which mitzvot, if any, would be annulled in the messianic era.

Rabbinic Debates

Page 14 of the Kaufmann Haggadah

The Talmudic source is not without dissent. Apart from Rabbi Simlai (early third century C.E.), to whom the number 613 is attributed, other classical sages who hold this view include Rabbi Simeon ben Azzai (Sifre, Deuteronomy 76) and Rabbi Eleazar ben Yose the Galilean (Midrash Aggadah to Genesis 15:1). It is quoted in Midrash Shemot Rabbah 33:7, Bamidbar Rabbah 13:15–16; 18:21 and Talmud Yevamot 47b.

However, some held that this count was not an authentic tradition, or that it was not logically possible to come up with a systematic count. This is possibly why no early work of Jewish law or Biblical commentary depended on this system, and no early systems of Jewish principles of faith made acceptance of this Haggadah (non-legal Talmudic statement) normative. The classical Biblical commentator and grammarian Rabbi Abraham ibn Ezra denied that this was an authentic rabbinic tradition. Ibn Ezra writes "Some sages enumerate 613 mitzvot in many diverse ways [...] but in truth there is no end to the number of mitzvot [...] and if we were to count only the root principles [...] the number of mitzvot would not reach 613" (Yesod Mora, chap. 2).

Nahmanides (1194 – c. 1270 C.E.) held that this counting was the matter of a dispute, and that rabbinic opinion on this is not unanimous. Despite this, he states that "this total has proliferated throughout the aggadic literature... we ought to say that it was a tradition from Moses at Mount Sinai" (Nahmanides, Commentary to Maimonides' Sefer Hamitzvot'', Root Principle 1).

Rabbi Simeon ben Tzemah Duran states that "perhaps the agreement that the number of mitzvot is 613... is just Rabbi Simlai's opinion, following his own explication of the mitzvot. And we need not rely on his explication when we come to determine the law, but rather on the Talmudic discussions" (Zohar Harakia, Lviv, 1858, 99).

Rabbis who attempted to compile a list of the 613 commandments faced a number of difficulties:

  • Which statements were to be counted as commandments? Every command by God to any individual? Only commandments to the entire people of Israel?
  • Would an order from God be counted as a commandment, for the purposes of such a list, if it could only be complied with in one place and time? Or, would such an order only count as a commandment if it could—at least in theory—be followed at all times? (The latter is the view of Maimonides)
  • How does one count commandments in a single verse which offers multiple prohibitions? Should each prohibition count as a single commandment, or does the entire set count as one commandment?

In Torah Min Hashamayim ("Heavenly Torah"), Conservative Rabbi Abraham Heschel writes:

Judah ibn Bal'am denigrates those who number the mitzvot, and who attempt "to force their count to equal 613." In his opinion, this is impossible, for if we were to count all of the mitzvot, including those that were temporary commandments and those that were intended to endure, the number would be far greater than 613. "And if we confined ourselves only to those that endure, we would find fewer than this number." (Behinat Hamitzvot Rabbi Yehiel Mikhel Gutmann, Breslau, 1928, 26)

Despite these misgivings, the idea that there are 613 commandments became accepted as normative in the Jewish community. Today, even among those who do not literally accept this count as accurate, it is still a common practice to refer to the total system of commandments within the Torah as the "613 commandments."

However, the 613 mitzvot do not constitute a proper code of present-day Halakah; such codes are listed under codes of Jewish law.

Works enumerating the commandments

In practice, there is no one definitive list in the Torah that explicates the 613 laws. In some places, the Torah lists related laws together, so it is difficult to know whether one is dealing with a single law, which lists several cases, or several separate laws. Other "commandments" in the Torah are restricted as one-time acts, and would not be considered as "mitzvot" binding on other persons. In rabbinic literature, there are a number of works, mainly by the Rishonim, that were composed to determine which commandments belong in this enumeration:

  • Sefer ha-Mitzvoth ("Book of Commandments") by Rabbi Saadia Gaon is the earliest extant enumaration of the 613 mitzvot. Written during the period of the Geonim, Gaon's work is a simple list, though it was (later expanded by Rabbi Yerucham Fishel Perlow.)
  • Sefer Hamitzvot ("Book of Commandments") by Maimonides, with a critical commentary by Nachmanides. Maimonides employs a set of 14 rules (shorashim) which determine inclusion into the list. In this work, he supports his specification of each Mitzvah through quotations from the midrash halakha and the Gemara. Nachmanides makes a number of critical points and replaces some items of the list with others.
  • Sefer ha-Chinnuch ("Book of Education"). This work generally follows Maimonides' reckoning of the 613 commandments. It is written in the order in which the commandments appear in the Torah rather than an arrangement by category (as in Maimonides' work). In addition to enumerating the commandments and giving a brief overview of relevant laws, the Sefer ha-Chinuch also tries to explain the philosophical reasons behind the mitzvot. It has been attributed to various authors, most commonly Rabbi Aaron ha-Levi of Barcelona (the Ra'ah), though its true authorship is unknown.
  • 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 of Corbeil. This work was written in the form of a poem, divided into seven sections and intended to be read each week. While Isaac's work is fairly short, most editions contain lengthy commentaries.
  • Sefer Yere'im ("Book of the [God-]fearing") by Rabbi Eliezer of Metz (not a clear enumeration).
  • Sefer ha-Mitzvoth by Rabbi Yisrael Meir Kagan (the "Chafetz Chaim"). The Chafetz Chaim's work follows the reckoning of Maimonides but gives only the commandments relevant today (ignoring commandments regarding temple service, ritual purity, etc.). Though the original included only those commandments relevant in all places and at all times, later editions included agricultural laws relevant today only in the land of Israel.

