08 January 2015

EJ&T: Where are the other 76 commandments?

For the last eight months I've been going through the Torah (the first five books of the Bible), listing all of the commandments that I could find. I've finally finished with Deuteronomy, but I've only found 537 -- not the 613 that are supposed to be there according to Jewish tradition. So where are the other 76?

The magic number (613) apparently dates from the 3rd century CE, when rabbi Simlai claimed that there are exactly 613 commandments in the Torah. And the rabbis have stuck with that number ever since, because the number 613 is so darned special.

What's so special about it, you ask?

Well, the number 611 is the numerical value (gematria) of the word "Torah" in Hebrew. And the rabbis claim that there are only two commandments (the first two in the Jewish list of the ten commandments) that are directly commanded by God. When you add 611 to 2 you get 613. So 613 must be the correct number of God's commandments.

And in case that isn't enough to convince you, consider this: There are, they say, 365 negative ("Thou shalt not....") commandments -- one for every day of the year; and 248 positive ("Thou shalt...") commandments -- one for every bone in the human body. (The the rabbis were wrong about the number of bones; there are only 206 bones in the human body. But they've tried to fix that by adding the number of major organs to the number of bones to keep the special significance of the number 248.)

Finally, the gematria of each of the four tassels (tzitzit) in the Jewish prayer shawl is equal to 600. Each tassel has eight threads with five knots, for a total of 13. Adding these numbers together makes 613.

So, clearly, we are completely locked in to 613 as the total number of commandments in the Torah.

I must, therefore, have missed 76 commandments. Let me know if you can find any of them and I'll add them to the list.


Christian said...

Perfect.:D I am sure even if you asked for a list they would not be able to give you one either.
Probably if a commandment is repeated you count it as two separate commandments. God seems to say things over and over, sort of as if no one listens. ;)

Yaron Davidson said...

Of course they have a list. Some of them are very questionable as "commandments" rather than general statements from god (first one off, god saying "I'm God" is a commandment, since apparently it's an instruction to believe that there is a god, so easy to see how the number can be extra large), but there is a very clear list.

There you go, courtesy of Chabad, numbered and sourced (the version in Hebrew has extra sources for some of the commandments where the statements are repeated, the English seems to have just one for each):