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Zohar HaRakia

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Judaism and Jewish Life

Series Editor: Simcha Fishbane, Touro College, New York

Editorial Board:
Geoffrey Alderman (University of Buckingham, Buckinham)
Meir Bar-Ilan (Bar-Ilan University, Ramat Gan)
Herbert Basser (Queen’s University, Kingston, Ontario)
Donatella Ester Di Cesare (Universita La Sapienza, Rome)
Roberta Rosenberg Farber (Yeshiva University, New York)
Andreas Nachama (Touro College, Berlin)
Ira Robinson (Concordia University, Montreal)
Nissan Rubin (Bar-Ilan Unviersity, Ramat Gan)
Susan Starr Sered (Suffolk University, Boston)
Reeva Spector Simon (Yeshiva University, New York)

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English Translation

Boston 2012

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Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data:

A catalog record for this book is available from the Library of Congress.

Copyright © 2012 Academic Studies Press

All rights reserved

ISBN 978-1-936235-57-5

Book design by Adell Medovoy

Published by Academic Studies Press in 2012

28 Montfern Avenue
Brighton, MA 02135, USA

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Translator’s Preface 6

Introduction 9

Zohar HaRakia: General Principles 12

The Positive Commandments 65

The Negative Commandments 221

Appendix to the Zohar HaRakia 421

Glossary 439

Translator’s Afterword 442

Index 445

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Translator's Preface

In my book on the enumeration of the 613 commandments of the Torah

(The Puzzle of the 613 Commandments and Why Bother, Jason Aronson
Inc., Northvale, NJ, 1996), I give considerable attention to the Zohar
Harakia in chapters 6 and 17. I was convinced that this work had much
to offer to a broad spectrum of students. Not the least of the merits of
this book is that it uses as a basis the enumeration embodied in Sh’mor
Libi Ma’aneh, the poetic version of the great Solomon ibn Gabirol. A
fascinating memoir by Nobel laureate S. Y. Agnon is built on his experi-
ence while reading this Azharot (poetic version of the commandments
designed for recitation on the first night of Shavuot).
A second virtue of the Zohar Harakia is that it serves as a concise
review of the classical period of the development of the enumera-
tion of the commandments. It summarizes the contributions of the
Halachot Gedolot, Maimonides’s Sefer Hamitzvot, and the critique of
Nachmanides, as well as explaining the language of ibn Gabirol. It is
also noteworthy in that the author tries to make his work understand-
able to Jewish layman students. Finally, the author gives his own opin-
ions, which may conflict with those of earlier authorities.
The author of Zohar Harakia was Shimon ben Zemach Duran (1361–
1444). Like his predecessors, Maimonides and Nachmanides, his life
was disturbed by persecution, since the Spanish anti-Semitic outbreaks
of 1391 caused him to abandon his native Majorca and settle in Algiers.
Also, like his great predecessors, he was trained in medicine. However,
he could not practice his profession in his new home, since the people
there looked to amulets for healing rather than medical expertise. He
became a paid rabbinic leader, devoting his life to leadership in his com-
munity, and he produced a number of valuable books.
The Zohar Harakia, although highly regarded and often quoted in
subsequent works on enumerating the commandments, was not print-
ed often, and I had difficulty in finding it in Jewish bookstores. Two
things had an influence on my decision to write a translation. One is
the recent appearance of Rabbi David Abraham’s improved edition of
the Zohar Harakia (Jerusalem, 1987/5747). This work includes a valu-
able Hebrew commentary and gives sources for many biblical and rab-
binic quotations, most of which had not appeared before. Without this,

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it would have been problematic for me to undertake this translation.

The second influential circumstance was the state of the printed
text of the Zohar Harakia. The Torah Shlemah Institute’s edition of
this work (Jerusalem, 1977) contains notes and textual corrections
by the eminent authority Rabbi Y. Perlow. I assumed, therefore, that
there was no need to worry about inadequacies of the text. But upon
studying a certain section in the introduction, I came across a series of
obvious errors that showed that I had overrated the soundness of the
text. Therefore, I sought out earlier editions and succeeded in obtaining
two early versions. One of them was a copy of the first printed edi-
tion (Constantinople, 1515), which I obtained from the British Library
(Shelfmark, 1962.d.20). The second was a copy of a manuscript in the
Bodleian Library of Oxford University (Shelfmark MS.Mich.3434),
which I obtained indirectly from a microfilm copy in the Jewish
Theological Seminary library. I deeply appreciate this, since it enabled
me to make many worthwhile corrections. I also thank Rabbi Ephraim
Greenbaum of the Torah Shlemah Institute for enabling me to make a
photocopy of the original marginal notes of Rabbi Perlow. I also wish to
acknowledge Dr. Arnold Lustiger of Edison, New Jersey, for his expert
help in locating a troublesome Midrashic citation, which showed that
Duran had misunderstood it.
My wife, Iola, my children, and their families have been helpful
during the preparation of this work. My grandson Adam in particu-
lar has been my main consultant regarding the technicalities of typ-
ing the document. I am indebted to my friend Rabbi Ezra Labaton of
Oakhurst, New Jersey, for his interest, encouragement, and efforts to
find a publisher. Also, I am thankful to Professor Raymond Scheindlin
of the Jewish Theological Seminary of America for examining a portion
of my manuscript and his evaluation. Finally, I happily recall here the
many years in which I had conducted weekly study sessions with my
wife, Iola, and my friends Elli Epstein, Elaine Zimmerman, and Morris
Zimmerman. “I learned the most from my students.”
I am immensely grateful to Academic Studies Press and its staff. Dr.
Simcha Fishbane was the one who initiated this connection. The edito-
rial personnel were professional, competent, and supportive in their
work on this demanding manuscript. In particular, I extend my thanks
to Dr. Sara Libby Robinson, Sharona Vedol, and Kira Nemirovsky.
During recent years my wife and I have undergone many challenges

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together. We are also thankful for the many happy times that we shared,
not the least of which was when my study time and her violin practice
time filled our dwelling simultaneously.

Baruch Hanoten La’ya’ef Koach.

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In the Name of the Eternal God of the World

I have seen people of quality, and they are but few, and just one in ten of
these are masters. But there is a proliferation of unworthy people who
are sinful to God and speak like the piercings of a sword (Prov. 12:18).
They drink bowls of wine and strum on stringed instruments. They fill
their houses with silver, cloaks and girdles, turbans (Isa. 3:22–23), coats,
and vests. They are fat and sleek (Jer. 5:28), and they kick aside those
who dwell before the Lord They encircle them and pursue them and eas-
ily trample them (Judg. 20:43), while they let go from their mouths the
nipples of wisdom. They fill them with bitter herbs; they make them
swallow wall ivy and asafetida. They strike the face of a judge of Israel
with a rod and pluck his cheeks. And they become to all around them
a prickly brier and a painful thorn, despising them (Ezek. 28:24). [The
righteous] are among lions and must lie amid flames (Ps. 57:5).
But I, in the exile on the river Chebar (Ezek. 1:1),2 have hated doing
crooked things (Ps. 101:3), and I have hated them that keep false vani-
ties (Jon. 2:9) and seek idols and charmers (Isa. 19:3). All my life I have
grown up among the wise (Avot 1:17) from whose mouth I took Torah,
statutes, and laws. I did not envy the arrogant (Ps. 73:3), those who
were at ease from youth, settled quietly over their sediment (Jer. 48:11),
brought up with scarlet (Lam. 4:5), and dressed in crimson delicately,
having wrapped themselves with garments of linen and purple cloth
(Esther 8:15) and having eaten delicacies of gazelle, deer, roebuck, and
fine wheat flour. For I have seen during my days of vanity that guarded
wealth can make wings for itself (Prov. 23:5); one may lie down a rich

1 This is a prefatory poetic statement about the author’s values and the nature of his book. It is
written in the common florid style based mostly on biblical verses. I have indicated many of the
biblical sources in order to make the mode of expression more understandable. The main poetic
device used is the repetition of the sound teem at the end of sentences. The thoughts expressed
are (a) the vanity of worldly pleasures, (b) the excellence of the pursuit of wisdom, (c) the author’s
experience of conflicting enumerations by preceding authorities of the 613 commandments, (d)
his decision to study the subject deeply and to formulate his own evaluations, and (e) his hope that
his work Zohar Harakia will be blessed with success. The opening line is based on a Talmudic source
(Sanhedrin 97b, Sukkah 45b) about a statement of Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai. It perhaps was part
of Duran’s intention to play on the identity of his own name with that of the great Talmudic figure.
2 Duran actually resided in Algiers. Like Ezekiel, he was forced to abandon his birthplace.

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man, and at daybreak his acquisitions can tumble. Those who store up
violent gain and plunder will reach a time when they will be violently
hurled, and they will be wound around (Isa. 22:18). Their wealth will be
no avail on the day of wrath to save those who are taken toward death
and are tottering toward slaughter (Prov. 24:11). Though the same event
befalls the righteous as the wicked (Eccles. 9:2), and as one dies, so dies
the other (ibid., 3:19), for the one they weep and mourn, and for the
other they scratch themselves and make incisions. I have seen, never-
theless, that there is an excellence of wisdom over wealth, just as those
who use good sense have excellence over fools. For the rich man on his
death leaves his wealth to others (Ps. 49:11) who may eat, drink, and
curse, and when they quarrel, they will lie down in sorrow (Isa. 50:13),
struggling and arguing. However, when the wise man lies down [in
death] with his fathers, he leaves behind him a treasured and organized
blessing; books that enlighten like the brilliance of the firmament (Dan.
12:3) and that extend peace like a river (Isa. 66:12).
And today, I was called away from the valley of the law, and I saw
army arrayed against army in battles of wielding (Isa. 30:32) drawn
swords; in the hand of one a splendid rod and in the hand of the other
a strong staff (Isa. 48:17) and rods, to bring forth the number of God’s
host, i.e., his commandments, to call out each of them by name, accord-
ing to his criteria, one saying one way and the other saying otherwise;
one having his sword at his side, and the other one saying, “Brighten the
arrows and gather the shields” (Jer. 51:11). I saw this, and I was con-
fused, I fell on my face and I slumbered, I fainted and I became ill (Dan.
8:27) like a man would sleep after being chastised with scorpions and
whips (1 Kings 12:11). And when I said, “Let me turn to see” (Exod. 3:3)
[these discussions], pains came upon me (Dan. 10:16), and all my bones
shook, and my heart swayed like the swaying of acacia trees (Isa. 7:2).
But on second thought, I saw that I am not better than my fathers and
not greater than my teachers. For when I see a book compiled in which
weighty things are treated (Ps. 87:3), a person should sharpen the face
of his comrade (Prov. 27:17). He should protect and give understanding
[to his comrades], who are picking among the sheaves after the harvest
(Ruth 2:15).3

3 The preceding says that one should not be overwhelmed by the difficulties in the works of his
predecessors but should work on elucidating them for the benefit of his fellow students.