Rabbinical Mitzvot

The Biblical mitzvot are referred to in the Talmud as Mitzvot de oraita, translated as commandments of the law. In contrast to this are additional rabbinical commandments, referred to as Mitzvot de rabbanan. Among the more famous of these latter rabbinical mitzvot are:

  • The benediction, or thanksgiving for each enjoyment
  • Washing of the hands before eating
  • Lighting of the Sabbath lamp
  • The 'Erub, on preparation for Sabbath transfer
  • The Hallel liturgy on holy days
  • The Hanukkah lights
  • The reading of the Esther scroll on Purim.

These seven rabbinical commandments are treated like Biblical commandments in so far as, prior to the fulfilment of each, a benediction is recited:

Blessed be the Lord who has commanded us ...

The divine command is considered implied in the general law (Deuteronomy 17:11, and 32:7; Shab. 23a). Many of the ideas concerning the implication of Biblical mitzvot are only derived via rabbinical interpretation; for example, the reading of the Shema (Deuteronomy 6:4-7), the binding of the tefillin and the fixing of the mezuzah (Deuteronomy 8-9), and the saying of grace after meals (Deuteronomy 8:10).

Academic treatment

Biblically, six differing law codes were given by God, to Moses, at Mount Sinai:

  • The Ten Commandments.
  • The Covenant Code, which provides more detailed laws.
  • The Ritual Decalogue
  • 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 honor 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 adds further laws not recorded earlier, which Moses has remembered.

In biblical criticism, these codes are studied separately, particularly concerning their unique features. Nevertheless, many of the mitzvot enumerated as being from these codes are also present in others, sometimes phrased in a different manner, or with additional clauses. Additionally, 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 by the location in which they are found within the Hebrew Bible.

Maimonides' List

The 613 commandments and their source in scripture, as enumerated by Maimonides (1135–1204) in his Sefer Hamitzvot ("Book of Commandments"):

