“The tradition that 613 commandments (Hebrew: תרי”ג מצוות: taryag mitzvot, “613 mitzvot”) is the number of mitzvot in the Torah, began in the 3rd century CE, when Rabbi Simlai mentioned it in a sermon that is recorded in Talmud Makkot 23b.”
“Although there have been many attempts to codify and enumerate the commandments contained in the Torah, the traditional view is based on Maimonides’ enumeration.”
“The 613 commandments include “positive commandments”, to perform an act (mitzvot aseh), and “negative commandments”, to abstain from certain acts (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 (Babylonian Talmud, Makkot 23b-24a).”
“The 613 mitzvot have been divided also into three general categories: mishpatim; edot; and chukim. Mishpatim (“laws”) include commandments that are deemed to be self-evident, such as not to murder and not to steal. Edot (“testimonies”) commemorate important events in Jewish history. For example, the Shabbat is said to testify to the story that Hashem created the world in six days and rested on the seventh day and declared it holy. Chukim (“decrees”) are commandments with no known rationale, and are perceived as pure manifestations of the Divine will.”
That is a lot to live by… and can become quite overwhelming. Heck, when I was a kid… and obviously not a great Jewish scholar… I only knew of the Ten Commandments. While that is an obvious and great place to start, we will quickly learn there is a lot more.
So what happens if you are not performing all of these mitzvot? I mean, let’s be honest… who actually can???
What happens if you are only doing some?
Well… that is the very crux of today’s post.
I study with so many different people, I am starting to forget who said what. All the knowledge I am receiving is great, but not being able to properly attribute specific things to specific people is troubling. I usually get it right, but I’ll write this one off to overload and a weary and overworked mind…
One of my Rabbi friends and mentors said to me that the hypocrisy is okay…
Hmmm… I am never a fan of hypocrites or hypocrisy, so what does that mean?
I have had people look at me sideways… and usually not Jewish people… when I say that I do not keep Kosher.
And others, more Jews on this one, that I am not Shomer Shabbos (Shomrei Shabbos).
The question that comes up is simple… They’ll ask: How can you say you are Jewish then? Or how can you be Jewish?
Well… Ummm… I… Ummm…
I have also mentioned many times that my friends in the community (in the “Chood”) will say something different… which is, “You’ll get there.”
It is never said in a derogatory or negative way, which I appreciate. It is always supportive and always with the hopes that I will find that peace, that spirituality… that more complete embrace of Judaism. And even though I cannot say with certainty whether I will or whether I won’t… I like their confidence and the way they support whatever I am doing.
The former set of comments is a bit different. It is much more of a challenging… a questioning… and it brings up the notion that I am a hypocrite. And THIS is where the Rabbi says that being a hypocrite is okay… even good…
Why? Because I am doing SOMETHING! And it is ALWAYS better to be doing something. And sometimes slow and steady does win the race.
Back in October I wrote about Judaism as a Chinese Menu… and how for many of us, it is a picking of this and that and, in a way, a creation and discovery of our own spirituality. It is finding our individual path into Judaism.
Tradition is important… it is vital and must be understood and observed wherever possible. But it is not for everyone. Just spend some time in the Mea She’arim in Jerusalem. It is remarkable and fascinating, and so important in maintaining our traditions and history, but it is not for all of us.
As long as we are making an effort… and for me that is wrapping Tefillin and praying and studying and exploring and continually learning and striving… then we are becoming better Jews.
This blog is essential to me… For discussing and sharing this journey and path is also of the utmost importance.
I am so much further along than I ever thought I would be… and I choose to celebrate that… embrace it… live it…
Don’t worry about doing everything… but let us all definitely be doing something.