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Then [there came a time when] I could say, “Behold I came with the
scroll of a book written about what my eyes saw and my eyes discerned,”
since I sifted the flour and removed the bran. And I spoke the prayer,
“May He who answered Phineas at Shittim answer us from his holy
heavens.”4 Since this book is based on the Azharot, I called it Zohar
Harakia (Dan. 12:3). So perhaps God will see me in my lowly state and
will show me Himself and His abode in the section of the righteous,
who shine like the brightness of the firmament (ibid.). And when my
transformation comes (Josh. 14:14), my name will be on this book as a
memorial, as the names of the tribes were on Aaron’s shoulders (Exod.
28:9–12). And if I go on this road with my heart wayward (Isa. 57:17),
will not God search this out, for He knows the hidden parts of the heart,
His throne is the heavens, and His eyes survey the whole earth. May He
send to us the messenger of the covenant (Mal. 3:1), for a redeemer will
come to Zion, the king bound captive in their coils (Song of Songs 7:6).

4 There is no explicit mention in Num. 25 of Phineas praying at Shittim. But in Ps. 106:30, the word
vayefallel is used, which is akin to the word for “prayed.” In the penitential prayer “Mi sheanah,”
we have “May He who answered Phineas when he arose from the congregation, answer us.” The
reason why Duran picked the particular instance of Phineas was on account of the place Shittim,
which is good for his rhyme scheme here.

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Zohar Harakia: General Principles5

If you have accomplished much in Torah, God will not

withhold your reward.
By the breath of your mouth you will sustain the land,
you will spread the firmament with Him (Job 37:18).
With the rod of your mouth you will smite the enemy,
and by the breath of your mouth you will breach the
At the sound of the horn you will utter “Aha!”
You will topple the wall when you sound a blast.
With a fish-hook you will draw out Leviathan,
and you will imbed a rope in his tongue (Job 40:25).
Like the everlasting stars, you will shine like the bright-
ness of the firmament.

This is something agreed throughout all Israel that the number

of commandments is 613. And there is no disagreement about this
at all. The source of this is what is stated at the end of Makkot (23b)
that Rabbi Simlai expounded that 613 commandments were spoken
to Moses at Sinai, 365 [prohibitions] corresponding to the days of the
year, and 248 [positive commandments] corresponding to a man’s body
parts. Rav Hamnuna said, “What is a scriptural source for this? It is
(Deut. 33:4) ‘Moses commanded us Torah,’ and the gematria value of
Torah is this.” But it was objected that the numerical value of Torah is
611. The reply given was that (Exod. 20:2) “I am . . .” and (Exod. 20:3)
“You shall not have . . .” we heard from the mouth of the Mighty One
[so there were two commandments that Israel received directly and 611
through Moses].
There is not found any disagreement with Rabbi Simlai’s statement
either in the Talmud or Midrash. However, there is an argument in
Midrash Chazita (Shir Hashirim Raba 1:13) about the asmachta proof
of Rav Hamnuna. For it is stated there that Rabbi Joshua ben Levi said

5 The following poem extolling the rewards of studying Torah has six lines. Each line ends with the
sound kia, which is the concluding sound of the Hebrew title.

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that two statements [of the Decalogue] Israel heard from the mouth of
the Holy One, blessed is He, i.e., “I am . . .” and “You shall not have . . .”
That is alluded to by (Song of Songs 1:2) “He would kiss me from the
kisses of his mouth” [implying] not all of the kisses. [The rabbis say that
the kisses here symbolize the giving of the Decalogue, and the preposi-
tion “from” implies that only some parts of it were given directly like a
kiss.] But the other rabbis said that Israel heard all the statements [of
the Decalogue] from the mouth of the Mighty One. Rabbi Joshua of
Sichnin in the name of Rabbi Levi [explained] that the reasoning of the
other rabbis is that only after all the statements of the Decalogue that
it is written (Exod. 20:16) “You speak with us that we may hear” [that
is, the people, having heard the Decalogue directly from the Almighty,
were overwhelmed and asked that thereafter Moses should speak God’s
messages]. How does Rabbi Joshua ben Levi deal with this [reasoning
on the basis of Exod. 20:16]? He would say that there is no chronological
order in the Torah [and the request in 20:16 happened after the second
statement, and the remaining eight were delivered by Moses]. Then [if
the chronological order is uncertain, how do you know it happened af-
ter the second statement, since] “you speak with us that we may hear”
might have been spoken after two or three statements of the Decalogue.
[This is addressed by] Rabbi Azariah and Rabbi Yehudah b’rabbi Simon,
who said on behalf of Rabbi Joshua ben Levi, whose opinion they held:
“It is written ‘Moses commanded us Torah.’ The whole Torah has 613
commandments. The gematria value of Torah accounts for 611 com-
mandments that Moses spoke to us. ‘I am . . .’ and ‘You shall not have . . .’
we heard not from Moses’s mouth but from the mouth of the Holy
One, blessed is He [in conformity with Rabbi Joshua ben Levi’s opinion
about] ‘He would kiss me from the kisses of his mouth.’” [This concludes
the quotation from Midrash Chazita.]
Thus, it is clear that there is disagreement about the interpretation
of Rav Hamnuna. Nevertheless, we must say that even though the
Midrashic interpretation of the verse, “Moses commanded us Torah” is
not accepted by everyone, still the number of Rabbi Simlai is accepted by
everyone. Even if they could not find any support for this in Scripture,
we could say that it was an accepted tradition that this was the number
of the commandments, and we should indeed say this, since we have
seen this number occurring widely in the Talmud and Midrashim. For
even in Midrash Chazita, in which the disagreement, which I mentioned

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was quoted, this number is mentioned even there as the number of the
And in the Talmud, Sh’vuot (29a) and Nedarim (25a), regarding the
oath that Moses made Israel take, they stated, “He could have said, ‘Keep
the commandment concerning idol worship and the whole of the Torah,’
or else [instead of ‘the whole Torah’] ‘the 613 commandments.’” Also in
the Gemara Shabbat, chapter “Rabbi Akiva” (87a), and in Yebamot (62a)
it says, “What reasoning [led Moses to] break the tablets [of stone]? He
said that concerning the law of the Paschal lamb, which is only one of
the 613 commandments, the Torah states (Exod. 12:43), ‘No alien shall
eat of it.’ So when the whole Torah is involved, and Israel as a whole have
become apostates, it is even more true [that is, Israel does not deserve
to have the privilege of possessing the Torah, so he broke the tablets].”
Also in the Gemara Yebamot (47b), it is stated concerning Naomi that
she said to Ruth, “We are charged with observing 613 commandments.”
Likewise, [it is said] in Bereshit Rabba (24:5) that Rabbi Yehudah ben
Rabbi Simon said that the primeval Adam was worthy of having the
Torah given through him, which is in keeping with the verse (Gen. 5:1)
“This is the book of the generations of Adam.” The Holy One, blessed is
He, said, “I shall give the Torah to this work of my hands.” But He later
changed His mind and said, “I gave him only six commandments and
he has not been able to obey any of them: so how should I give him 248
positive commandments and 365 prohibitions?”
Also, in Midrash Tanchuma (Tetze 2), it is said that there are 248
positive commandments corresponding to the limbs of a person, [to
suggest] that each part of the body is telling him “Perform a command-
ment with me.” And there are 365 prohibitions, [to suggest] that every
day is saying to him, “Do not do a transgression on me.” And it is simi-
larly stated in Midrash Mishlei (Yalkut Mishlei 4:937). Likewise, there
are hints mentioned about this matter (Midrash Rabba, end of Korach),
where they expound concerning the tzitzit the verse (Num. 15:39) “And
you shall remember all the commandments of the Lord” [How does the
tzitzit symbolize all the commandments?] Tzitzit [when spelled with an
extra yod] has the gematria value 600. And the tzitzit fringes have eight
threads and five knots, so this adds up to 613. They also said about Jacob
that [even while] in the house of Laban, he fulfilled the 613 command-
ments, as it is said (Gen. 34:2 ), “I dwelt with Laban” [the word garti, I
dwelt] has the numerical value 613. They likewise said that Ruth the

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Moabite was so named [the gematria value of Ruth being 606] because
she became a proselyte and received 606 commandments, which, in ad-
dition to the seven Noachide laws, becomes 613. Also they expounded
that (Jer. 2:21) “I planted you as a sorek” that it [sorek] has the gematria
value 606, corresponding to the number of commandments, which He
added for us over the Noachide laws. Also, etrog [citron] has the gema-
tria value 610, which combines with the three other species that are
with it to become 613.
We also have found a hint about this in the number of letters in the
Decalogue, which are 613 until [the last two words] asher l’re’echa. And
asher l’re’echa has seven letters corresponding to the Noachide laws.
When these are added, it becomes 620, which alludes to the Exalted
Crown of Torah [the gematria value of Keter, meaning “Crown,” is 620],
as is known to those familiar with Kabbalah.6
There is another allusion to this due to the masters of Kabbalah, based
on the thirty-two paths of wisdom, which Abraham, our patriarch, men-
tioned in his well-known book Sefer Yetzirah (Book of Creation). When
you multiply this by ten [the number of] utterances in the Decalogue,
which also corresponds to the ten Sefirot [of the mystical theory], you
have 320. Multiply this number by two, one corresponding to the quality
of love and the other to that of awe, and it also corresponds to the com-
mandment of “remember” (Exod. 20:8) and “observe” (Deut. 5:12) and
also to the two qualities of divine justice. This makes 640. Now subtract
that from the twenty-seven letters of the Hebrew alphabet [the twenty-
two regular letters] plus [the final forms of] mem, nun, tzade, pe, kaph,
there remains 613. For this reason, the Torah begins with the letter bet
and ends with a lamed [numerical values 2 and 30, respectively] to cor-
respond with the thirty-two paths of wisdom.
Furthermore, the number of threads of the tzitzit in the four corners
[of the garment] is thirty-two, eight on each corner. Therefore, it is writ-
ten (Num. 15:39), “And you shall remember [all of the commandments]”
[since the 613 commandments are based on the thirty-two paths of
wisdom]. In the commandment of tefillin, there is also an indication of
the 613 commandments, for the two letters shin on the chamber of the

6 The kabbalistic term for the highest of the Sefirot is Keter, i.e., Crown, or Keter Elyon, i.e., Exalted
Crown. The insertion “of Torah” is not standard terminology. It is based on the saying “the crown
of the Torah” in Avot 4:13, where it has a different connotation. Its insertion here may be due to
the numerical correspondence between the total content of the Torah and the highest Sefirah.

