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    Counting the commands – T’tzavveh

    613Enshrined in the name of the sidra is the verb tz-v-h, to command.

    Everyone knows the noun mitzvah which derives from this verb. (Even those who claim to know no Hebrew actually are aware of a bevy of Hebrew words, beginning with shalom and covering a host of ideas, insights, attitudes and occasions.)

    Basically mitzvah means commandment, and there are 613 of them. Why do we need so many?

    One answer is given by the medieval philosopher Joseph Albo, author of the “Ikkarim”, who says that in theory a person could earn the life of the World to Come by doing just one mitzvah, but it would have to be a really quality mitzvah performed in a truly quality manner.

    On the other hand, when the Talmud says (Makkot 23b) that Moses received not one but 613 commandments from God, it is because every moment of every day provides an opportunity for an act of love for God.

    “You shall love the Lord your God”, says the core text of Judaism, the Sh’ma; the mitzvah-conscious Jew says, “Every mitzvah I do is a love-letter to God”.

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