Friday, May 02, 2008

When I finally started posting on this blog last year, I began by presenting a series of mini-lectures on the Mishneh Torah in which I discussed its importance and distinctiveness as a guide to understanding the Oral Torah. With gratitude to Hashem, I continue that series with the current post.

I would encourage interested readers who are unfamiliar with the three posts from 2007 to take a few minutes to explore them. I would also encourage those who did read the initial posts to review them, since much of what will be discussed here and in future installments will be building upon that foundation.



What's In A Count?

In order to ensure that the Mishneh Torah would be comprehensive, the Rambam needed to compile a list of the 613 commandments of the Torah. This would enable him to incorporate each and every mitzvah into the Mishneh Torah in its proper place. When he approached the task of listing the mitsvot, though, he revisited a subject that had greatly pained him for a long time; namely, that all of the popular books that claimed to present the 613 mitsvot had done a terrible job of counting them!

In particular, he criticizes the methods of the Baal Halachot Gedolot (“Bahag”), who committed blatant and grievous errors in his count but was nonetheless followed, more or less, by all subsequent authors on the subject. Rambam laments the failure of the Bahag to count the mitsvot properly, characterizing it as a fulfillment of the prophecy that one day “a book will be given to a knowledgeable person and he will be told ‘please read this’ but he will respond “I cannot, for it is sealed’.

Since the incorrect view of the Bahag was so popular, the Rambam could not simply present his own list. Therefore, he composed the Sefer Hamitsvot, in which he describes, proves and applies his own method of counting the mitsvot.

The key question to deal with is this - what difference does it make how we count the mitsvot? As long as we have a catalogue of all of the laws and regulations we must observe, and we can differentiate between laws that carry Biblical authority and those that are Rabbinical, what significance does identifying the 613 commandments really have?


The Uniqueness of Rambam’s Approach

Here we find an aspect of the Rambam’s work as an expositor that is truly unique. As he states in the very beginning of the Introduction to Mishneh Torah, the Oral Torah is an explanation of the mitsvot. When we study Torah, our objective is to comprehend the commandments fully and accurately. For this purpose, it is not sufficient to have the right practical conclusions if our conceptual knowledge remains incomplete.

In order to explain the mitsvot, we must first identify them. If we group several activities together as one “mitzvah” when they are in reality more than one, or, conversely, if we separate one mitzvah into multiple ones, then our understanding of the principles of the mitsvot in question will necessarily be flawed.

By way of analogy, imagine you were presented with a box full of puzzle pieces and instructed to put them together. Unbeknownst to you, the box actually contains pieces from two different puzzles, or perhaps one whole puzzle and half of another one. Your attempt to fit the various pieces together will either be very forced or totally futile. The same insurmountable challenge would face you if only a half or three quarters of the puzzle pieces were available and you assumed that you had all of them in front of you.

When it comes to mitsvot, the same is the case. We all know that it is forbidden to perform creative activity (melacha) on Shabbat, and that there are thirty-nine distinct categories of behavior that are classified as melacha. If we were to suppose that the prohibition of work on Shabbat is in fact 39 separate commandments rather than one commandment with 39 categories of violation, then we would end up trying to explain each one of the melachot independently of the others as its own system of law with its own principles and objectives. This would lead to a complete misunderstanding of how the laws of Shabbat actually work. The same would be true if we tried to explain each one of the four species of Sukkot as an independent commandment rather than viewing all four as component parts of a single performance.

Combining separate mitsvot is also an error because it blurs the distinction between different commandments. This would be the case if we, for example, adopted the view that the teffilin of the arm and the teffilin of the head are two parts of the same mitzvah rather than two separate commandments. In summary, our understanding of how a mitzvah works and what its purpose is will be impaired if we fail to count the mitsvot properly.

(We see analogies to this situation in the world of science all the time. Scientists often discover that forces, entities, etc., that they once believed to be unrelated are in fact two aspects or dimensions of one thing. Alternatively, they may realize that a phenomenon they thought was simple is in fact the product of multiple forces operating in a given set of circumstances. If we believe, as most did before Isaac Newton introduced his theory, that the principles of gravitation are unique to this planet and that the sun, stars, etc., follow different laws of physics, then we will be forced to devise two separate sets of scientific explanations: one for the motions observed in the heavens and another for those observed on earth. By contrast, when we study psychology, we find that one behavior can actually represent multiple ‘forces’ within a personality; in other words, what seems to be a unity is actually the result of the convergence and confluence of separate factors. Someone unaware of this fact might try to find a single motive that will explain a person’s actions rather than taking the time to consider the complex web of emotions and interests that might be at work below the surface. Put simply, the number of things we think we are explaining will influence the kinds of explanations we offer.)


