According to Jewish tradition, the Torah contains 613 commandments (Hebrew: תרי״ג מצוות, romanizedtaryág mitsvót). This tradition is first recorded in the 3rd century CE, when Rabbi Simlai mentioned it in a sermon that is recorded in Talmud Makkot 23b.[1] Other classical sages who hold this view include Rabbi Simeon ben Azzai[2] and Rabbi Eleazar ben Yose the Galilean.[3] It is quoted in Midrash Exodus Rabbah 33:7, Numbers Rabbah 13:15–16; 18:21 and Talmud Yevamot 47b. The 613 commandments include "positive commandments", to perform an act (mitzvot aseh), and "negative commandments", to abstain from an act (mitzvot lo taaseh). The negative commandments number 365, which coincides with the number of days in the solar year, and the positive commandments number 248, a number ascribed to the number of bones and main organs in the human body.[4]

Although the number 613 is mentioned in the Talmud, its real significance increased in later medieval rabbinic literature, including many works listing or arranged by the mitzvot. The most famous of these was an enumeration of the 613 commandments by Maimonides. While the total number of commandments is 613, no individual can perform all of them. Many can only be observed at the Temple in Jerusalem, which no longer stands. According to one standard reckoning,[5] there are 77 positive and 194 negative commandments that can be observed today, of which there are 26 commands that apply only within the Land of Israel.[6] In addition, some commandments only apply to certain categories of Jews: some are only observed by kohanim, and others only by men or by women.

Symbolism of 613

Further information: Law given to Moses at Sinai

De Rouwdagen (The mourning days) by Jan Voerman, ca 1884

Rav Hamnuna sourced the count of 613 in the verse Deuteronomy 33:4 ("Moses commanded us the Torah..."). The Talmud notes that the Hebrew numerical value (gematria) of the word Torah is 611 (ת‎ = 400, ו‎ = 6, ר‎ = 200, ה‎ = 5). Combining 611 commandments which Moses taught the people, with the first two of the Ten Commandments which were the only ones directly heard from God, a total of 613 is reached.[4]

Other sources connect the tzitzit (ritual fringes of a garment) to the 613 commandments by gematria: the word tzitzit (Hebrew: ציצית, in its Mishnaic spelling) has the value 600 (צ‎ = 90, י‎ = 10, ת‎ = 400). Each tassel has eight threads (when doubled over) and five sets of knots. The sum of all these numbers is 613, reflecting the concept that tzitzit reminds its wearer of all Torah commandments.[7]

Many Jewish philosophical and mystical works (e.g., by Baal HaTurim, the Maharal of Prague and leaders of Hasidic Judaism) find allusions and inspirational calculations relating to the number of commandments.

Dissent and difficulties

Rabbinic support for the number of commandments being 613 is not without dissent. For example, Ben Azzai held that there exist 300 positive mitzvot.[8] Also, even as the number gained acceptance, difficulties arose in elucidating the list. Some rabbis declared that this count was not an authentic tradition, or that it was not logically possible to come up with a systematic count. No early work of Jewish law or Biblical commentary depended on the 613 system, and no early systems of Jewish principles of faith made acceptance of this Aggadah (non-legal Talmudic statement) normative. A number of classical authorities denied that it was normative:

Even when rabbis attempted to compile a list of the 613 commandments, they were faced with a number of difficulties:

Ultimately, though, the concept of 613 commandments has become accepted as normative amongst practicing Jews and today it is still common practice to refer to the total system of commandments within the Torah as the "613 commandments", even among those who do not literally accept this count as accurate.[citation needed]

However, the 613 mitzvot do not constitute a formal code of present-day halakha. Later codes of law such as the Shulkhan Arukh and the Kitzur Shulkhan Arukh do not refer to it. However, Maimonides' Mishneh Torah is prefaced by a count of the 613 mitzvot.

Works which enumerate the commandments

There is no single definitive list that explicates the 613 commandments. Lists differ, for example, in how they interpret passages in the Torah that may be read as dealing with several cases under a single law 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, Rishonim and later scholars composed to articulate and justify their enumeration of the commandments:[15]

Works in which the number of commandments is not 613

Maimonides' list

The following are the 613 commandments and the source of their derivation from the Hebrew Bible as enumerated by Maimonides:

Canonical order

Typical order

See also


  1. ^ Israel Drazi (2009). Maimonides and the Biblical Prophets. Gefen Publishing House Ltd. p. 209.
  2. ^ Sifre, Deuteronomy 76
  3. ^ Midrash Aggadah to Genesis 15:1
  4. ^ a b Babylonian Talmud, Makkot 23b-24a
  5. ^ Chofetz Chaim (1990). Sefer HaMitzvot HaKatzar (in Hebrew). Jerusalem: Feldheim. pp. 9, 16, 17.
  6. ^ Yisrael Meir Kagan, The Concise Book of Mitzvoth: The Commandments which can be Observed Today, Trans., Charles Wengrov. Feldheim, 1990.
  7. ^ Rashi's commentary on Numbers 15:39 (from Numbers Rabbah 18); compare to Lekach Tov, parshat Shelach Lecha, p.224, s.v. tanan hatam bemasechet brachot
  8. ^ Sifre Deuteronomy 76: אמר רבי שמעון בן עזיי והלא שלש מאות מצות עשה בתורה כיוצא בזה לומר מה הדם שאין בכל המצות קל ממנו הזהירך הכתוב עליו שאר כל המצות על אחת כמה וכמה
  9. ^ Yesod Mora, Chapter 2
  10. ^ Nahmanides, Commentary to Maimonides' Sefer Hamitzvot, Root Principle 1
  11. ^ Zohar Harakia, Lviv, 1858, p. 99
  12. ^ a b c d e Ohayon, Avraham. "Ha-ʾOmnam Taryag Miẓvot" (2009) p. 89-96
  13. ^ Ralbag Toalot, Shemot 12:10
  14. ^ See Avraham of Vilna, Maalot haTorah (printed in Nachmanides, Sefer haEmunah vehaBitachon, Warsaw: 1877, p.1)
  15. ^ "Halakhah: Jewish Law / Torah 101 / Mechon Mamre". Archived from the original on 2018-10-26.
  16. ^ ""Halachot Gedolot"".
  17. ^ "The Ramban's Emendations to the Taryag Mitzvos - pt. I - Taryag". OU Torah. May 21, 2013.
  18. ^ a b Footnote to Deut. 23:19, Tanakh The Holy Scriptures, The Jewish Publication Society, 1985, ISBN 978-0-8276-0252-6
  19. ^ a b Footnote to Deut. 23:19, The Catholic Study Bible, Second Edition, Oxford University Press, 2011
  20. ^ "Hebrew Henotheism - Yahweh Elohim". Archived from the original on 2020-09-15.