Thanks to Wikipedia for the following:
“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.
Forgive me if someone has already made this comment…
But there’s this idea (maybe Rav Dessler, but based on an earlier source?) that human beings are always in motion, and that only angels are “omdim” – they stand still. And since a human being is always in motion, they have to pick whether they are going up or down.
A person who is going up – regardless of speed or relative height – is a “Bnei aliyah.” A person who is on the rise.
If you are doing more mitzvos &/or studying more Torah/mussar/chassidus &/or doing more chessed than last year, you are on the rise.
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This reminds me of the book, ” A year of Living Biblicaly”. It’s practically impossible to “do it all”. More important to do what you can and just do something!
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Will have to check out that book! Thanks, Chandra. Trying to live by the motto of always moving forward… trying to always do the right thing… and always trying to grow… Though whenever I say trying, my friends like to say “There is no trying, Grasshopper… only doing.” (You may be too young for the Kung Fu show reference)
Great comments! Thanks, Becca. You are right… We must always move up… even if it is the proverbial two steps up, one step back. And the other thing I have heard from Rabbi Shlomo Seidenfeld, which is as important, is that we must NEVER let go of the ladder… even if we are are moving down a rung or two… Staying on the ladder is part of the battle and the process.
Let us all rise up!
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Great post by my partner Marc. Just want to point out that it is literally impossible for anyone to do all 613 mitzvahs. Some only pertain to men, some only pertain to women. Some can only be done when the Jews have a Temple. There’s a mitzvah to put the poles through the rings on the Ark, which was immediately done when the Ark was made and thus doesn’t need to be done again. And there’s even a mitzvah to give your wife a Get (divorce document) but obviously would only be necessary to do if one needs divorce. So let’s hope none of us need to do that mitzvah.
I’d think that the better come away from this lesson than “just do something” is to always be growing. Yes it’s good to do mitzvahs, but if you’re stagnant, there’s a huge change you’ll get lazy and fall out. But to be growing, even if you never make it to the “finish line,” is hitting a mountain when you’re shooting for the stars.
And Chandra I am currently reading A.J. Jacobs book.
As I was writing the post, I knew some were impossible and pertained to times gone by… and realized I should probably actually read through all of them… And now I will!
Always growing and moving forward is definitely the take away… and what I hope for me and others. Also quite appropriate is the Nike slogan “Just Do It”… which I had a momentary temptation to throw in there… and it actually works…
There have been days where I have not been in the mood to do something… pray even… and I need to just do it… make myself just do it… and whenever I have, the rewards have been immense. It is easy to do things when we are inspired… To do them on the days when we are not is when it becomes even more powerful.
Hmmm… Maybe I should change the title to Just Do It… and hopefully the implication of that and “do something” is doing something good and positive that moves us forward and keeps us growing.
“Just do something” is also a play on the great Mad TV sketch with Bob Newhart… the one therapists love… Simple… powerful… potent… The simple solution in this case is “Stop It!”
And I’ll add one more thing to your mountain analogy… Sometimes the mountain blocks our view of the stars… yet the mountain can be just as awesome and amazing… and if we can scale it… even one step at a time… the reward may very well be the stars… or, if the night is cloudy and too dark… or even if it is not… it may just be that the mountain was what we should have been focused on, and that scaling it is just as important and incredible!
I do trust all of the ideas you’ve presented in your post.
They are actually convincing and can definitely work. Thanks for the