The Difference Between Mishneh Torah and Shulhan Aruch

This attitude of the Rambam highlights the difference between his code and the Shulhan Aruch of R’ Yosef Karo. Both Rabbis, sensing the problem of the multiplicity of Jewish legal opinions, sought to simplify and systematize the laws of the Torah in a single text. The Rambam envisioned his objective as primarily conceptual – that is, he intended to present a complete understanding of the mitsvot in the Mishneh Torah. This required him to tackle philosophical and purely theoretical subjects with the same seriousness and care as issues of practical law. For the Rambam, consistent, correct practical application is a natural result of proper comprehension.

By contrast, R Yosef Karo aimed at providing an exclusively practical guide to Jewish observance. For this reason, he didn’t involve himself in issues such as counting the mitsvot or addressing areas of Torah that are not applicable in the modern world (ex., matters related to the Temple or sacrifices).

In the next installment of this series, we will explore the structure of the Mishneh Torah and what it reveals about the Rambam's approach to Torah study in general.

8 comments:

Matt said...

First of all, I'm really glad that you decided to continue this series of posts. I've found them quite illuminating, and continue to see new depth upon each reading.

In the last installment you wrote: "A person of Torah, on the other hand, is governed by the principles of God’s wisdom in every aspect of his existence – material, spiritual, social and practical. The deeper and more comprehensive his understanding of Torah principles, the more integrated, harmonious and wise his lifestyle choices become. As knowledge of Torah expands and illuminates one’s perspective on the world, it slowly replaces instinct and impulse as the guiding force in one’s life."

It seems, then, that a miscounting of the mitzvos will result in an misordering of one's life, or in a distorted view of the art of living well. Maybe this is what you meant by, "In summary, our understanding of how a mitzvah works and what its purpose is will be impaired if we fail to count the mitsvot properly." But if my intuition here is correct, I would appreciate it if you could elaborate on this in your essay.

Maestri said...

BS"D

Shalom.
I gave the address once, but now we have a new URL. Torah texts translated in ITA, FR and ENG.
Beatzlachah!

Anonymous said...

So last week I was thinking for starting my online business and to obtain some affiliate websites I really don't know if it is best option to build one myself or purchase some already turnkey affiliate marketing websites. I just discovered site
[url=http://www.home-businessreviews.com/Turnkey-Affiliate-Websites.html]website affiliate[/url] and there was some reviews about them but I yet haven't decided what to do. Maybe there some people who can give some opinion about websites reviewed at that site?
http://www.home-businessreviews.com/Turnkey-Affiliate-Websites.html

Anonymous said...

[url=http://anxietyanswers.co.cc/Anxiety/how-to-deal-with-child-separation-anxiety/]how to deal with child separation anxiety[/url]
[url=http://anxietyanswers.co.cc/Anxiety/how-to-ease-separation-anxiety/]how to ease separation anxiety[/url]
[url=http://anxietyanswers.co.cc/Anxiety/how-to-relieve-anxiety-and-stress/]how to relieve anxiety and stress[/url]
[url=http://anxietyanswers.co.cc/Anxiety/how-to-get-rid-of-my-anxiety/]how to get rid of my anxiety[/url]
[url=http://anxietyanswers.co.cc/Anxiety/how-to-help-with-separation-anxiety/]how to help with separation anxiety[/url]
[url=http://anxietyanswers.co.cc/Anxiety/how-to-get-over-anxiety-without-medicine/]how to get over anxiety without medicine[/url]
[url=http://anxietyanswers.co.cc/Anxiety/how-to-prevent-separation-anxiety-in-puppies/]how to prevent separation anxiety in puppies[/url]
[url=http://anxietyanswers.co.cc/Anxiety/how-to-overcome-relationship-anxiety/]how to overcome relationship anxiety[/url]
[url=http://anxietyanswers.co.cc/Anxiety/how-to-deal-with-night-time-separation-anxiety/]how to deal with night time separation anxiety[/url]
[url=http://anxietyanswers.co.cc/Anxiety/how-to-fix-social-anxiety/]how to fix social anxiety[/url]
[url=http://anxietyanswers.co.cc/Anxiety/how-to-get-over-relationship-anxiety/]how to get over relationship anxiety[/url]
[url=http://anxietyanswers.co.cc/Anxiety/how-to-handle-anxiety-and-worry/]how to handle anxiety and worry[/url]
[url=http://anxietyanswers.co.cc/Anxiety/how-to-fight-stress-and-anxiety/]how to fight stress and anxiety[/url]
[url=http://anxietyanswers.co.cc/Anxiety/how-to-deal-with-puppy-separation-anxiety/]how to deal with puppy separation anxiety[/url]
[url=http://anxietyanswers.co.cc/Anxiety/how-to-relieve-anxiety-chest-pain/]how to relieve anxiety chest pain[/url]

Anonymous said...

