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    So many commandments – Ki Tetzei

    This parashah contains so many mitzvot that it proves Rabbi Chananyah ben Akashya’s statement in Mishnah Makkot, utilised as the epilogue of each chapter of Pir’kei Avot, that “The Holy One, Blessed be He, wished to bestow merit on Israel; therefore He gave them a copious Torah and commandments”.

    The traditional enumeration of the commandments is 613 – 248 positive and 365 negative.

    Those who coldly criticise the Jewish system constantly cavil at the abundance of precepts and claim that observant Jews are so constricted by commandments that no-one has any freedom and there is more legalism than spirituality in Judaism.

    The strange thing is that the Jew who lives by the commandments sees them not as constricting but empowering.

    Take the command, “Do not murder”. In one sense it does restrict you; it makes it impossible to wilfully destroy a human life.

    In another sense it is totally empowering; it says, “Now that other people are safe from being murdered at your hand, what can you do to enrich their lives?”

    Take the command, “Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy”. Yes, it restricts you in that you cannot transgress the requirement to make the day different.

    But it also says to you, “Now that you know Shabbat is special, what can you do to imbue the day with spiritual and cultural quality?”

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