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head tefillin have the gematria value of 600 [since each shin equals 300].
The box itself equals six, [i.e., the six faces of a cube], and, as for the two
shins on the head chamber, one has three heads and the other has four,
so they all add up to 613. This is why it says, “That the law of the Lord be
in your mouth” (Exod. 13:9).
So there is a large consensus that this number is appropriate for the
enumeration of the commandments, about which there is no doubt
in the discussions of the Talmud and the Midrashim. Also, the early
Geonim and their great successors held this to be fundamental. And po-
ets relied on them and composed songs and poems about them7, and the
custom developed to recite them on Shavuot in synagogues throughout
the Diaspora of Israel, and no one expressed any doubt about this.
But there occurred to Nachmanides a serious doubt about this. This
is that many things are found in the Torah where there is disagreement
among the Talmudic sages as to whether they constitute a command-
ment or [an expression of] permission. Nachmanides cited some of
them, e.g., that Rabbi Ishmael and Rabbi Akiva disagreed in Tractate
Sotah (3a) about three verses as to whether they indicate obligation
or permission. The first is (Num. 5:14) “and he be jealous of his wife,”
which, according to Rabbi Ishmael, expresses permission, while Rabbi
Akiva says that it is a duty. The second is (Lev. 21:3) “for her he may [or
must] defile himself,” which, according to Rabbi Ishmael, expresses per-
mission, while Rabbi Akiva says that it is a duty. The third is (Lev. 25:45)
“of them you may [must] take bondmen forever,” which, according to
Rabbi Ishmael, expresses permission, while Rabbi Akiva says that it is a
duty. So according to Rabbi Ishmael, three of the 613 commandments
will be missing.
Also, in the first chapter of Kiddushin (21a) (concerning the verse
Lev. 25:25), “and he shall (may) redeem what his brother sold,” Rabbi
Joshua says that it expresses permission, but Rabbi Eliezer says that
it is a duty. A similar case is what we learned (Makkot 12a) that if an
[unintentional] murderer left his city of refuge, and a blood avenger
encountered him, Rabbi Yose says that it is a duty for the blood avenger
to kill him, while any other person is permitted to do so; but Rabbi
Akiva says that it is permitted for the blood avenger to kill him], etc.
And again in the Gemara Brachot (21a), there is disagreement whether

7 These poetic versions of the 613 commandments are called Azharot.

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the practice of reading the Shema is a rabbinic enactment or a Torah law.

And I also found an argument in Tractate Yoma, chapter “Amar Lahem
Hamemuneh” (30b), about the reason why no one [even one who is in
a state of purity] is allowed to enter the temple courtyard [the word
la’avodah, “for service” is considered as “not necessarily so,” since the
law applies even for some other purpose] unless he immerses himself.
According to Ben Zoma, [the immersion] is a positive duty [by Torah
law]; while according to Rabbi Judah, it is not a Torah law but [was en-
acted by the rabbis] to awaken the memory of an old defilement and
have the person separate from it.8
And Pesach Sheni [the paschal observance a month later, if one was
unable to participate in the regular Passover] is, in Rabbi’s [Judah the
Prince] view, an independent holiday, while Rabbi Nathan considers it
a replacement for the first one and included in it, so it would not be
separately enumerated. Also “that your brother may live with you” (Lev.
25:36) is a positive commandment, according to Rabbi Elazar, that one
must return interest [after having received it]; but according to Rabbi
Yochanan, it is not a positive commandment, as is noted in chapter
“Ezehu Neshech” (Bava Mezia 62a) and in the first chapter of Temurah
(6a). All of the above examples concern positive commandments.
And regarding prohibitions, there are similarly arguments as to
whether they are actually enumerable commandments or not, as fol-
lows. In the Gemara Zevachim (65b), they differ about severing the
signs [of kosher slaughter of fowl for consumption, i.e., the windpipe
and gullet] of a bird sin offering. According to the rabbis, “he does not
sever it” (Lev. 5:8) is a prohibition, while Rabbi Elazar b’rabbi Shimon
says that “he does not sever it” means that he does not need to sever
it. Also, regarding leaven on Passover (Pesachim 28b), Rabbi Judah has
three [separate] prohibitions, one before the time [prescribed in the
Torah], another within that time, and another after that time, and they
all would be enumerated. But according to Rabbi Shimon, there is only a
single commandment, which is within that time. A similar verse is “No
one who has been proscribed can be ransomed” (Lev. 27:29). According
to the authority (Arachin 6b) who said, “Where does one find that if
a [condemned] person is about to be executed and then someone else

8 However, it is likely that even Ben Zoma would not consider this an enumerated commandment,
since it is only derived by a kal v’chomer. See principle 2.

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says, ‘I obligate myself [to make an offering] of his value,’ the latter has
not said anything [that obligates him]? It is in the verse ‘he cannot be
ransomed,’” and this is not a prohibition. But according to the words of
the one who says [that the meaning of Lev. 27:29 is] that you should
not take money from the perpetrator and let him go free, it is an actual
I have also found a disagreement between Rabbi Meir and the sages
in the first chapter of Makkot (4b) about the verse relating to false
witnesses (Deut. 19:20), “you shall no more do such things.” Rabbi
Meir [considering this a prohibition] says that he [the false witness]
is whipped for this [transgression], and thus it should be included in
the enumeration. But according to the other sages, this clause is only
a declaration, and it is not included in the enumeration. Also, in the
chapter “Ha’isha” (Pesachim 91a), Rabbi Judah thinks that the verse
(Deut. 16:5) “You cannot sacrifice the Paschal lamb in any of your settle-
ments” has the purpose of forbidding slaughter of the Paschal lamb for a
single individual [by pausing after the word b’achad and retranslating as
“You cannot sacrifice the Paschal lamb for one person”]. So in his view,
it is enumerated as a commandment. But according to Rabbi Yose and
Rabbi Shimon, this verse is part of the general prohibition of slaughter-
ing in a wrong location, so it would not be enumerated separately. Also,
concerning the verse (Exod. 13:10) “You shall keep this statute in its
proper time from year to year,” there is an opinion that this verse applies
[not to the observance of Passover in its proper time in the year, but] to
the law of Tefillin [indicated in verse 9, and the meaning of “miyamim
yamimah” would not be “from year to year,” but that the proper time of
wearing tefillin is daytime, not nighttime]. According to this opinion,
one would have to add a prohibition, if one follows the opinion that
“you shall keep” (hishamer or v’shamarta) used in conjunction with
a positive statement actually has a negative force; or one would have
to add a positive commandment, if one follows the opinion that “you
shall keep” used in conjunction with a positive statement has a positive
force. Thus, generally, with these controversial commandments, those
who maintain that they are commandments would have an excess, if
there were already 613 commandments without them; and if there are
613 commandments with the inclusion of the controversial command-
ment, those who maintain that they are permissive verses would have a
deficiency in the enumeration of the 613 commandments. This is what

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caused Nachmanides to be doubtful, as was noted.

He says further that in the usual way of the Talmud, they should
have objected, saying that the sage who counted these cases must have
too many commandments or that, according to the one who excludes
these cases, how is the deficiency compensated? But since this number
is widely accepted in the Talmud and Midrashim, Nachmanides asserts
that one must say that this was a tradition handed down from Moses, our
teacher, that this was the number of the commandments. Nevertheless,
they do not desist from their arguments about various commandments
as to whether they are actual duties or permissive statements; for the
one who says that it is permissive would know how he compensates for
his deficiency in the 613 commandments. Also, the Talmud does not
insist on asking how he compensates, since the matter is very deep and
lengthy, for they would have to clarify all the commandments of the
Torah in that place. And they have already stated (Kiddushin 30a), con-
cerning a much easier matter, the counting of the letters in the Torah,
“Why don’t we just bring a Sefer Torah and count them? It is because we
are not expert in the instances where the spelling of words is shorter or
longer [than the normal spelling].” And if in such a case they would not
bother to count them, since they were not expert enough, how much
more so for such a delicate and deep matter, like enumeration of the
commandments, they would not be so particular about one who says “it
is a duty” or one who says “it is permissible” how he adjusts to have 613
In any case, Nachmanides agrees with the early authorities that we
should assume as a principle that the number of commandments is
613, consisting of 365 prohibitions and 248 positive commandments.
The first one to enumerate them one by one to fit the proper number
was Rav Shimon Kayyara, author of Halachot Gedolot. Many rabbis were
drawn after him [i.e., adopted his enumeration], like Rabbi Isaac, son
of Reuven, who composed the poem “Eizeh M’kom Binah,” and also
many poets like Rabbi Shlomo ibn Gabirol, who composed “Shemor
Libi Ma’aneh.” But the enumeration, which the Gaon adopts here [in
his Halachot Gedolot] is incomprehensible, and no one has clarified his
thinking on this matter.
But the great rabbi Maimonides investigated the subject deeply,
and he formulated principles that one can depend on in enumerating
the commandments. From these principles, it became clear to him