  1. To know there is a God
  2. Not to entertain thoughts of other gods besides Him
  3. To know that He is One
  4. To love Him
  5. To fear Him
  6. To sanctify His Name
  7. Not to profane His Name
  8. Not to destroy objects associated with His Name
  9. To listen to the prophet speaking in His Name
  10. Not to test the prophet unduly
  11. To emulate His ways
  12. To cleave to those who know Him
  13. To love other Jews
  14. To love converts
  15. Not to hate fellow Jews
  16. To reprove a sinner
  17. Not to embarrass others
  18. Not to oppress the weak
  19. Not to speak derogatorily of others
  20. Not to take revenge
  21. Not to bear a grudge
  22. To learn Torah
  23. To honor those who teach and know Torah
  24. Not to inquire into idolatry
  25. Not to follow the whims of your heart or what your eyes see
  26. Not to blaspheme
  27. Not to worship idols in the manner they are worshiped
  28. Not to worship idols in the four ways we worship God
  29. Not to make an idol for yourself
  30. Not to make an idol for others
  31. Not to make human forms even for decorative purposes
  32. Not to turn a city to idolatry
  33. To burn a city that has turned to idol worship
  34. Not to rebuild it as a city
  35. Not to derive benefit from it
  36. Not to missionize an individual to idol worship
  37. Not to love the missionary
  38. Not to cease hating the missionary
  39. Not to save the missionary
  40. Not to say anything in his defense
  41. Not to refrain from incriminating him
  42. Not to prophesize in the name of idolatry
  43. Not to listen to a false prophet
  44. Not to prophesize falsely in the name of God
  45. Not to be afraid of killing the false prophet
  46. Not to swear in the name of an idol
  47. Not to perform ov (medium)
  48. Not to perform yidoni ("magical seer")
  49. Not to pass your children through the fire to Molech
  50. Not to erect a pillar in a public place of worship
  51. Not to bow down on smooth stone
  52. Not to plant a tree in the Temple courtyard
  53. To destroy idols and their accessories
  54. Not to derive benefit from idols and their accessories
  55. Not to derive benefit from ornaments of idols
  56. Not to make a covenant with idolaters
  57. Not to show favor to them
  58. Not to let them dwell in the Land of Israel
  59. Not to imitate them in customs and clothing
  60. Not to be superstitious
  61. Not to go into a trance to foresee events, etc.
  62. Not to engage in astrology
  63. Not to mutter incantations
  64. Not to attempt to contact the dead
  65. Not to consult the ov
  66. Not to consult the yidoni
  67. Not to perform acts of magic
  68. Men must not shave the hair off the sides of their head
  69. Men must not shave their beards with a razor
  70. Men must not wear women's clothing
  71. Women must not wear men's clothing
  72. Not to tattoo the skin
  73. Not to tear the skin in mourning
  74. Not to make a bald spot in mourning
  75. To repent and confess wrongdoings
  76. To say the Shema twice daily
  77. To serve the Almighty with daily prayer
  78. The Kohanim must bless the Jewish nation daily
  79. To wear tefillin (phylacteries) on the head
  80. To bind tefillin on the arm
  81. To put a mezuzah on each door post
  82. Each male must write a Torah scroll
  83. The king must have a separate Sefer Torah for himself
  84. To have tzitzit on four-cornered garments
  85. To bless the Almighty after eating
  86. To circumcise all males on the eighth day after their birth
  87. To rest on the seventh day
  88. Not to do prohibited labor on the seventh day
  89. The court must not inflict punishment on Shabbat
  90. Not to walk outside the city boundary on Shabbat
  91. To sanctify the day with Kiddush and Havdalah
  92. To rest from prohibited labor
  93. Not to do prohibited labor on Yom Kippur
  94. To afflict yourself on Yom Kippur
  95. Not to eat or drink on Yom Kippur
  96. To rest on the first day of Passover
  97. Not to do prohibited labor on the first day of Passover
  98. To rest on the seventh day of Passover
  99. Not to do prohibited labor on the seventh day of Passover
  100. To rest on Shavuot
  101. Not to do prohibited labor on Shavuot
  102. To rest on Rosh Hashanah
  103. Not to do prohibited labor on Rosh Hashanah
  104. To rest on Sukkot
  105. Not to do prohibited labor on Sukkot
  106. To rest on Shemini Atzeret
  107. Not to do prohibited labor on Shemini Atzeret
  108. Not to eat chametz on the afternoon of the 14th day of Nissan
  109. To destroy all chametz on 14th day of Nissan
  110. Not to eat chametz all seven days of Passover
  111. Not to eat mixtures containing chametz all seven days of Passover
  112. Not to see chametz in your domain seven days
  113. Not to find chametz in your domain seven days
  114. To eat matzah on the first night of Passover
  115. To relate the Exodus from Egypt on that night
  116. To hear the Shofar on the first day of Tishrei (Rosh Hashanah)
  117. To dwell in a Sukkah for the seven days of Sukkot
  118. To take up a Lulav and Etrog all seven days
  119. Each man must give a half shekel annually
  120. Courts must calculate to determine when a new month begins
  121. To afflict oneself and cry out before God in times of calamity
  122. To marry a wife by means of ketubah and kiddushin
  123. Not to have sexual relations with women not thus married
  124. Not to withhold food, clothing, and sexual relations from your wife
  125. To have children with one's wife
  126. To issue a divorce by means of a Get document
  127. A man must not remarry his ex-wife after she has married someone else
  128. To perform yibbum (marry the widow of one's childless brother)
  129. To perform halizah (free the widow of one's childless brother from yibbum)
  130. The widow must not remarry until the ties with her brother-in-law are removed (by halizah)
  131. The court must fine one who sexually seduces a maiden
  132. The rapist must marry the maiden (if she chooses)
  133. He is never allowed to divorce her
  134. The slanderer must remain married to his wife
  135. He must not divorce her
  136. To fulfill the laws of the Sotah
  137. Not to put oil on her meal offering (as usual)
  138. Not to put frankincense on her meal offering (as usual)
  139. Not to have sexual relations with your mother
  140. Not to have sexual relations with your father's wife
  141. Not to have sexual relations with your sister
  142. Not to have sexual relations with your father's wife's daughter
  143. Not to have sexual relations with your son's daughter
  144. Not to have sexual relations with your daughter
  145. Not to have sexual relations with your daughter's daughter
  146. Not to have sexual relations with a woman and her daughter
  147. Not to have sexual relations with a woman and her son's daughter
