Re: 613 Mitzvos

Michael S. Tsirkin (
Wed, 18 Jun 1997 09:23:19 +0300

Russell W. Earl, Sr. wrote:
>> I know that the 613 Mitzvos (commandments) are found in Torah, but my
>>intrest is in the history of their formation. Who, beside Rambam, worked
to >>determine what Mitzvos would be included, when and where was this all

Daniel Malament responded:
<< Many people have discussed the mitzvot over the ages, but an important
thing to note is that there is no absolutely definitive set of the 613
mitzvot. There is an ancient tradition that there are 613 mitzvot, but
there have been many arguments over exactly which they are...What all this
adds up to is that we know what the laws are, but it isn't completely clear
which are to be included in the count of 613 and which are not...This is
not to imply that the situation is entirely confused, merely that there are
arguments in a number of places. As for who discusses the mitzvot in the
context of the teaching that there are 613 of them, the Rambam is the
source that immediately comes to everyone's mind, but there are others....>>

I'd like to mention also "Sefer ha-hinuch". My question is : what's the
difference? What is the motivation for all this work to determine which
mitzvot should and which should not be included in the 613 count? If the
number 613 is just a tradition of no special importance, why count the
mitzvot to come exactly to this number? There are different methodologies
in the counting of mitzvot. For example, only the first mention of the
mitzva in Torah counts. Again,why? Note that this is not just a question of
which mitzvot are derabanan(rabbinical) and which deoraitha (Biblical):
pages of text are devoted specifically to the matter of counting.