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that the Gaon had in many places deviated from the right path, and he
blamed him for making much error and confusion. Then the great rabbi
Nachmanides zealously took up the cause of the aforesaid Gaon and
defended him marvelously and brought his merits and showed that his
words were not as muddled as Maimonides had considered them. Now,
these two books are more desirable than gold. Each of them shows his
strength and his mighty and powerful achievements (Esther 10:2) in
thorough mastery of the Talmud, which was in their eyes like a set table
(Ezek. 23:41). When I examined these books, I saw that they would give
understanding to the uneducated and that anyone who is clear sighted
and skilled in the Talmud would, upon reading these books, see with his
eyes and understand in his heart (Isa. 6:10) that his knowledge previ-
ously was like a mustard seed in the great ocean, compared with what he
would know after reading them.
And so much more, if one delves deeply into all those laws that each
of them quotes in his books in their sources in the Talmud and in the
other places from which they are derived, then he will see himself as
if he were a new creature, as a result of the different spirit within him
(Num. 14:24) from the spirit conferred upon him by the spirit, which
was upon them (Num. 11:25). And he may consider himself eligible to
be counted with those who sit in the place of the wise (an adaptation of
2 Sam. 23:8), where he could ask, and they would reply; and they would
ask, and he would reply. Fortunate are they, and fortunate would be one
who had the chance to hear Torah from their mouths. Indeed with this
little honey (1 Sam. 14:23), which they bequeathed to us, our eyes have
been enlightened (ibid.). So if we had the privilege to converse mouth to
mouth, we might have had the spirit of purity upon us, and we would be
privileged to have the crown of a good name (Avot 4:13) and to be called
the least of the disciples of their least disciples.
Now, the latter-day scholars, although admitting (Eruvin 53a) that
their own heart [understanding] is only as wide as the opening of the
temple [ten cubits], compared with the earlier scholars, whose heart
was like the opening to the porch [twenty cubits], they would neverthe-
less not be ashamed if they would speak (Ps. 127:5) in contradiction to
their words [of the previous scholars]. For it is thus proper that no sage
or disciple should show deference to one greater than himself, when it
seems to him that there is a clear contradiction to his words. Although
all my words are actually only doubts, whether it be in contradiction

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to one of them and a support to the opposing view, or whether it is in

contradiction to everyone, or whether it is a novel topic of my own or
something that occurred to me that escaped their notice, or whether it
is a decision based on a proof from a source that they did not mention, I
write it nevertheless in order to educate myself about their words.
Now, in most places it is customary to read the Azharot of the great
sage Rabbi Shlomo ibn Gabirol, the Sephardi [on the holiday of Shavuot].
I also saw that Rabbi Moshe, son of Rabbi Samuel ibn Tibbon, has com-
posed a commentary on his [ibn Gabirol’s] words. But he [ibn Tibbon]
followed the methodology [of enumeration] of the Sefer Hamitzvot
composed by Maimonides, not mentioning how Nachmanides disagreed
with him [Maimonides], since it [Nachmanides’s critique] had not come
into his possession and was not seen by him [ibn Tibbon] during his
[ibn Tibbon’s] time. Also, whatever he quotes from Maimonides’s words
is quoted with extreme brevity. Therefore, in order to show mercy for
the honor of Nachmanides that his words should not be like a hidden
stillborn child, not remembered nor regarded, and since I have seen few
outstanding persons [this expression is from Sukkah 45b], and there are
few who seek out deep books like these, I have therefore set forth these
things [Maimonides’s and Nachmanides’s words] in the framework of
the aforementioned Azharot of ibn Gabirol. Thus, a person who trembles
at the divine word might look at them once a year.
So now I should tell you that Maimonides prefaced his book with
fourteen principles on which he depends in enumerating the command-
ments, which are as follows:
PRINCIPLE 1. This is that one should not enumerate any rabbinic
laws among the commandments. He needed this principle, since the
Halachot Gedolot had included among the commandments a few rab-
binic commandments, and Maimonides’s objections to the Halachot
Gedolot on this are great. Nachmanides attempts to defend him from
Maimonides’s objections, [Nachmanides’s] decision is, nevertheless, not
to enumerate rabbinic commandments. And he did well [in this deci-
sion], since the expression in the Talmud (Makkot 23b) is “613 com-
mandments were proclaimed to Moses at Sinai.” And even if this were
not the correct text, but rather “613 commandments were commanded
to Israel,” [this principle would still be true] since the biblical proof for
this is “Moses commanded us Torah” (Deut. 33:4), the gematria value
of Torah leading to 613. Thus, it would not be proper to enumerate and

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include in this any commandment that originated after Mt. Sinai. And
if there is disagreement concerning certain commandments because of
this principle, it is only a few commandments where the Gaon [Halachot
Gedolot] includes them, and Maimonides excludes them from the enu-
meration because they are rabbinic; and Nachmanides attempts to find
some basis for considering them as part of the Torah. And in my com-
mentary on the commandments, I will discuss the thinking of each of
them, and I will give my decision.
But there developed in the context of this principle another mat-
ter where I found difficulty with their words. This is what Maimonides
wrote in his essay [i.e., in principle 1] and also in his large work (Mishneh
Torah, Mamrim 1:2) that if one transgresses the words of the sages, he
thereby transgresses the [Torah] prohibition of (Deut. 17:11) “You shall
not turn aside.” And Nachmanides refuted him, [saying] that what comes
under the prohibition of “you shall not turn aside” is what the rabbis say
in interpretation of the Torah, like those laws that are derived by the
thirteen rules of rabbinic interpretation and similar things. But enact-
ments of the sages are not included within this prohibition. Now the
argument on this is very displeasing to me, since Maimonides’s opinion
is contrary to what they concluded in the Gemara in the third chapter of
Shevuot (21b) and in the last chapter of Yoma (73b).*
*I will proceed If one swore not to eat forbidden food and then
here with a
reworked and, I
ate that forbidden food, he has not become guilty of
hope, simplified profaning his oath, and thus he does not have to bring
version, rather a guilt offering for that oath. This is because an oath
than following
Duran’s text. regarding a Torah commandment has no legal force. So
why do the rabbis in the Mishnah (Yoma 73b) prescribe
the guilt offering? Resh Lakish gives one solution that says that the oath
here concerns where the amount of forbidden food was less than the
legal minimum limit required for the person to be fully guilty. Thus, the
person had sworn against doing something that was not a repetition of
a Torah injunction, and the oath is binding.
Now Duran sees in this discussion an implication regarding the
Torah prohibition “You shall not turn aside.” For he argues that if this
prohibition encompasses all of the legislation of the rabbis, it would also
include and overlap the rabbinic prohibition against eating less than
the minimum amount [required for punishment]. But this would again
invalidate the oath! Thus, Duran concludes, “So, how could our teacher

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[Maimonides] say that rabbinic prohibitions are encompassed in the

prohibition of ‘You shall not turn aside’?” [At this point, we revert to
the text to take up another Talmudic quotation.]
And in the beginning of Nazir (3b), it is stated that mitzvah wine
denotes wine for kiddush and havdalah [which becomes forbidden to a
Nazirite just like ordinary wine]. [The Gemara then continues], “Is this
[commandment of kiddush and havdalah wine] ordained from the oath
of Sinai [that it should require a special justification to forbid it to a
Nazirite]?” [The previous words from the Talmud could have been mis-
construed as a positive statement. Thus, Duran explains that] Rabbenu
Tam and Rabbenu Yitzchak and all the French rabbis that this was a
question [as we translated it]. The meaning is that, since it is only a rab-
binic law to make kiddush on wine [specifically], it is not subject to the
oath of Sinai [which also implies that a rabbinic law does not have the
force of a Torah law because of the verse “you shall not turn aside”].
Also, in the third chapter of Shevuot (20b) and in the second chap-
ter of Nedarim (13b?), it is proved that one who seeks to make a vow
valid by comparison with things forbidden by Torah law [e.g., “Let this
food be forbidden to me like pork”], it is not binding; but if one stated
the vow by comparison with something forbidden by rabbinic law, it is
binding, since it is not intrinsically forbidden. And if rabbinic prohibi-
tions were included under the general prohibition of “you shall not turn
aside,” they could not have said such things.
Regarding rabbinically invalid witnesses, doubt is expressed by ear-
lier scholars regarding a woman who was married in their presence as
to whether [the marriage is valid, and] she would now need a get [to
dissolve the marriage] or not. What led them to this doubt is [that it is
unclear] whether in such a case one can apply the principle that whoever
performs kiddushin [which expresses the fact that the bride is forbidden
to all men other than her husband], does so with the understanding that
this is being done in conformity with rabbinic approval; thus, the rabbis
are empowered to invalidate the kiddushin. Or does it not [apply to this
situation]. Now, if one who transgresses a rabbinic law is in violation
of the law “You shall not turn aside,” then a gambler [who is rabbini-
cally ineligible to be a witness] would be as much a violator of words of
the Torah as a robber, who is considered as a wicked person, and the
Torah states (Exod. 23:1), “Do not put your hand with the wicked to be
a wrongful witness” [which is the source of the law that witnesses who

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are sinners are invalid]. So to declare the kiddushin invalid, there would
be no need for rabbinic authorization to invalidate it, since it is not ef-
fective at all [from the outset].
Also, Nachmanides’s words, wherein he raised many objections
against Maimonides and [which appear to show] that rabbinic prohibi-
tions are not included in the prohibition “you shall not turn aside,” are
very questionable in my view. Now his objections, although very numer-
ous, may be classified into the two following types.
The first type comes from what we find throughout the Talmud
that rabbinic laws [literally “words of the scribes”] are to be judged
leniently. Nachmanides says that if words of the scribes are included
under the prohibition of “you shall not turn aside,” they would not be
treated more leniently than [explicit] words of the Torah, since both
are words of Torah, with no difference between them except that [the
latter] were explicitly commanded to us, while the former have no ex-
plicit commandment but are included in the general rule of “you shall
not turn aside.” For every [objection] of this sort, Maimonides could
reply that [essentially one indeed has to be strict with rabbinic laws],
but when the rabbis originally enacted their laws, they would forbid a
thing with the proviso that it would be forbidden only in cases where
[the transgression] was certain, but if there was a doubt [for example,
if item A was rabbinically forbidden, while item B was not, and their
identities were lost], they would allow this to be treated leniently. This is
not hard [to accept], since we find that they are lenient in their gezerah
(an additional rabbinic prohibition, which extends a Torah prohibition
in order to distance people from the actual Torah prohibition) that they
would not make another gezerah on it [the first gezerah]. As we say
(Shabb. 11b), “This is, however, a gezerah to a gezerah.” And in certain
instances (Betzah 3a), they need to explain [an apparent gezerah to a
gezerah by saying that the whole thing, both gezerahs, was instituted
simultaneously] as a single gezerah. The reason for this is [not that the
first gezerah lacks the backing of “you shall not turn aside,” but] that if
things would proliferate from one gezerah to the next, everything might
gradually become prohibited; therefore, they were lenient not to make
an additional gezerah.
Likewise, we should be able to say that when they forbade a certain
thing, they made a proviso at the outset that a doubtful case should be
regarded as permissible, and it is sufficient to forbid it when it is certain.