  148. Not to have sexual relations with a woman and her daughter's daughter
  149. Not to have sexual relations with your father's sister
  150. Not to have sexual relations with your mother's sister
  151. Not to have sexual relations with your father's brother's wife
  152. Not to have sexual relations with your son's wife
  153. Not to have sexual relations with your brother's wife
  154. Not to have sexual relations with your wife's sister
  155. A man must not have sexual relations with an animal
  156. A woman must not have sexual relations with an animal
  157. Not to have homosexual sexual relations
  158. Not to have homosexual sexual relations with your father
  159. Not to have homosexual sexual relations with your father's brother
  160. Not to have sexual relations with someone else's wife
  161. Not to have sexual relations with a menstrually impure woman
  162. Not to marry non-Jews
  163. Not to let Moabite and Ammonite males marry into the Jewish people
  164. Not to prevent a third-generation Egyptian convert from marrying into the Jewish people
  165. Not to refrain from marrying a third generation Edomite convert
  166. Not to let a mamzer (a child born due to an illegal relationship) marry into the Jewish people
  167. Not to let a eunuch marry into the Jewish people
  168. Not to offer to God any castrated male animals
  169. The High Priest must not marry a widow
  170. The High Priest must not have sexual relations with a widow even outside of marriage
  171. The High Priest must marry a virgin maiden
  172. A Kohen (priest) must not marry a divorcee
  173. A Kohen must not marry a zonah (a woman who has had a forbidden sexual relationship)
  174. A priest must not marry a chalalah ("a desecrated person") (party to or product of 169-172)
  175. Not to make pleasurable (sexual) contact with any forbidden woman
  176. To examine the signs of animals to distinguish between kosher and non-kosher
  177. To examine the signs of fowl to distinguish between kosher and non-kosher
  178. To examine the signs of fish to distinguish between kosher and non-kosher
  179. To examine the signs of locusts to distinguish between kosher and non-kosher
  180. Not to eat non-kosher animals
  181. Not to eat non-kosher fowl
  182. Not to eat non-kosher fish
  183. Not to eat non-kosher flying insects
  184. Not to eat non-kosher creatures that crawl on land
  185. Not to eat non-kosher maggots
  186. Not to eat worms found in fruit on the ground
  187. Not to eat creatures that live in water other than (kosher) fish
  188. Not to eat the meat of an animal that died without ritual slaughter
  189. Not to benefit from an ox condemned to be stoned
  190. Not to eat meat of an animal that was mortally wounded
  191. Not to eat a limb torn off a living creature
  192. Not to eat blood
  193. Not to eat certain fats of clean animals
  194. Not to eat the sinew of the thigh
  195. Not to eat meat and milk cooked together
  196. Not to cook meat and milk together
  197. Not to eat bread from new grain before the Omer
  198. Not to eat parched grains from new grain before the Omer
  199. Not to eat ripened grains from new grain before the Omer
  200. Not to eat fruit of a tree during its first three years
  201. Not to eat diverse seeds planted in a vineyard
  202. Not to eat untithed fruits
  203. Not to drink wine poured in service to idols
  204. To ritually slaughter an animal before eating it
  205. Not to slaughter an animal and its offspring on the same day
  206. To cover the blood (of a slaughtered beast or fowl) with earth
  207. Not to take the mother bird from her children
  208. To release the mother bird if she was taken from the nest
  209. Not to swear falsely in God's Name
  210. Not to take God's Name in vain
  211. Not to deny possession of something entrusted to you
  212. Not to swear in denial of a monetary claim
  213. To swear in God's Name to confirm the truth when deemed necessary by court
  214. To fulfill what was uttered and to do what was avowed
  215. Not to break oaths or vows
  216. For oaths and vows annulled, there are the laws of annulling vows explicit in the Torah
  217. The Nazir must let his hair grow
  218. He must not cut his hair
  219. He must not drink wine, wine mixtures, or wine vinegar
  220. He must not eat fresh grapes
  221. He must not eat raisins
  222. He must not eat grape seeds
  223. He must not eat grape skins
  224. He must not be under the same roof as a corpse
  225. He must not come into contact with the dead
  226. He must shave his head after bringing sacrifices upon completion of his Nazirite period
  227. To estimate the value of people as determined by the Torah
  228. To estimate the value of consecrated animals
  229. To estimate the value of consecrated houses
  230. To estimate the value of consecrated fields
  231. Carry out the laws of interdicting possessions (cherem)
  232. Not to sell the cherem
  233. Not to redeem the cherem
  234. Not to plant diverse seeds together
  235. Not to plant grains or greens in a vineyard
  236. Not to crossbreed animals
  237. Not to work different animals together
  238. Not to wear shatnez, a cloth woven of wool and linen
  239. To leave a corner of the field uncut for the poor
  240. Not to reap that corner
  241. To leave gleanings
  242. Not to gather the gleanings
  243. To leave the gleanings of a vineyard
  244. Not to gather the gleanings of a vineyard
  245. To leave the unformed clusters of grapes
  246. Not to pick the unformed clusters of grapes
  247. To leave the forgotten sheaves in the field
  248. Not to retrieve them
  249. To separate the "tithe for the poor"
  250. To give charity
  251. Not to withhold charity from the poor
  252. To set aside Terumah Gedolah (gift for the Kohen)
  253. The Levite must set aside a tenth of his tithe
  254. Not to preface one tithe to the next, but separate them in their proper order
  255. A non-Kohen must not eat Terumah
  256. A hired worker or a Jewish bondsman of a Kohen must not eat Terumah
  257. An uncircumcised Kohen must not eat Terumah
  258. An impure Kohen must not eat Terumah
  259. A chalalah (party to #s 169-172 above) must not eat Terumah
  260. To set aside Ma'aser (tithe) each planting year and give it to a Levite
  261. To set aside the second tithe (Ma'aser Sheni)
  262. Not to spend its redemption money on anything but food, drink, or ointment
  263. Not to eat Ma'aser Sheni while impure
  264. A mourner on the first day after death must not eat Ma'aser Sheni
  265. Not to eat Ma'aser Sheni grains outside Jerusalem
  266. Not to eat Ma'aser Sheni wine products outside Jerusalem
  267. Not to eat Ma'aser Sheni oil outside Jerusalem
  268. The fourth year crops must be totally for holy purposes like Ma'aser Sheni
