Thinking about Mitzvot - all 613 of them
Judaism, like all religions, is about being a good person. Of course, it's also about faith and God and belief and ritual, etc. But much is tied up with how we treat each other.
As a secular Jew, this good deeds part - doing a Mitzvah - is how I really define my Judaism. Thinking about 2011 made me wonder about the "official" list of Mitzvot (the plural of Mitvah).
A quick bit of Googling clarified that there are 613 of them. But what are they? Where did they come from? Are the 613 Mitzvot still relevant today?
Here's what I've found out so far. Feel free to correct me.
- There are 613 good deeds.
- A tallis has 613 fringes on it. That must be hard to do.
- The list was put together by the great sage Maimonides in the 1100's. He had a lot of pseudonyms, like Rambam. In fact, Sherwin Nulad's short biography of him confirms that he was a super Jew - he codified the Talmud, he was a great physician, and community leader.
- The list is clear but a little fuzzy. Everyone appears to agree on the number. However, there's no universal numbering scheme like, for instance, the ten commandments.
- Some of the lists separate out positive mitzvot from negative ones (do this, don't do this). Others sort by type of mitzvah. Some leave out the stuff that's no longer relevant since the end of animal sacrifice. Some sort by the passage in the Torah, but since there's some disagreement about passages or multiple passages involves, this can get gory.
- While I'm a little concerned about using a Wikipedia list of Mitzvot, since the page looks like it's updated frequently, it seems like the most reasonable place to start. The Aish.com list is the same but doesn't have links to the text.
So is the list still relevant? It's been much harder to sort through this than I expected. I know more about the list of Mitzvot than I did before but not enough to apply any specifics.
But so far so good! The lesson to date? It's hard work being a good person. It takes effort to sort it out. And I'm still curious about the list...