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For is it not so that there is something similar regarding Torah prohibi-

tions, as they stated (Kiddushin 39a) regarding orlah [fruit forbidden
during a tree’s first three years], “One might say [regarding orlah outside
the land of Israel] that it was thus stated [as a Torah law] that when it is
a definite case [of orlah)], it is forbidden, but in a doubtful case it is per-
mitted” [thus indicating another instance of relaxing a law in doubtful
cases, where it is not due to leniency, but due to the original formulation
of the prohibition].
And in places where there is loss of money because of a doubtful in-
stance of rabbinic law, then it is more obvious that such a doubtful case
should be treated leniently, for such a thing has a basis in the Torah. An
example is what they say in Eleh Trefot (Chullin 49b): “Terefah is a Torah
prohibition, so how can you invoke the idea that the Torah is concerned
over the monetary loss for the people of Israel?” [This implies], however,
that in the case of rabbinic prohibitions, if they do claim this to permit
the doubtful case, they are acting properly, since we should not cause a
waste of the money of Israel, which is certainly from the Torah, just on
account of a doubtful case of an infraction of a rabbinic prohibition. This
is why it says in many places (e.g., Shabbat 154b) that there is concern
for a substantial loss, but not for a minor loss.
The second type of objection raised by Nachmanides about this is
to prove that it is not possible that rabbinic prohibitions are included
in the “you shall not turn aside” prohibition. He brings proof from the
statement in Mi Shemeto (Berachot 19b), “All the words of the rabbis
they based (asm’chinhu) on the prohibition ‘you shall not turn aside.’”
Nachmanides derived from this [i.e., from the verb asm’chinhu] that
this is just an asmachta [i.e., not on the basis of the actual meaning of
Scripture, but merely attached to a suggestive reading of the text], and
one who transgresses them [these words] does not transgress this pro-
hibition. This is not conclusive, however, since it refers to what Rav Abba
bar Shabba said that honoring one’s fellow creatures is a great matter,
for it can override the prohibition of “you shall not turn aside,” but no
other prohibition. And they made fun of him, for the prohibition of “you
shall not turn aside” is also a Torah law, and what makes it different
from other prohibitions [that it should be overridden by consideration
of not embarrassing people, while others should not]? (Rav Cahana)
replied, “Don’t make fun of him! The rabbis did rely on this prohibition,
for the Torah enjoins us to obey their words with this prohibition. And

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the reason why it is treated leniently to allow the honor of people to

override this more than other prohibitions is that the rabbis at the out-
set, whenever they forbade anything on the authority of this verse, they
made a condition concerning this prohibition [of theirs] that it should
be overridden because of the honor of people.”
Nachmanides also brought proof from that [text] in chapter “Kerah”
(40a), where they had to state that [even] one who transgresses a rab-
binic law may be called a sinner, and if rabbinic prohibitions were in-
cluded within the commandment of “you shall not turn aside,” such a
statement would be unnecessary. But this [latter objection] is not such
a difficulty, for since it [the rabbinic prohibition] is not written expressly
in the Torah, one could be more apologetic for the person and not call
him a sinner. And it is said in the first chapter of Bava Metzia (5b), “The
injunction, ‘you shall not covet’ implies to [ordinary] people that [one
should not desire to have something] without paying.”9 And it is also
said in chapter “Zeh Borer” (Sanhedrin 26b) about certain grave diggers
who buried a corpse on a holiday, thinking that they were performing
a commandment, that it was [nevertheless] necessary to state that it is
permissible to call them sinners.
Nachmanides also quoted a proof from chapter “Mi Shemeto,” as
follows: “A rabbinic law cannot override a Torah law.” This is also not
problematic, since, although rabbinic laws are included within the
prohibition of “you shall not turn aside,” still the Torah does not state
them expressly, and they should not be brought to (the level of) words
of the Torah. And in this way, one can reply to the [objection] brought
from Pesachim (115a) and Zevachim (79a) concerning [in the case of si-
multaneous partaking of two commandments, e.g., matzah and maror]
whether the two commandments disqualify each other. [It is stated that
if both are Torah laws, they do not disqualify each other; but if one is a
Torah law and the other is a rabbinic law,] the rabbinic law disqualifies
the Torah law [and thus the difference between the Torah status and the
rabbinic status is significant, even though the rabbinic law is supported
by the verse “you shall not turn aside”].
But what is a more serious objection [by Nachmanides against

9 Actually, one is guilty of transgressing this injunction even when willing to pay, but such a per-
son is treated more leniently on account of the popular misconception about it. This would be
analogous to treating leniently a transgressor of a rabbinic law, since the ordinary person does not
realize that rabbinic laws are forbidden through the Torah law of “you shall not turn aside.”

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Maimonides] than anything else that he [Nachmanides] raised is that

from the law of the rebellious elder [which is the context of “you shall
not turn aside”] one can prove that rabbinic prohibitions are not includ-
ed in the prohibition “you shall not turn aside.” This is proved in chapter
“Hanechenakin” (Sanhedrin 87a), [which states] that one is not guilty of
transgressing [this verse] unless the prohibition is punishable by “cut-
ting off” if done intentionally, and by a sin offering if done mistakenly.
And they derive this by analogy to a bullock offering for a mistaken
sin by the whole community. The rabbi [Nachmanides] explains this at
What one can say about this is that even if we claim that rabbinic
prohibitions are included in the prohibition “you shall not turn aside,”
nevertheless one does not become a “rebellious elder” [with its severe
punishment] for transgressing them [rabbinic laws]. For [the text con-
cerning] the rebellious elder consists of a negative statement and a posi-
tive statement. The prohibition is quite general, but the positive state-
ment comes to limit the scope that one does not incur the death penalty
unless it is a case with “the law” [Torah law] and “which they instruct
you” [rabbinic interpretation] according to Rabbi Judah. But according
to Rabbi Meir [the death penalty applies to a case punishable by] “cut-
ting off” if done intentionally, and by a sin offering if done unintention-
ally, and this is derived by a gezerah shavah, using the word davar. And
it seems undeniable that even according to the rabbi [Nachmanides],
the prohibition “you shall not turn aside” includes everything that the
rabbis derived by the thirteen rules of rabbinic interpretation, for Rabbi
Shimon claims that for a single point of rabbinic law, the law of the
rebellious elder applies. And even though one does not become a rebel-
lious elder [in many cases] according to rabbis Judah and Meir, accord-
ing to their respective opinions, and their interpretations differ, they
[these cases] are still included in this prohibition [“you shall not turn
aside”], and their argument does not apply to that [the inclusion in “you
shall not turn aside”]. Thus, one can say [according to Maimonides] that
rabbinic prohibitions are similar [that rabbinic prohibitions come under
“you shall not turn aside,” although they are not punishable under the
law of the “rebellious elder”].
Summing up, the objections of Nachmanides are not capable of in-
validating Maimonides’s words; the only valid objections are the quo-
tations from Shevuot and Yoma, and also from Nazir and Nedarim, as

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I mentioned. And if Nachmanides’s objections would, as he presented

them, negate Maimonides’s generalization [that all rabbinic words are
included in “you shall not turn aside”], why would the rabbis in the
Talmud be inclined to say that the case of half the legal minimum is
actually covered by the oath of Mt. Sinai?10 And what we conclude in
this principle is that what we should include in the enumeration of the
commandments only those from the Torah, and rabbinic laws should
not be included.
PRINCIPLE 2. Maimonides posited among his principles that one
should not enumerate anything derived by one of the thirteen rules of
Torah interpretation or by a ribbui [an inclusive word]. Because of this,
he faulted the Halachot Gedolot for enumerating [the commandment of]
revering a scholar from the ribbui interpretation (Bava Kamma 41b) of
[the untranslated “et” in Deut. 6:13] “You shall fear the Lord your God”
He brings proof for this [principle] from what it says in Temurah (16a):
“One thousand kal v’chomers [inferring major from minor] and gezerah
shavas [inferences from similar terminology in two cases] and dikdukei
soferim [rabbinic clarifications] were forgotten during the mourning
for Moses.” And undoubtedly, there was a larger amount that was not
forgotten than what was forgotten. So if [all of these] were included in
the enumeration, there would be more than 613 commandments, and
this is a proof that whatever is derived from the thirteen rules of Torah
interpretation should not be included in the enumeration of the com-
Regarding his [Maimonides’s] criticism of Halachot Gedolot for
[including] the matter of revering a sage, I will treat this at length
when it comes up in my commentary on the commandments (Positive
Commandments, Stanza 30), so I will not talk about it here. But what
I am writing about here will be only to justify Maimonides concerning
something that many, including Nachmanides, found perplexing. For
he wrote in his great work (Mishneh Torah, Ishut 1:2, and 3:20) that
kiddushin [first part of the marriage ceremony] performed with money
[given by the groom to the bride] is a rabbinic law, since it is derived
(Kiddushin 2a) from a gezerah shavah based on the verb take [which is
used in the Torah verse concerning kiddushin, as well as in the verse

10 In the next sentence, Duran briefly mentions a problem in comparing Maimonides’s words in his
Mishneh Torah with those in the Sefer Hamitzvot, but he does not deal with that matter here.