  269. To read the confession of tithes every fourth and seventh year
  270. To set aside the first fruits and bring them to the Temple
  271. The Kohanim must not eat the first fruits outside Jerusalem
  272. To read the Torah portion pertaining to their presentation
  273. To set aside a portion of dough for a Kohen
  274. To give the shoulder, two cheeks, and stomach of slaughtered animals to a Kohen
  275. To give the first shearing of sheep to a Kohen
  276. To redeem firstborn sons and give the money to a Kohen
  277. To redeem the firstborn donkey by giving a lamb to a Kohen
  278. To break the neck of the donkey if the owner does not intend to redeem it
  279. To rest the land during the seventh year by not doing any work which enhances growth
  280. Not to work the land during the seventh year
  281. Not to work with trees to produce fruit during that year
  282. Not to reap crops that grow wild that year in the normal manner
  283. Not to gather grapes which grow wild that year in the normal way
  284. To leave free all produce which grew in that year
  285. To release all loans during the seventh year
  286. Not to pressure or claim from the borrower
  287. Not to refrain from lending immediately before the release of the loans for fear of monetary loss
  288. The Sanhedrin must count seven groups of seven years
  289. The Sanhedrin must sanctify the fiftieth year
  290. To blow the Shofar on the tenth of Tishrei to free the slaves
  291. Not to work the soil during the fiftieth year (Jubilee)
  292. Not to reap in the normal manner that which grows wild in the fiftieth year
  293. Not to pick grapes which grew wild in the normal manner in the fiftieth year
  294. Carry out the laws of sold family properties
  295. Not to sell the land in Israel indefinitely
  296. Carry out the laws of houses in walled cities
  297. The Tribe of Levi must not be given a portion of the land in Israel, rather they are given cities to dwell in
  298. The Levites must not take a share in the spoils of war
  299. To give the Levites cities to inhabit and their surrounding fields
  300. Not to sell the fields but they shall remain the Levites' before and after the Jubilee year
  301. To build a Temple
  302. Not to build the altar with stones hewn by metal
  303. Not to climb steps to the altar
  304. To show reverence to the Temple
  305. To guard the Temple area
  306. Not to leave the Temple unguarded
  307. To prepare the anointing oil
  308. Not to reproduce the anointing oil
  309. Not to anoint with anointing oil
  310. Not to reproduce the incense formula
  311. Not to burn anything on the Golden Altar besides incense
  312. The Levites must transport the ark on their shoulders
  313. Not to remove the staves from the ark
  314. The Levites must work in the Temple
  315. No Levite must do another's work of either a Kohen or a Levite
  316. To dedicate the Kohen for service
  317. The work of the Kohanim's shifts must be equal during holidays
  318. The Kohanim must wear their priestly garments during service
  319. Not to tear the priestly garments
  320. The Kohen Gadol 's breastplate must not be loosened from the Efod
  321. A Kohen must not enter the Temple intoxicated
  322. A Kohen must not enter the Temple with long hair
  323. A Kohen must not enter the Temple with torn clothes
  324. A Kohen must not enter the Temple indiscriminately
  325. A Kohen must not leave the Temple during service
  326. To send the impure from the Temple
  327. Impure people must not enter the Temple
  328. Impure people must not enter the Temple Mount area
  329. Impure Kohanim must not do service in the temple
  330. An impure Kohen, following immersion, must wait until after sundown before returning to service
  331. A Kohen must wash his hands and feet before service
  332. A Kohen with a physical blemish must not enter the sanctuary or approach the altar
  333. A Kohen with a physical blemish must not serve
  334. A Kohen with a temporary blemish must not serve
  335. One who is not a Kohen must not serve
  336. To offer only unblemished animals
  337. Not to dedicate a blemished animal for the altar
  338. Not to slaughter it
  339. Not to sprinkle its blood
  340. Not to burn its fat
  341. Not to offer a temporarily blemished animal
  342. Not to sacrifice blemished animals even if offered by non-Jews
  343. Not to inflict wounds upon dedicated animals
  344. To redeem dedicated animals which have become disqualified
  345. To offer only animals which are at least eight days old
  346. Not to offer animals bought with the wages of a harlot or the animal exchanged for a dog
  347. Not to burn honey or yeast on the altar
  348. To salt all sacrifices
  349. Not to omit the salt from sacrifices
  350. Carry out the procedure of the burnt offering as prescribed in the Torah
  351. Not to eat its meat
  352. Carry out the procedure of the sin offering
  353. Not to eat the meat of the inner sin offering
  354. Not to decapitate a fowl brought as a sin offering
  355. Carry out the procedure of the guilt offering
  356. The Kohanim must eat the sacrificial meat in the Temple
  357. The Kohanim must not eat the meat outside the Temple courtyard
  358. A non-Kohen must not eat sacrificial meat
  359. To follow the procedure of the peace offering
  360. Not to eat the meat of minor sacrifices before sprinkling the blood
  361. To bring meal offerings as prescribed in the Torah
  362. Not to put oil on the meal offerings of wrongdoers
  363. Not to put frankincense on the meal offerings of wrongdoers
  364. Not to eat the meal offering of the High Priest
  365. Not to bake a meal offering as leavened bread
  366. The Kohanim must eat the remains of the meal offerings
  367. To bring all avowed and freewill offerings to the Temple on the first subsequent festival
  368. Not to withhold payment incurred by any vow
  369. To offer all sacrifices in the Temple
  370. To bring all sacrifices from outside Israel to the Temple
  371. Not to slaughter sacrifices outside the courtyard
  372. Not to offer any sacrifices outside the courtyard
  373. To offer two lambs every day
  374. To light a fire on the altar every day
  375. Not to extinguish this fire
  376. To remove the ashes from the altar every day
  377. To burn incense every day
  378. To light the Menorah every day
  379. The Kohen Gadol ("High Priest") must bring a meal offering every day
  380. To bring two additional lambs as burnt offerings on Shabbat
  381. To make the show bread
  382. To bring additional offerings on Rosh Chodesh (" The New Month")
  383. To bring additional offerings on Passover
  384. To offer the wave offering from the meal of the new wheat
  385. Each man must count the Omer - seven weeks from the day the new wheat offering was brought