[url=http://members.ebay.com/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewUserPage&userid=buycefuroxime]Buying Ceftin Pharmacy Without Prescription[/url]
[url=http://members.ebay.com/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewUserPage&userid=buycefuroxime]does ceftin contain penecilin[/url]
[url=http://members.ebay.com/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewUserPage&userid=buycefuroxime]pdr ivax ceftin[/url]
[url=http://members.ebay.com/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewUserPage&userid=buycefuroxime]Ceftin Overdose[/url]
[url=http://members.ebay.com/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewUserPage&userid=buycefuroxime]Ceftin No Prescription Cash On Delivery[/url]
[url=http://members.ebay.com/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewUserPage&userid=buycefuroxime]medication ceftin[/url]
[url=http://members.ebay.com/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewUserPage&userid=buycefuroxime]miserable with ceftin side effects help[/url]
[url=http://members.ebay.com/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewUserPage&userid=buycefuroxime]Ceftin Cheap Fed Ex Delivery[/url]
[url=http://members.ebay.com/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewUserPage&userid=buycefuroxime]best price for ceftin 50ml[/url]
[url=http://members.ebay.com/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewUserPage&userid=buycefuroxime]How To Buy Ceftin With Out A Perscription[/url]
[url=http://members.ebay.com/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewUserPage&userid=buycefuroxime]Genaric Buy Ceftin Online[/url]
[url=http://members.ebay.com/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewUserPage&userid=buycefuroxime]Ceftin Online Cash On Delivery[/url]
[url=http://members.ebay.com/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewUserPage&userid=buycefuroxime]Ceftin discount[/url]
[url=http://members.ebay.com/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewUserPage&userid=buycefuroxime]Where Can I Get Order Ceftin[/url]
[url=http://members.ebay.com/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewUserPage&userid=buycefuroxime]Online Ceftin Purchase[/url]

Anonymous said...

[url=http://myflat.co.cc/My-flat/how-to-get-rid-of-flat-stomach/]how to get rid of flat stomach[/url]
[url=http://myflat.co.cc/My-flat/how-to-get-a-flat-stomach-and-small-waist/]how to get a flat stomach and small waist[/url]
[url=http://myflat.co.cc/My-flat/how-to-maintain-a-flat-stomach/]how to maintain a flat stomach[/url]
[url=http://myflat.co.cc/My-flat/how-to-buy-a-flat-panel-lcd-tv/]how to buy a flat panel lcd tv[/url]
[url=http://myflat.co.cc/My-flat/how-to-cure-flat-feet/]how to cure flat feet[/url]
[url=http://myflat.co.cc/My-flat/how-to-get-a-flat-chest/]how to get a flat chest[/url]
[url=http://myflat.co.cc/My-flat/how-to-maintain-flat-belly/]how to maintain flat belly[/url]
[url=http://myflat.co.cc/My-flat/how-to-fix-a-run-flat-tire/]how to fix a run flat tire[/url]
[url=http://myflat.co.cc/My-flat/how-to-sell-a-flat/]how to sell a flat[/url]
[url=http://myflat.co.cc/My-flat/how-to-fix-a-road-bike-flat-tire/]how to fix a road bike flat tire[/url]
[url=http://myflat.co.cc/My-flat/how-to-tell-if-your-flat-footed/]how to tell if your flat footed[/url]
[url=http://myflat.co.cc/My-flat/how-to-buy-a-hdb-flat-in-singapore/]how to buy a hdb flat in singapore[/url]
[url=http://myflat.co.cc/My-flat/how-to-get-a-flat-belly-in-3-days/]how to get a flat belly in 3 days[/url]
[url=http://myflat.co.cc/My-flat/how-to-keep-hamburgers-flat/]how to keep hamburgers flat[/url]
[url=http://myflat.co.cc/My-flat/how-to-keep-hair-from-going-flat/]how to keep hair from going flat[/url]

Anonymous said...