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concerning Abraham’s acquisition of the field of Ephron, which was pur-

chased with money]. Now, he wrote in a responsum (She’elot Uteshuvot
Harambam, No. 116) that he did this [i.e., stated the rabbinic character
of Kiddushin by money] in keeping with this principle. People assumed
that he meant that anything, which is not explicit in the Torah, is not
considered a Torah statement but a rabbinic statement. Therefore, they
raised serious objections against him from several places in the Talmud
where it is apparent in the words of the sages that anything derived
from the thirteen methods of rabbinic interpretation of the Torah has
the same status as an explicit Torah law. Also, anything that is termed
“a law to Moses from Sinai” [orally transmitted but not written in the
Torah] is still considered a Torah law.
Now, I found merit for Maimonides in one responsum to the sages
of Germany (Responsa of Shimon ben Zemach, part 1, nos. 1 and 151)
after I delved into the intention of Maimonides, and it is the following:
Maimonides never meant that a law derived from such an interpretation
should have only the same legal force as a rabbinic enactment, being en-
forced leniently in doubtful circumstances. And his reasoning is no dif-
ferent than anyone else’s in any aspect of their legality, and he only calls
them rabbinic in one respect, namely, that it is not actually expressed
in the Torah and that they are derived from interpretation. Therefore,
with regard to enumeration of the commandments, it is not proper to
include anything derived from the thirteen rules of interpretation of
the Torah among the enumerated commandments, unless the sages
expressly state that they are essentials of the Torah [guf Torah, i.e., the
body of the Torah]. I learned that this is his opinion from his language
that he wrote in this principle that “anything that you cannot find in the
Torah, but you find in the Talmud that they [the rabbis] learned it by one
of the 13 methods [of interpretation], and they themselves explained it,
saying that ‘it is an essential part of the Torah,’ or ‘it is from the Torah,’
then it is proper to enumerate it, for the receivers of the tradition have
said that it is from the Torah. But if they did not explain it thus, and did
not speak to us, then it is ‘rabbinic,’ since there is no scriptural verse
that indicates it.”
He [Maimonides] also wrote later on, “Perhaps you think that I flee
from enumerating them, because they are not really true. But whether
the law derived by that method is true or untrue is not the reason.
The reason [for not enumerating them] is that all things that a person

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can derive like branches from the roots, which [roots] were expressly
proclaimed to Moses at Sinai, and which comprise the 613 command-
ments, even if that person who derived it was Moses himself, then it
would not be valid to enumerate them.” He also wrote, “It has already
been explained that among the 613 commandments spoken to Moses at
Sinai there would not be enumerated anything from the 13 methods of
interpretation, even if [the derivation was made] in his [Moses’s] time.
And even more so, whatever they derived in later times should not be
enumerated, unless they had an explicit tradition from him [Moses, that
the particular derivation had Torah status].”
He [Maimonides] also learned [this principle] from what is stated in
Temurah (16a) that anything that they did not hear explicitly at Sinai
constitutes “words of the scribes” [and he applies this to the topic of
enumeration]. And he discusses at length along these lines. Also, his
opinion is evident from the fact that he criticized Halachot Gedolot for
not enumerating honoring one’s father’s wife [i.e., one’s stepmother],
which is derived from the ribbui based on the word et, just as he [Halachot
Gedolot] had enumerated revering a sage. Now, it is clearly stated in
Gemara Ketubot (103a) that honoring one’s stepmother is a Torah law.
Thus, he is not arguing with him [Halachot Gedolot] on this subject with
respect to their legal status, but with respect to enumerating them,
and that is why he enumerated some and not others. The totality of his
words is that he calls them [laws derived by rabbinic interpretation]
“rabbinical,” not with regard to their legal status, but with regard to
enumerating them.
On account of this, he [Maimonides] wrote in his large work (Mishneh
Torah, Ishut 1:2) that a woman is betrothed [in kiddushin] by three
methods, by money, by written contract, or by intercourse; and all three
are binding according to Torah law, although he considers kiddushin by
money as rabbinic. Here [also] we learn that he does not consider it rab-
binic with regard to its legal force, but with regard to it not being explicit
in the Torah and being rabbinically derived, [and a source] which reveals
that this is his opinion is found in his commentary on the Mishnah in
Order Toharot in his introduction to that order, where he enumerates
the principal types of impurities. He [separately] enumerates those
that are from the Torah and those that are rabbinic. And among those
that are from the Torah, he counts the carcass of a domestic animal or
a wild animal; and among those that are rabbinic, he counts the carcass

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of a clean fowl. Now, after he counted them among the rabbinic [types
of impurity], he wrote that “the corpse of a fowl, whether unclean or
clean [i.e., whether or not it is permissible to be eaten] is not a source of
impurity according to any direct expression in the Torah. For this rea-
son we have counted [defilement by the carcass of a clean fowl] among
the rabbinic sources of defilement. And regarding my affirmation that
it defiles according to Torah law, although it is not actually expressed,
there is proof for this in that one incurs the punishment of ‘cutting off’
if he enters the sanctuary and holy property [while thus impure]. They
have this [tradition] on the verse (Lev. 22:8), ‘a carcass or a torn beast
should not be eaten to become defiled by it.’” And toward the end of his
[Maimonides’s] words [in his introduction], after he had written this
[about the defilement by the carcass of a clean fowl], he lists the rabbinic
sources of impurity, and included among them is the carcass of a clean
fowl, although he insists that it is a source of impurity by Torah law.
Thus, it is evident that his opinion is that, although he counts the
carcass of a clean fowl as rabbinic source of impurity, it is not because its
legal status is like other rabbinic sources of impurity [which are actually
only rabbinic enactments], like idols and their appurtenances, which do
not incur “cutting off” [for defiling the temple]. But it is in this respect
like other sources, which are from Torah law. It is only called rabbinic,
since it is not explicitly in the Torah, but is derived from the methods
by which the Torah is properly interpreted, and it nevertheless has the
authority of Torah law.
This is like the situation where he [Maimonides] calls kiddushin by
money as being “from the words of the scribes,” since they come out
from the derivation [based on the word take], [which is used in the por-
tion dealing with marriage as well as that about] the field of Ephron.
He [Maimonides] wrote nevertheless that this has the binding force
of Torah law, and if one had sexual relations with a woman married by
means of money, he is punishable by execution. And if it only had rab-
binic authority, they would not condemn him to death. And the same
applies to anything derived from the methods of rabbinic interpreta-
tion of the Torah, that for Maimonides, it is deemed as binding with
the authority of the Torah, even though he calls them “from the words
of the scribes.” Likewise, in his Mishnah commentary, Tractate Kelim,
chapter 17, he wrote that the expression “from the words of the scribes”
includes [the situation)] where something is the opinion of the sages

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regarding the meaning [of a Torah verse], or about a law received from
Moses [although not recorded in the Torah], and thus doubtful cases
[of the above] would be treated stringently, as [for example] in doubt-
ful cases involving quantitative amounts [these being orally received
from Moses], although it [the term from the words of the scribes also]
includes rabbinic enactments and regulations. Thus, in chapter 2 of
Hilchot Tum’at Met (2:10), he wrote that the minimum size of a bone,
which can cause impurity, is the size of a barley kernel, and this being
an oral tradition, it has the authority of the Torah and not [that of a law
enacted] by the scribes.
It is also apparent that this is his [Maimonides’s] opinion, since he
wrote in the prohibitions (No. 168) that he did not count the defile-
ment of ordinary kohanim as two prohibitions, “he shall not enter” and
“he shall not defile” (ibid.), as he had counted them in the case of the
kohen gadol (prohibitions 167 and 168)11. For we only learn this about
them [that “he shall not enter” as well as “he shall not defile” applies to
the ordinary kohen] from a gezerah shavah. And he [Maimonides] wrote
there (prohibition 168) that this is in keeping with what he wrote in the
second principle. It has thus been made clear that his whole intention in
this matter concerns the enumeration of commandments, and he does
not mean that such laws have the status of rabbinic commandments.
He also wrote concerning the law of terefah (prohibition 181) that
the plain meaning of Scripture (Exod. 22:30) is that [terefah, meaning
torn by an animal, refers to a kosher animal] torn by a lion; tradition has
come down that [the expression “in the field”] refers to meat that has
been eaten in an illegal place. Other rabbinic interpretations were stated
[about varieties of terefah], which are punishable by whipping from the
Torah, even though they come out from a rabbinic interpretation. As to
what he wrote (Prohibition 181) that the types of terefah that the sages
listed [not in the simple meaning of terefah] are punishable only by rab-
binic flogging [rather than the whipping applied to Torah prohibitions],
this is because he [Maimonides] thought that, in this instance, the in-
terpretations were made as asmachta derivations [i.e., not meant by the
Torah as authentic teachings, but merely as suggestive of these laws].
And he has already reversed his opinion in his compendium (Maachalot

11 We are here following the manuscript bet-kof-gimel [b’kohen gadol] rather than the printed version
bet-he-gimel [baal Halachot Gedolot].

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Asurot 4:6). With this analysis [that Maimonides only considered laws
derived by the accepted modes of interpretation as having the validity
of Torah law], all the criticisms leveled at Maimonides vanish. And many
years have passed without the theory of Maimonides being clarified,
and we, in spite of our inferior level, have discovered what they did not.
PRINCIPLE 3. This is that one should not enumerate commandments
that do not apply throughout all generations. Nachmanides also agreed
with this principle. And it has to be so, since, if we were to include com-
mandments not applicable throughout all generations, it would add up
to a huge amount, since it would be counting every commandment that
came in Egypt and in the wilderness, both positive and negative. Also,
the number 613 for the commandments is derived from an interpreta-
tion of the verse (Deut. 33:4), “Moses charged us with the Torah,” and it
is there written “as a heritage of the congregation of Jacob”; and what
does not apply to all generations cannot constitute a heritage. Also, it
was stated in the Midrash (Tanchuma, Tetze 2) that the 248 positive
commandments correspond to the 248 limbs of the body, and the 365
prohibitions correspond to the 365 days of the year. For every limb says
to a person, “Rise up and perform a commandment with me,” and every
day says to him, “Do not transgress on me.” Therefore, the enumeration
is that of commandments that apply to future generations. There is no
doubt about this, but there is disagreement regarding this principle,
since the Gaon [Halachot Gedolot] lists certain commandments, which
Maimonides claims are not applicable to future generations, while
Nachmanides defends him and says that they are applicable. And when
I comment on the Azharot, I will deal at length with all the command-
ments that are disputed, as to the thinking of both parties, and I will
give my own decision. For at this point I only want to discuss the prin-
ciples, but the particular examples, I will discuss in their place.
What should be clarified here is that a “commandment only for a
particular time” [not for all generations] refers only to what we were
ordered to do or not to do at a particular time and never afterward in
any way, such as those proclaimed in Egypt or in the wilderness. For
they are dependent on a particular place and a particular time, and
when that time passes, that commandment would not be in effect at
all. Such things are “commandments for a particular time” and are not
included as “a heritage of the congregation of Jacob.” But those com-
mandments that are not in effect at every place and time, on account of