  386. To bring additional offerings on Shavuot
  387. To bring two leaves to accompany the above sacrifice
  388. To bring additional offerings on Rosh Hashana
  389. To bring additional offerings on Yom Kippur
  390. To bring additional offerings on Sukkot
  391. To bring additional offerings on Shmini Atzeret
  392. Not to eat sacrifices which have become unfit or blemished.3
  393. Not to eat from sacrifices offered with improper intentions
  394. Not to leave sacrifices past the time allowed for eating them
  395. Not to eat from that which was left over
  396. Not to eat from sacrifices which became impure
  397. An impure person must not eat from sacrifices
  398. To burn the leftover sacrifices
  399. To burn all impure sacrifices
  400. To follow the procedure of Yom Kippur in the sequence prescribed in Parsha] Acharei Mot ("After the death of Aaron's sons...")
  401. One who profaned property must repay what he profaned plus a fifth and bring a sacrifice
  402. Not to work consecrated animals
  403. Not to shear the fleece of consecrated animals
  404. To slaughter the paschal sacrifice at the specified time
  405. Not to slaughter it while in possession of leaven
  406. Not to leave the fat overnight
  407. To slaughter the second Paschal Lamb
  408. To eat the Paschal Lamb with matzah and Marror on the night of the fourteenth of Nissan
  409. To eat the second Paschal Lamb on the night of the 15th of Iyar
  410. Not to eat the paschal meat raw or boiled
  411. Not to take the paschal meat from the confines of the group
  412. An apostate must not eat from it
  413. A permanent or temporary hired worker must not eat from it
  414. An uncircumcised male must not eat from it
  415. Not to break any bones from the paschal offering
  416. Not to break any bones from the second paschal offering
  417. Not to leave any meat from the paschal offering over until morning
  418. Not to leave the second paschal meat over until morning
  419. Not to leave the meat of the holiday offering of the 14th until the 16th
  420. To be seen at the Temple on Passover, Shavuot, and Sukkot
  421. To celebrate on these three Festivals (bring a peace offering)
  422. To rejoice on these three Festivals (bring a peace offering)
  423. Not to appear at the Temple without offerings
  424. Not to refrain from rejoicing with, and giving gifts to, the Levites
  425. To assemble all the people on the Sukkot following the seventh year
  426. To set aside the firstborn animals
  427. The Kohanim must not eat unblemished firstborn animals outside Jerusalem
  428. Not to redeem the firstborn
  429. Separate the tithe from animals
  430. Not to redeem the tithe
  431. Every person must bring a sin offering (in the temple) for his transgression
  432. Bring an asham talui (temple offering) when uncertain of guilt
  433. Bring an asham vadai (temple offering) when guilt is ascertained
  434. Bring an oleh v'yored (temple offering) offering (if the person is wealthy, an animal; if poor, a bird or meal offering)
  435. The Sanhedrin must bring an offering (in the Temple) when it rules in error
  436. A woman who had a running (vaginal) issue must bring an offering (in the Temple) after she goes to the Mikveh
  437. A woman who gave birth must bring an offering (in the Temple) after she goes to the Mikveh
  438. A man who had a running (unnatural urinary) issue must bring an offering (in the Temple) after he goes to the Mikveh
  439. A metzora must bring an offering (in the Temple) after going to the Mikveh
  440. Not to substitute another beast for one set apart for sacrifice
  441. The new animal, in addition to the substituted one, retains consecration
  442. Not to change consecrated animals from one type of offering to another
  443. Carry out the laws of impurity of the dead
  444. Carry out the procedure of the Red Heifer (Para Aduma)
  445. Carry out the laws of the sprinkling water
  446. Rule the laws of human tzara'at as prescribed in the Torah
  447. The metzora must not remove his signs of impurity
  448. The metzora must not shave signs of impurity in his hair
  449. The metzora must publicize his condition by tearing his garments, allowing his hair to grow and covering his lips
  450. Carry out the prescribed rules for purifying the metzora
  451. The metzora must shave off all his hair prior to purification
  452. Carry out the laws of tzara'at of clothing
  453. Carry out the laws of tzara'at of houses
  454. Observe the laws of menstrual impurity
  455. Observe the laws of impurity caused by childbirth
  456. Observe the laws of impurity caused by a woman's running issue
  457. Observe the laws of impurity caused by a man's running issue (irregular ejaculation of infected semen)
  458. Observe the laws of impurity caused by a dead beast
  459. Observe the laws of impurity caused by the eight shratzim (insects)
  460. Observe the laws of impurity of a seminal emission (regular ejaculation, with normal semen)
  461. Observe the laws of impurity concerning liquid and solid foods
  462. Every impure person must immerse himself in a Mikveh to become pure
  463. The court must judge the damages incurred by a goring ox
  464. The court must judge the damages incurred by an animal eating
  465. The court must judge the damages incurred by a pit
  466. The court must judge the damages incurred by fire
  467. Not to steal money stealthily
  468. The court must implement punitive measures against the thief
  469. Each individual must ensure that his scales and weights are accurate
  470. Not to commit injustice with scales and[weights
  471. Not to possess inaccurate scales and weights even if they are not for use
  472. Not to move a boundary marker to steal someone's property
  473. Not to kidnap
  474. Not to rob openly
  475. Not to withhold wages or fail to repay a debt
  476. Not to covet and scheme to acquire another's possession
  477. Not to desire another's possession
  478. Return the robbed object or its value
  479. Not to ignore a lost object
  480. Return the lost object
  481. The court must implement laws against the one who assaults another or damages another's property
  482. Not to murder
  483. Not to accept monetary restitution to atone for the murderer
  484. The court must send the accidental murderer to a city of refuge
  485. Not to accept monetary restitution instead of being sent to a city of refuge
  486. Not to kill the murderer before he stands trial
  487. Save someone being pursued even by taking the life of the pursuer
  488. Not to pity the pursuer
  489. Not to stand idly by if someone's life is in danger
  490. Designate cities of refuge and prepare routes of access
  491. Break the neck of a calf by the river valley following an unsolved murder
  492. Not to work nor plant that river valley
