613 Laws Statutes and Commandments

As you know, there are people within the messianic movement (as well as legalistic churches) who claim that Jesus` followers should become “Torah practitioners.” Since Jesus was a Torah-faithful Jew, they say, and we are called to be His disciples, then we ourselves should become Torah observers. As well-intentioned as it may seem, this is a fragile reasoning based on a variety of exegetical errors, not the least of which is the confusion between the idea of the Torah and the covenant. Nevertheless, I wonder if these legalists have ever taken the time to read the list of Torah claims – all 613 of them? As a reminder, let me list here some of the most difficult commandments of the Torah of Moses: For each mitzvah, I have given a quote about the passages of the Bible or the passages from which it is derived, mainly based on Rambam. For the commandments that can be preserved today, I also have quotes from Chafetz Chayim`s Concise Book of Mizvot (CCA refers to the affirmative commandments; CCN refers to negative offers; ICC refers to commandments that apply only in Israel). The commandments that cannot be kept today mainly concern the temple, its sacrifices and services (because the temple does not exist) and criminal proceedings (because the theocratic state of Israel does not exist). In addition to Taryag Mitzvot (see the list of 613 commandments below), rabbinic law has added a large number of decisions that are supposedly as binding as the divine mitzvot. Such rabbinic halakha (from halach: ×Ö ̧×Ö·×Ö°, “to go”) refers to the various rules and regulations that are supposed to characterize the “change” of the Jew through life. Halakha includes three (related) groups: Gezeirah, Takkana and Minhag: In Maimonides` list, you will notice significant overlaps in the selected commandments, perhaps as a result of the Gematria/superstition that there must be exactly 613 in the Torah. Note also that Maimonides seems to regard Christians as “idolaters,” whom he calls “missionaries,” although the texts he uses of the Torah against “missionaries” obviously have no historical connection to Christianity. In addition to each Scriptural Reference of the Torah, I have added one or more corresponding Commandments of the New Testament (many more could be cited, but for the sake of brevity, I have kept the references to a minimum).

Some laws simply do not apply to Christians at all (e.g., temple practice laws, agricultural laws, civil laws, etc.), although the NT clearly contains ALL Torah principles in a higher form (in fact, Yeshua the Mashiach went beyond the Torah letter to lay out the underlying principles. See, for example, Matthew 5–7). The term chukkim u`mishpatim (×֔קÖ1/4Ö`×× ×Ö1/4×Ö`××ְפÖ1/4Ö ̧×Ö`××) is synonymous with the more general term “mitzvah”, as seen in Parashat Mishpatim, which lists more than 50 mitzvot, which are indeed logical laws (i.e. Mishpatim), but also contain a number of eidots and at least one chukkah (×֔קÖ1/4Ö ̧ש) or suprarational “decree”). Some Jewish scholars have tried to count the various mitzvot (commandments) listed in the Torah. For example, the Aristotelian Jewish philosopher Maimonides (i.e. “Rambam”) in his book Sefer Ha-mitzvot (“Book of Commandments”) a total of 613 commandments and divided them into two basic groups: 248 positive commandments (“You will be… “) and 365 negatives (“You will not be… »). In the Jewish theological tradition, positive commandments (bonds) are called mitzvot `aseh (×Ö`צְ×ֹת ×¢Ö²××Öμ×), while prohibitions are called mitzvot lo-ta`aseh (×Ö`צְ×Ö¹¹×ª ×× ×ªÖ·×¢Ö²×× © Öμש). Some of the sages quite imaginatively assert that positive commandments correspond to the number of significant bones and organs of the body, while negative commandments correspond to the number of days in the solar year. Interestingly, Jewish tradition seems to go in two directions with the idea that the Torah can be explained by Halakha. On the one hand, he carefully lists each nuance of each of the different commandments of the Torah, creates different takkanot (jurisprudences), and even multiplies the principles of the Torah by building “fences” around the commandments, but on the other hand, he can (quite clearly) distill the different commandments into more general principles that are less and less numerical.

For example, the discussion in Makkot 23b-24a ranges from a list of the 613 commandments identified in the Torah (see below), to reducing the number of David to 11 (Psalm 15), to reducing the number of Isaiah to six (Isaiah 33:15-16); the reduction of Micah to three (Micah 6:8); the further reduction of Isaiah to two (Isaiah 56:1); to Habakkuk`s only essential commandment (“But the righteous shall live according to his faith” (Habakkuk 2:4). Obviously, the apostle Paul distilled the different mitzvot to the same principle of faith (see Romans 1:17, Galatians 3:11, Hebrews 10:38). Moshe ben Maimon was a scholar of scripture in the 12th century.1 Commonly referred to as Maimonides or “the Rambam” (pronounced RAHM bahm), he was the first to document the commandments given in the Bible. There is not a single definitive list that explains the 613 commandments. The lists differ, for example, in how they interpret passages of the Torah that can be read to deal with multiple cases under a single law or several separate laws. Other “commandments” in the Torah are limited as one-off acts and would not be considered “mitzvot” that bind other people. In rabbinic literature, Rishonim and later scholars wrote to articulate and justify their enumeration of the commandments:[17] The 613 commandments include “positive commandments” to perform an action (mitzvot aseh), and “negative commandments” to abstain from certain actions (mizvot lo taaseh).