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the absence of that, which we are commanded to do or not to do, are not
called “commandments for a particular time” on account of the absence
of that thing. For then, the disuse of that commandment is not because
of its being a commandment for a particular time, but because that
thing which is the subject of that commandment has become extinct;
and if that thing were existent, the commandment would be in effect.
Therefore, the slaying of the seven nations [of Palestine)] and obliter-
ating the descendants of Amalek are called commandments for future
generations, even though these commandments are in disuse because
of the disappearance of these nations. For they were not at all time de-
pendent, but we were commanded to destroy them at any time that they
could be found; and even if all of them would be destroyed, they would
still not be excluded from [the permanent] commandments on account
of that. Thus did Maimonides write, and Nachmanides agreed with him.
And as for the disagreements that arose between them in the particulars
of this principle, I will write about them in the commentary on the com-
mandments, with the help of heaven.
PRINCIPLE 4. Commandments that cover the whole Torah do not
belong to the enumeration. On this basis, Mainonudes faulted the
Halachot Gedolot for enumerating “you shall be holy” (Lev. 19:22), for
Maimonides considers this as a summarizing commandment, like other
commandments that summarize the entire Torah, with the statements
(Lev. 18:4) “You shall perform my judgments and keep my statutes” and
“you shall keep my charge” (ibid., v. 30). He also faults him for includ-
ing in his enumeration “and you shall no more stiffen your neck” (Deut.
10:16), which includes the whole Torah, since it admonishes that one
should not make his heart hard, but one should accept the whole Torah.
Nachmanides agrees with this principle, and he does not take excep-
tion to Maimonides’s enumeration [involving this principle] at all, even
though he defends the Halachot Gedolot, who also agrees on this matter.
He [Halachot Gedolot)] only differed with Maimonides about one com-
mandment, i.e., “you shall be heedful about everything I said to you”
(Exod. 23:13), as I will mention in its proper place [Stanza 118 of the
PRINCIPLE 5. The reason for a commandment should not be counted
in the list of individual commandments. Maimonides brought examples
of this, [e.g.] “the husband who divorced her shall not take her to wife
again . . . you must not bring sin upon the land” (Deut. 24:4), for the ex-

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pression “you must not bring sin upon the land” is the reason for prohib-
iting him from taking her again. Likewise, (in the verse) “Do not degrade
your daughter, making her a harlot, lest the land fall into harlotry,” (Lev.
19:29), the expression “lest . . . fall into harlotry” is the reason for this
prohibition. Also, regarding taking ransom for a murderer, it is written
(Num. 35:34) “you shall not defile the land.”
But Nachmanides objected to him in these cases, that if they are only
expressions of reason, the prohibition would only apply in the land [of
Israel], for it would be dependent on this reason, and the reason only
applies only in the land [of Israel], so the prohibition is applicable only
in the land. This [reasoning of Nachmanides] is analogous to what they
[the Talmudic sages] said (Kiddushin 78a) that the reason for “he shall
not marry” (Lev. 21:14) is that “he shall not profane [his offspring],” so
unless he has had intercourse, he is not punishable by whipping. Also
[they said in Sanhedrin 54a], “What is the reason for ‘he shall not have
many’ (Deut. 17:17)? It is so that ‘[his heart] shall not go astray’ (ibid.),
so he may take many, as long as they do not lead his heart astray.” So
Nachmanides thinks that negative expressions are not mere reasons
but prohibitions. He brings proof from their words concerning removal
of the staves [of the ark, Exod. 25:15] and not loosening the breast
plate (Exod. 28:28) and not tearing the opening of the robe (ibid., v.
32), which are interpreted as actual prohibitions and not just reasons.
As it states in Tractate Yoma (72a), “If one tears priestly garments, he
is punishable by whipping. Rav Acha bar Yaakov objected that, [when
Scripture states ‘it should not be torn’ (v. 32), it might mean that one
should make the binding so that it would not be torn. [The reply given
was:] Is it written ‘that it should not be torn’? [No! It is written ‘it shall
not be torn’].” Similarly they said there, “Is it written ‘that it shall not
come loose’? Is it written ‘that they [the staves] shall not come off’?”
From here, Nachmanides infers that every place where a prohibition is
stated in the Torah, in addition to a commandment, and it is not an
explicit reason for what has come previously, we should consider it a
separate prohibition.
So it is with (Lev. 18:15) “Do not uncover the nakedness of your
daughter-in-law; she is your son’s wife; you shall not uncover her naked-
ness.” It would seem that this [“she is . . .] expresses the reason for the
prohibition, that, since she is your son’s wife, it is improper that you
uncover her nakedness. [However,] the sages interpreted this as an ad-

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ditional prohibition, which holds the person guilty even after his son’s
death. 12 And Nachmanides also quotes other instances that appear to
be reasons, but the sages take them to be prohibitions.
Nachmanides also says that giving a reason is not expressed by a neg-
ative expression but only by a positive expression, e.g. (Lev. 19:12) “You
shall not swear falsely by My name, and profane . . .” And they said in the
Sifra (Kedoshim 28:7) that this teaches us that a vain oath is a profana-
tion of the Divine Name. [I do not know why the Sifra says “vain oath”
rather than “false oath.”] Therefore, Nachmanides insists that these and
similar cases [negative commandments that Maimonides thinks are
reasons] are not just reasons but extra prohibitions. But it is still pos-
sible that they should not come [separately] into the enumeration, for
they are just repeated prohibitions about the same topic, [when done]
in the Land [of Israel]. Or perhaps they might enter separately into the
enumeration, being commandments to the court. Or they might be con-
sidered additional [MS has nosafim, not nohagim] prohibitions [when
done] in the Land, and could be included in the enumeration, like the
prohibition “Do not replace your neighbor’s boundary marker” (Deut.
19:14). For they interpreted this as a separate prohibition in addition
to (Lev. 19:13) “You shall not rob,” [when done] in the Land [of Israel].
And in my commentary on the commandments, I will explain all these
controversial prohibitions separately, with God’s help.
PRINCIPLE 6. For a commandment that has both a positive part
and a negative part, it is proper to enumerate its positive part among
the positive commandments, and its negative part among the negative
commandments. Maimonides listed three types among them. The first
has a positive commandment to perform something, and a prohibi-
tion against negating it, such as the Sabbath, the Sabbatical year, the
holidays, and the Day of Atonement. The second type has a prohibition
preceded by a positive commandment, such as (Deut. 22:29) “and she
shall be his wife,” and afterward “he may not divorce her.” The third
is where the positive commandment comes after the prohibition, and
the prohibition is connected with it [the positive commandment], like

12 The structure of Lev. 8:15 is quite different from the above verses where the second negative
statement might be construed as the purpose of the first statement. Here it is a different thing,
since the second negative statement is a repetition of the first, with slightly different wording.
Indeed, Nachmanides discusses this verse not in connection with principle 5, but with principle 9,
which deals with repeated prohibitions. See Chavell’s Sefer Hamitzvot L’harambam, p. 101.

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(Deut. 22:6) “do not take the mother with the young” and afterward
“send away the mother bird.” In all three cases, he counts the positive
part among the positive commandments, and the negative part among
negative commandments. And Maimonides states that regarding this
principle, no one has erred.13
But Nachmanides found in this matter a considerable disagree-
ment, which concerns prohibitions derived from positive statements,
like (Deut. 14:11) “You may eat any clean bird,” which they [the sages]
regarded as a positive commandment [implying that] you may not,
however, eat an unclean bird. And one who eats an unclean [bird] trans-
gresses this “positive” commandment, along with the expressly stated
prohibition about it. Now Maimonides does count these [positive com-
mandments 149ff and prohibitions 172ff], while Halachot Gedolot does
not count them. Also, he [Halachot Gedolot] does not count shechitah
(proper slaughter, which Maimonides has as Positive Commandment
No. 146), since it only means that one should not eat nevelah [a carcass
that died from causes other than ritual slaughter]. In my commentary
on the commandment, I will explain the opinion of both parties on all
of these commandments.
What you should realize at this point is that, regarding the number-
ing of the commandments, when we enumerate these positive aspects
among the positive commandments, and the negative aspects among
the negative commandments, it need not be that they are numbered
equally. I mean to say [that it need not be] that the number of positive
commandments should be equal to the negatives in a positive com-
mandment, or that the number of negative commandments be equal
to the positive commandments in it [i.e., in the negative command-
ment]. For there is a commandment of returning [wrongfully acquired
things], which is counted as one of the positive commandments (see
Stanza 22), while in the prohibitions, there are many in the enumera-
tion, e.g., [things obtained by] robbery or by nonpayment of money
owed (Stanza 16, Prohibitions). Also, burning of leftover [sacrificial
meat] is a single positive commandment, while there are several [cor-
responding] prohibitions (Prohibitions nos. 111–115), as I will explain
at that commandment (Stanza 40, Positive Commandments). And there

13 Note, however, that according to Perlow’s analysis of Rav Saadya Gaon’s work, the latter has quite
a different approach.

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are more examples of this. Likewise, there is the commandment not to

break one’s word, which is counted as one prohibition, but it is possible
that there are two [corresponding] positive commandments, i.e., vows
for holy purposes and vows for mundane matters, as I will explain at
that commandment (Stanza 38, Positive Commandments). That which
appears correct to me in the analysis of this assumption I will explain
for each of these commandments. But what I wanted to bring up at this
point is that we should, in enumerating the commandments, just pay at-
tention to the verses of the Torah and, whatever their number is, count
them as commandments, whether positive or negative [and not attempt
to match the positive and negative, as was just explained].
PRINCIPLE 7. One should not [separately] enumerate the details
of commandments. Maimonides proved the truth of this principle by
[pointing out] that if we were to enumerate such details as separate
commandments, the total would amount to much more than 613 com-
mandments because there are many details included in commandments.
Maimonides mentions two particular commandments, that of chalitzah
[release from levirate responsibility] and that of the levirate marriage,
for they include many details. For in some cases, the women are subject
to the levirate marriage, and there are some cases where they are not
to have levirate marriage and do not require chalitzah. Likewise, for the
brother-in-law, there are such various cases as for the sister-in-law, and
there are also other distinctions given in Tractate Yevamot (84a). So if
we were to count every detail, the laws of that tractate would come to
over two hundred. From this, we can generalize for other command-
ments, that only the total commandment should be included in the
(613) commandments, but the details should not be enumerated.
Therefore, Maimonides criticizes the one [Halachot Gedolot] who
counts, [under the topic of] the obligation of bringing an adjustable sin
offering [in accordance with one’s means] for [defiling] the sanctuary or
its holy appurtenances, three separate commandments, for it is totally
only a single commandment, i.e., to bring the sin offering. As to the
subsequent details of what one brings, lamb or goat, two doves, or a
tenth of an ephah of flour, all this constitutes details of this command-
ment [these things are from Lev. 5:2, 5:6, and 5:11]. Also, regarding the
obligation to bring a sin offering for an unintentional transgression
of a commandment, we should treat it this way. That is, the Torah has
required a sin offering for this, and it then gives the details that if the