  493. Not to allow pitfalls and obstacles to remain on your property
  494. Make a guard rail around flat roofs
  495. Not to put a stumbling block before a blind man (nor give harmful advice) (Lifnei iver)
  496. Help another remove the load from a beast which can no longer carry it
  497. Help others load their beast
  498. Not to leave others distraught with their burdens (but to help either load or unload)
  499. Buy and sell according to Torah law
  500. Not to overcharge or underpay for an article
  501. Not to insult or harm anybody with words
  502. Not to cheat a sincere convert monetarily
  503. Not to insult or harm a sincere convert with words
  504. Purchase a Hebrew slave in accordance with the prescribed laws
  505. Not to sell him as a slave is sold
  506. Not to work him oppressively
  507. Not to allow a non-Jew to work him oppressively
  508. Not to have him do menial slave labor
  509. Give him gifts when he goes free
  510. Not to send him away empty-handed
  511. Redeem Jewish maidservants
  512. Betroth the Jewish maidservant
  513. The master must not sell his maidservant
  514. Canaanite slaves must work forever unless injured in one of their limbs
  515. Not to extradite a slave who fled to (Biblical) Israel
  516. Not to wrong a slave who has come to Israel for refuge
  517. The courts must carry out the laws of a hired worker and hired guard
  518. Pay wages on the day they were earned
  519. Not to delay payment of wages past the agreed time
  520. The hired worker may eat from the unharvested crops where he works
  521. The worker must not eat while on hired time
  522. The worker must not take more than he can eat
  523. Not to muzzle an ox while plowing
  524. The courts must carry out the laws of a borrower
  525. The courts must carry out the laws of an unpaid guard
  526. Lend to the poor and destitute
  527. Not to press them for payment if you know they don't have it
  528. Press the idolater for payment
  529. The creditor must not forcibly take collateral
  530. Return the collateral to the debtor when needed
  531. Not to delay its return when needed
  532. Not to demand collateral from a widow
  533. Not to demand as collateral utensils needed for preparing food
  534. Not to lend with interest
  535. Not to borrow with interest
  536. Not to intermediate in an interest loan, guarantee, witness, or write the promissory note
  537. Lend to and borrow from idolaters with interest
  538. The courts must carry out the laws of the plaintiff, admitter, or denier
  539. Carry out the laws of the order of inheritance
  540. Appoint judges
  541. Not to appoint judges who are not familiar with judicial procedure
  542. Decide by majority in case of disagreement
  543. The court must not execute through a majority of one; at least a majority of two is required
  544. A judge who presented an acquittal plea must not present an argument for conviction in capital cases
  545. The courts must carry out the death penalty of stoning
  546. The courts must carry out the death penalty of burning
  547. The courts must carry out the death penalty of the sword
  548. The courts must carry out the death penalty of strangulation
  549. The courts must hang those stoned for blasphemy or idolatry
  550. Bury the executed on the day they are killed
  551. Not to delay burial overnight
  552. The court must not let the sorcerer live
  553. The court must give lashes to the wrongdoer
  554. The court must not exceed the prescribed number of lashes
  555. The court must not kill anybody on circumstantial evidence
  556. The court must not punish anybody who was forced to do a crime
  557. A judge must not pity the murderer or assaulter at the trial
  558. A judge must not have mercy on the poor man at the trial
  559. A judge must not respect the great man at the trial
  560. A judge must not decide unjustly the case of the habitual transgressor
  561. A judge must not pervert justice
  562. A judge must not pervert a case involving a convert or orphan
  563. Judge righteously
  564. The judge must not fear a violent man in judgment
  565. Judges must not accept bribes
  566. Judges must not accept testimony unless both parties are present
  567. Not to curse judges
  568. Not to curse the head of state or leader of the Sanhedrin
  569. Not to curse any upstanding Jew
  570. Anybody who knows evidence must testify in court
  571. Carefully interrogate the witness
  572. A witness must not serve as a judge in capital crimes
  573. Not to accept testimony from a lone witness
  574. Transgressors must not testify
  575. Relatives of the litigants must not testify
  576. Not to testify falsely
  577. Punish the false witnesses as they tried to punish the defendant
  578. Act according to the ruling of the Sanhedrin
  579. Not to deviate from the word of the Sanhedrin
  580. Not to add to the Torah commandments or their oral explanations
  581. Not to diminish from the Torah any commandments, in whole or in part
  582. Not to curse your father and mother
  583. Not to strike your father and mother
  584. Respect your father or mother
  585. Fear your father or mother
  586. Not to be a rebellious son
  587. Mourn for relatives
  588. The High Priest must not defile himself for any relative
  589. The High Priest must not enter under the same roof as a corpse
  590. A Kohen must not defile himself (by going to funerals or cemeteries) for anyone except relatives
  591. Appoint a king from Israel
  592. Not to appoint a convert
  593. The king must not have too many wives
  594. The king must not have too many horses
  595. The king must not have too much silver and gold
  596. Destroy the seven Canaanite nations
  597. Not to let any of them remain alive
  598. Wipe out the descendants of Amalek
  599. Remember what Amalek did to the Jewish people
  600. Not to forget Amalek's atrocities and ambush on our journey from Egypt in the desert
  601. Not to dwell permanently in Egypt
  602. Offer peace terms to the inhabitants of a city while holding siege, and treat them according to the Torah if they accept the terms
  603. Not to offer peace to Ammon and Moab while besieging them
  604. Not to destroy fruit trees even during the siege
  605. Prepare latrines outside the camps
  606. Prepare a shovel for each soldier to dig with
  607. Appoint a priest to speak with the soldiers during the war
  608. He who has taken a wife, built a new home, or planted a vineyard is given a year to rejoice with his possessions
  609. Not to demand from the above any involvement, communal or military
  610. Not to panic and retreat during battle
  611. Keep the laws of the captive woman
  612. Not to sell her into slavery
  613. Not to retain her for servitude after having sexual relations with her


