The Commandments of the Torah
Purpose for this website: To praise and glorify the name of the LORD, our GOD
I, an 87 year old Jew (in 2015), spent many years translating the Jewish bible from Hebrew to English. While doing so, I identified and cataloged all the commandments I found in the Torah. To aid in my task, I followed eight principles by which I identified and verified each given commandment. By the time I had completed the translation of the Torah I believe I had encountered 558 commandments. Strangely enough, while I have discounted the “magic” in the number 613 (as revealed by the first-century Palestinian haggadist, R. Simlai), I find there is “magic” in the number 558. The three digits add up to 18, which is the numerical value of the Hebrew word Chai, meaning life. Make of this what you will. But what I see is that the 558 commandments offer life (as opposed to death).
Now the great Jewish scholar of the middle ages, Moses Maimonides, cataloged 613 commandments. Some of his are the same as those enumerated by me, but many are different, in more ways than one. This will become clear to you as you travel throughout this site.
To decide which passages should be considered commandments, I depended on eight principles. Here are the principles I followed:
1) The commandment has to be uttered by either God or Moses (echoing God).
2) The utterance must be for a behavior that is intended to be perpetual, not for a
predetermined limited time or a single event.
3) The command has to be given specifically to the children of Israel.
4) A passage that specifies two or more behaviors not part of the same procedure contains two
or more commandments, one for each behavior specified.
5) The procedures included in an interrelated activity are summarized in one commandment.
6) A verse that applies to the Tabernacle also applies to the Temple as a commandment.
7) Two equally valid translations of a verse yield two commandments.
8) A commandment is listed only once no matter how many times it's repeated in the Torah.
Maimonides claimed he used fourteen principles to enumerate the commandments he compiled. In truth, he used sixteen. The fifteenth is that the commandments should be deduced from the Torah verses and either derived or paraphrased. I believe he followed this principle more than any of the other fourteen. His principles did not include my principles 1, 3, 4, 6, and 7. However, Maimonides used my 4th principle without naming it (his sixteenth). On the other hand, my principles subsume (mainly by logical assumptions or common sense) almost all of his except principles 6 and 14. Maimonides’ principle 6 says a positive commandment naturally requires a negative commandment saying the opposite of the positive one. I disagree with this principle (it’s counter to my logic). Principle 14 was his approach to determining whether a verse about punishment was to be considered a commandment. Believe me, I know that spirituality pervades the bible. But my emphasis has always been on the legitimacy and accuracy of a commandment, not on the number of commandments or how many are positive or negative (thereby revealing some esoteric and amazing “coincidences.”) Therefore Maimonides' 6th and 14th principles mattered little to me.
[Return to rubinhood Introduction]
On this website I will first list the commandments in English that I have uncovered. They are sorted in order of their appearance in the Torah. There are 558 commandments in this list. I will include explanations where I think the commandment is not easy to understand, especially where pronouns are not clearly defined in the English. Following my listing, I’ll compare these commandments with the commandments in the list compiled by Maimonides, also in English.
I must admit I employed a highly unusual method for deriving and stating the commandments as I enumerated them. I took the novel approach of using the words of the Torah themselves to construct each commandment. I have not paraphrased or interpreted as Maimonides and his predecessors and those following him did. I believe my approach is more true to the intended purpose for the commandments, as God explains in Deut. 31:12 and 13. To interpret a commandment so it says something different from the wording in the Torah is, in my opinion, the height of hubris or thoughtlessness. We Jews have no right or authority to rewrite commandments as given to us by God. In fact, we are told by Moses in Deut. 4:2 and 13:1 that we are to make no changes of any kind to what God has commanded us.
Of the 558 commandments I found, many do not apply to we who live in the modern western world. This is because the Temple doesn’t exist and because some commandments are applicable to biblical Israel. Commandments specific to Temple ritual and practice number 126. Please note that there are many more commandments relating to priests and Levites. If you’ve read my website at rubinhood.org, you know that I advocate using priests (named Cohen, for example) and Levites (named Levy, for example) to run synagogue worship. Thus, according to me, those commandments are applicable today. Commandments addressing practices meaningful only in biblical Israel number 176. The remaining commandments, numbering 256, should be practiced by those of us Jews who love the Lord.
In the next seven pages of this site the numbers of commandments relating to Israel are colored NNN. Those relating to the Temple are colored NNN.
If you're interested in examining my translation of the bible you can find it at www.rubinspace.org. And if you're curious about the amazing and controversial discoveries I made as I wended my way through the Hebrew scriptures, you can find my discussion of them at www.rubinhood.org.
My Commandment List
[1 - 80] [81 - 160] [161 - 240] [241 - 320] [321 - 400] [401 - 480] [481 - 558]
[Gene. 1:28 to Exod. 22:14] [Exod. 22:15 to Levi. 5:13]
[Levi. 5:15 to Levi. 14:10] [Levi. 14:11 to Levi. 19:15]
[Levi. 19:16 to Levi. 22:25] [Levi. 22:27 to Levi. 25:40]
[Levi. 25:41 to Numb. 18:17] [Numb. 18:20 to Deut. 12:15]
[Deut. 12:17 to Deut. 16:22] [Deut. 17:1 to Deut. 22:4]
[Deut. 22:5 to Deut. 24:16] [Deut. 24:17 to Deut. 32:38]