Introduction to the Comparison
On the remaining pages of this website I will show how the commandments I identified compare with the commandments Maimonides enumerated. I’m sorry to report that there are many differences between the two sets.
I have to admit right here that I wish I could say that both sets of commandments were legitimate according to the principles by which each set was identified. If that were the case, it would have to be the principles that might have to be questioned where differences in commandments are found. Yet most disagreements between respective commandments are due to the difference in interpretation and to the degree of departure from the wording of the referenced verse, not the principles. I believe that my principles are as appropriate and as discriminatory as are those of Maimonides. Moreover. because I used the actual words of the Torah (for the most part) as each commandment, I interpreted much less than Maimonides, who must have been influenced by his knowledge of the Talmud (the original reference to the 613 commandments). But who am I to claim this with any kind of authority? After all, my credentials are seriously limited whereas Maimonides is considered by most of Jewry as the greatest biblical scholar of at least the post biblical period, if not all time. Yet I haven’t been able to escape the feeling that Maimonides worked very hard to come up with 365 negative commandments to correspond to the days of the year. What leads me to feel this way? Well, I’ve found (which surprised and puzzled me) that he occasionally transformed a positive verse statement into a negative commandment. I am convinced he had to do that deliberately.
My source for the list of Maimonides’ commandments that I am using on this website is Wikipedia (613 Commandments). The order of the commandments on that site differ from that given by most other online sources. The reason for this is that the Wikipedia site lists the commandments in the order in which they appear in the Torah. Most sites that list the commandments list them by their focus or list the negative and positive commandments in separate groupings. I chose to use the Wikipedia list because it coincided with the order in which mine are enumerated. However, a disclaimer: Some of Maimonides’ commandments are different from other sites and the Wikipedia listing doesn’t conform completely to other listings. However, the primary differences I uncovered are merely substitutions of certain words due to differing translations. The differences are mostly inconsequential.
Although I’m far from sure, I imagine that Maimonides compiled most of his commandments or all of them from his analyzing the Talmud, possibly comparing each of the commandments with the appropriate verse in the Torah. That may explain why so many of his commandments are paraphrased or interpreted from the scripture in a way that sometimes makes little sense unless we assume they were modified to follow the Talmudic rabbis so as to conform to tradition (the “oral law” or the oral part of halachah).
As I present the comparisons, I will explain why or how commandments are unalike or missing from either list. These explanatory comments will appear as your mouse pointer hovers over a commandment. I must say that the reasons I list a commandment that is missing from Maimonides’ list needs less explanation. The reason is that the commandments I’ve enumerated are almost completely taken verbatim from my Torah translation.
I need to mention two more points. The first is about the numbering of the verse given for each commandment. In some cases Maimonides’ references to verses are slightly different from mine. Apparently the verse numbering was derived after Maimonides. So the differences are fairly inconsequential. In all cases where there were differences I used my numbering. I did this so as to make it easier for you to examine any verse in my translation on my website at rubinspace.org.
The second and last point is far more significant. It deals with the wording of the Maimonides commandments, which, when I first came across them, was truly startling to me. If you’ve examined either of my other websites, you know that the second-person pronouns (you, your, and yours) in the Torah are clues to a verse’s meaning and to whom they apply. I was flabbergasted to find that Maimonides ignored these pronouns in his enumeration. There are almost no pronouns indicated in his commandments, so very often it’s not possible to identify for whom the commandments are intended. In other words, they apply to everyone unless in his paraphrasing the words of a verse, he specifically mentions priests, Levites, courts of Jewish law, women, or men. As far as I am concerned, this is a very serious fault in his enumeration of the commandments!
Whatever you may think about the foregoing discussion and the effort I expended over a period of about two years, please examine the comparison before deciding for yourself what matters. I think you’ll find the effort entertaining at the least.
So, ..., Let’s Move On!
My Commandment List
[1 - 80] [81 - 160] [161 - 240] [241 - 320] [321 - 400] [401 - 480] [481 - 559]
[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]