  1. The number 613 is attributed to Rabbi Simlai (early third century C.E.). Other classical sages who hold this view include Rabbi Simeon ben Azzai (Sifre, Deuteronomy 76) and Rabbi Eleazar ben Yose the Galilean (Midrash Aggadah to Genesis 15:1). It is quoted in Midrash Shemot Rabbah 33:7, Bamidbar Rabbah 13:15–16; 18:21 and Talmud Yevamot 47b.

ISBN links support NWE through referral fees

  • Chill, Abraham. The Mitzvot: The Commandments and Their Rationale. Jerusalem: Urim Publications, 2000. ISBN 978-9657108147
  • Eisenberg, Ronald L. The 613 Mitzvot: A Contemporary Guide to the Commandments of Judaism. Rockville, MD: Schreiber Publishing, Inc., 2005. ISBN 978-0884003038
  • Isaacs, Ronald. Mitzvot: A Sourcebook for the 613 Commandments. Lanham, MD: Jason Aronson, 1996. ISBN 978-1568219004
  • Milgram, Rabbi Goldie. Meaning & Mitzvah: Daily Practices for Reclaiming Judaism through Prayer, God, Torah, Hebrew, Mitzvot and Peoplehood. Woodstock, VT: Jewish Lights Publishing, 2005. ISBN 978-1580232562
  • Singer, Shmuel. A Parent's Guide to Teaching Children Mitzvot: A Halakhic Guide. New York: Ktav Publishing House, 1990. ISBN 978-0881253672

External links

All links retrieved November 9, 2022.


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