Selected Topics from: S. Schechter, Aspects of Rabbinic Theology
The Torah in Its Aspect of Law (Mizwoth):
The Tradition about 613 Commandments:
TB Makkot 33b:
Rabbi Simlai expounded:
Six hundred and thirteen commandments were spoken to Moses.
Three hundered and sixty five negative commandments, corresponding to the number of days in the solar year;
and two hundred and forty-eight positive commandments, corresponding to the limbs in a human body.
Says Rav Hamnuna: What is the Biblical source?
"Moses commanded us a law [Torah], even the inheritance of the congregation of Jacob" (Deuteronomy 33:)--
The numerical value of the word "Torah" totals 611.
"I am [the Lord thy God, etc." (Exodus 20:2) and "Thou shalt have no [other gods before me]" (Exodus 20:3) we heard directly from the Almighty.
Schechter refutes the Christian accusation that obeying so many commandments is "burdensome" [cf. Paul: "the curse of the law"].
- Relatively few commandments can actually be observed by any individual, especially without the Jerusalem Temple.
- Historically contingent precepts: e.g., building the Tabernacle; conquering the land.
- Laws directed at defined groups: Priests (regular or High), nazirites, the community leadership, king, etc.
- Laws governing special circumstances: e.g., divorce, levirate marriage, punishment for crimes and sins.
- In all, barely 100 commandments that are applicable to ordinary Jews
- The Torah as the source of all wisdom.
Through the commandments, Judaism integrates all aspects of life [unlike compartmentalizations of modern Western society].
No distinctions between:
The administration of civil and criminal justice perceived as an essential part of the Torah.
|"spiritual" ||and ||"material"|
|soul ||and ||body|
- The liturgy states that the giving of the Torah is the ultimate expression of God's love for Israel.
- The commandments turn every deed into an act of worship or devotion.
- The tradition about the prophets successively reducing the number of commandments
implies an underlying spiritual or moral purposed to all the commandments.