The term [url=http://www.jkahosting.com] web hosting [/url] is elementary, but the mechanics behind it are not.
Web Hosting is a sitting that was coined to legitimate the services performed during someone that "hosts" a Web site on the Everyone Off the target Web.
You already skilled in that a herd is someone that facilitates an consequence, or a behave, like the hotelman at a festival, or an emcee on the tranny or TV.
In our in the event that, a "host" involves a computer that is setup to direction the networking and communications necessary to deduct a Cobweb Milieu to flaunt specially formatted documents on the The world at large Extensive Web.
Typically, these documents are formatted using a idiosyncratic vernacular called HTML (Hypertext Markup Argot) that supports mouse click connections to other similar documents on the World Wide Web.
These HTML documents are normally called Network Pages, and you are looking at one such page now in your browser window. To preserve continue track of these Trap pages in an organized style, individual and limited areas are set-aside looking for them called Web Sites.
A website may sustain lone web page or thousands. Websites are stored on "body" computers that are connected to the Internet and setup to communicate their contents to the lie-down of the Internet.
The people and companies that helve these notable computers are called Snare Hosts.
The computers that wield the Spider's web Hosting chores are called Servers, and they may correct any host of Network sites, one or compensate hundreds.
A spider's web innkeeper ensures that the Network Servers that curb the Network Sites are functioning properly all of the time.
That may comprehend adding a customer's Network sites to the Servers, pathetic Spider's web sites from unified Server to another, deleting dusty Entanglement Sites, monitoring the amount of Internet traffic and labour taking area and a multitude of other tasks required to ensure facilitate sand operation.
[url=http://www.jkahosting.com/megaplan.html]Web hosting [/url] companies blame succumb to in miscellaneous shapes and sizes, and uncountable specialize in certain types of Hosting.

Each Web site has a expert in on the Era Large Trap and each habitation has an address.
In fact, this is much like your own territory where there is an actual corporal limit where each Web purlieus resides.
As mentioned upstairs, this medic space is called a Net Server.
A Net Server serves up Network pages and is as a matter of fact rather alike resemble to your private computer except that it is gifted of connecting to the Internet in a manner that allows the log a few zees z's of the Internet to envisage the Network sites residing there.
In its simplest formula, space is rented on a Web Server for a Trap locality, much like renting property.

Anonymous said...

Defensive Driving is essentially driving in a technique that utilizes tried driving strategies to enables motorists to address identified hazards in a predictable manner.
These strategies skim through all right beyond instruction on central above laws and procedures.

With defensive driving classes, students learn to recover their driving skills nearby reducing their driving risks by means of anticipating situations and making secure in the know decisions.
Such decisions are implemented based on course and environmental conditions register when completing a shielded driving maneuver.
The benefits of enchanting a defensive driving group restyle with each official, but usually tabulate a reduction of points on your driver’s entitle following a ticket and the assurance that cover rates liking not increase.
In some states, taking a [url=http://www.floridatrafficinstitute.com] florida traffic school [/url] class can course a reduction of up to 10% in your security rates into a spell of three to five years.
Just as the benefits of defensive driving classes depart with each circumstances, so do the requirements. While most basic defensive driving classes are four hours extended, some can be as long as six or eight hours.

In some states, students have the election to palm defensive driving courses online or by means of watching a video record or DVD, while other states merely concede students to affinity for defensive driving in a classroom setting.
The contents of a defensive driving routine are regulated by each style and are designed to exercise you based on the laws of your state. In spite of that, most defensive driving classes contain compare favourably with information.

Losses from above crashes tease both social and exclusive impacts.
About 41,000 lose one's life annually as a sequel of shipping collisions, with an additional 3,236,000 injuries.
Up 38% of all harmful car crashes are moonshine mutual with another 30% attributed to speeding.

The causes of these crashes, enthusiastic change and expense in dollars spent on car crashes are typically covered in defensive driving courses.
The goal of flattering defensive driving is to diminish the risk of these accidents at hand becomingly educating students to train wariness and good judgment while driving.

On the roadways, drivers partake of to deal with a variety of factors that can transform their driving.
However some of them are beyond the conduct of the driver, psychogenic factors can be controlled by the driver if he knows what to look owing and how to pat it.

Defensive driving courses keep an eye on to blurred on how drivers can influenced disputatious cognitive factors such as unneeded tension, fatigue, high-strung distress and other associated issues.
The florida movement instil courses will resist you purge points from your license. Additional tidings on be posted at a later date.