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person who sinned is a layman, he should bring a certain thing [as a sin
offering]; if he is a prince, he brings something else; and if he is a high
priest, yet something else; and if the sin had to do with idolatry, yet
something else. But it would not be right to enumerate each of these
details of this commandment as separate commandments.
Maimonides also mentioned as this type of thing, the death penalty
for one who cohabited with a married woman, specifically that if she
is fully married [with nissuin] it is by strangulation; if she was only
betrothed [by kiddushin], it is by stoning; and if she is the daughter
of a kohen, it is by burning. All of this constitutes only a single com-
mandment, which is to execute a man who has had sexual relations
with a married woman, for he has transgressed “You shall not commit
adultery” (Exod. 26:13). As for the strangulation, stoning, and burning,
all that only constitutes the details of the commandment. He brings
proof from what they stated in Sanhedrin (51b), “It is all included in
(Lev. 20:10) ‘both the adulterer and the adulteress shall surely be put
to death’; but Scripture makes a distinction that for an Israelite woman
it is by strangulation, and for the daughter of a kohen it is by burning.”
Therefore, Maimonides faulted those scholars [e.g. Halachot Gedolot]
who count for the adulterous woman three commandments: married,
betrothed, and daughter of a kohen.
Similarly, there evolves from this principle that one counts certain
scriptural portions as a single [commandment], for if we do not count
the whole section as a single commandment, the total would become too
large a number. In the case of the portion on murderers [intentional and
accidental, Num. 35:16–29], there are many details: “[he strikes him]
with an iron object . . . or with a stone tool . . . or with a wooden tool . . . ,
the blood-avenger must put him to death (ibid., vv. 16–18); if he pushed
him with hate or threw something at him on purpose or struck him with
hate, [he shall be put to death, vv. 20–21]; but if [he pushed him] with-
out malice aforethought or threw an object at him without intention
or without seeing threw a stone at him and he died, and he was not his
enemy . . . then the congregation shall protect [the manslayer] . . . and
the congregation shall return him [to the city of refuge] . . . and he shall
stay there until the death of the high priest . . . But if the slayer should
go out . . . but after the death of the high priest the slayer may return
(ibid., vv. 22–29).” If we were to enumerate each of the details of this
commandment, there would be sixteen commandments in this section.

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And it would be similar in the section of plagues [of “leprosy”].

If we would do similarly for all the commandments, the number
would come up to thousands. But we should only enumerate the main
thing of the commandment. This is [for the case of manslaughter] to
perform the law of manslaughter in accordance with these specifica-
tions. Therefore, Scripture calls these things “ordinances,” as it is said
(Num. 35:24), “And the congregation shall judge between the attacker
and the blood-avenger according to these ordinances,” rather than these
Also, in the portion about the plagues (of “leprosy”), there is one of
the early authorities who enumerates eleven [separate] commandments.
But Maimonides says that it is all a single commandment, which is to
determine the cleanness or uncleanness of the leper, and other matters
about this, e.g., which plague symptom renders one unclean and which
does not, and at what time [does a particular procedure become effec-
tive] are all details of the commandment. This is similar to the Torah
forbidding blemished animals as sacrifices, and it still remains for us to
know what these blemishes are, then it would not be correct to count
each blemish, as a [separate] commandment. Therefore, Maimonides
counts each type of uncleanness [e.g. uncleanness of a corpse, unclean-
ness of a leper, uncleanness of semen, etc.] as a separate commandment,
but the details of a given type he does not count [separately].
Now, the Halachot Gedolot was not unaware of this principle. For he
enumerates a list of sections [parshiot], e.g., the section on inheritance,
the section on vows and oaths, and the section on one who spreads a
bad rumor [about his wife]. But his words are inconsistent, since he
counts among these sections items he had previously enumerated.
Nachmanides also wrote that that the nature of his enumeration of sec-
tions is unclear, since he enumerates general topics along with specific
ones, and negative ones along with positive ones, and he [Nachmanides]
further wrote that he did not intend to treat this at length. And in my
commentary, I will write about specific examples of this rule whatever
should be written according to the intention of this principle.
PRINCIPLE 8. It is not right to include the negation of a positive
[statement] together with prohibitions. A prohibition is something that
we are bidden not to do. It is expressed by four words: lo [no or not],
hishamer [be heedful], pen [lest], and al [not], as they stated (Makkot
13b), “Any place where it says hishamer, pen, or al, it is definitely a pro-

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hibition. And all prohibitions except for a few are expressed by lo.” A
prohibition is also a commandment, in that we are commanded to do,
but, in order to distinguish between it and a positive commandment,
it is called a prohibition, and the other [positive] is called “command-
ment” [without adjective]. However, a negation is usually expressed by
the word ein [“it is not” or “there is not”], e.g. (Deut. 22:26), “It is not
a capital sin for the girl.” On occasion, it is expressed by lo, e.g. (Lev.
19:20), “They shall not [‘lo’] be put to death, for she was not set free,”
which means that they are not subject to capital punishment. Similar
cases are (Lev. 13:11) “he need not [temporarily] isolate him, for he is
unclean,” and (ibid., v. 36) “the priest shall not look for the hair,” and
(Lev. 27:33) “He shall not inquire whether it be good or bad.”14
The Halachot Gedolot also agrees with this principle, and therefore
he does not enumerate “The land shall not be sold in perpetuity” (Lev.
25:23), since he considers this as a negation rather than a prohibition
[contrary to Maimonides, who does count this as his Prohibition No.
227]. But Maimonides suspected him of not understanding it [this prin-
ciple] and therefore criticized him for enumerating (Exod. 21:17) “she
shall not go free as slaves go free” and (Num. 17:5) “he shall not be like
Korah and his band.” Nachmanides defended him in these cases, and
I will record their opinions in my commentary in the Azharot when I
explain these prohibitions and others that are connected with negation.
PRINCIPLE 9. It is not correct to enumerate the negative and positive
statements, but the things that are forbidden or commanded by them.
For the positive commandments, this thing is clear, and there is no dis-
agreement at all about it, that if there are many commandments about
one topic, we should count it as only one [enumerated commandment].
So we should not count “tzitzit” [fringes] as five commandments, even
though they stated (Menachot 44a) that anyone who has no “tzitzit”
on his clothing transgresses five positive commandments. Also, we do
not count tefillin as eight commandments, even though they said (ibid.)
that anyone who does not put on tefillin transgresses five positive state-
ments. They also stated (ibid.) that any kohen who does not go up to per-
form the priestly blessing transgresses three positive commandments,

14 The last example might sound like a prohibition. But the traditional understanding is that one
does not have to be concerned as to whether it does or does not have a blemish, which would
disqualify it as a sacrificial animal. Whichever animal comes by as the tenth is designated as the

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but we count it only as a single commandment. And regarding resting

on the Sabbath, there are many repetitious verses, and similarly for
*There appears to be two
holidays, but we only count them as single com-
distinct issues in the next mandments. And so it is with all similar cases,
two paragraphs. The one and everyone agrees about this.*
is that when a certain
law [e.g. returning a But you should realize that even if for one
lost article] is repeated, commandment a number of things are specified,
once by itself and once
together with other
we should not count each specific thing as a [sep-
things, then that law by arate] commandment. For concerning returning
itself constitutes one [things to the rightful owner], there are specified
commandment, and the
other things collectively therein that which was obtained by robbery or
constitute another oppression or deposit or by loss, we would enu-
commandment. The
second issue is that, when
merate them as only a single commandment. If it
a given law is repeated, were not for the fact that we find that Scripture
but the repetition is repeated the commandment concerning a lost
needed to complete the
meaning expressed in the article in another place, we would not count
first verse, they should be returning a lost article as a separate command-
considered as only a single
law. I do not see clearly
ment. But since Scripture has made an exception
that these two issues are from the others, making it separate, we count re-
interrelated, although the turn of a lost article as one commandment, and
text seems to imply that
they are. returning something robbed or deposited or got-
ten by oppression as another single command-
ment, for the enumeration of the commandments is in accordance
with the number of scriptural verses [provided that the content is not
repetitious]. But if these verses are needed for the completeness of that
commandment, we should not count according to the number of verses.
As an example, there is the counting of the Sabbatical years, which has
two verses (Lev. 25:8), “And you shall count up seven years,” and it is
then written (ibid.) “seven years seven times.” Now we do not enumer-
ate the counting of years as one commandment and the counting of
the number of Sabbatical years as another. This is according to what
we learned in the Sifra (Behar, section 2:13): “It might be thought that
one should count the seven Sabbatical years consecutively. Therefore,
Scripture states ‘seven years seven times.’ Both verses had to be stated,
and without them we would not have understood [how the counting
of the years should be done].” We learn from this that any command-
ment that has many scriptural sources, and from the combination of
the sources we apprehend the meaning in its entirety, we should count

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this only singly. This applies to all such cases.

Regarding negative commandments, Maimonides wrote that if many
prohibitions refer to the same subject, they should be enumerated as
only a single commandment. This is like [not eating] blood, about which
many negative statements were made, but they are counted as one
prohibition. And he wrote that the underlying principle is that for any
prohibition with many negative statements, if one [the transgressor] is
punished with a single whipping, it is counted as a single [command-
ment]. But if it is punished by a number of whippings, it is enumer-
ated according to the number of whippings. He gave as the reason for
this that a person is punished with two whippings only if it is for two
[distinct] subjects [lit. names]. And when the sages state explicitly “he
is whipped twice” or “he is whipped three times,” we know that there
are two subjects or three; and each one of them should be enumerated.
But when they do not say this, even though they may have stated that
the person has transgressed many prohibitions, they should only be
enumerated as one, for a multiplicity of prohibitive statements does
not make for additional enumerations. The prohibitive statements were
made only to inform us that it is a grave matter, or it is to complete the
content of the commandment.
He brought proof from what is stated in chapter “Kol Sha’ah”
(Pesachim 24a): “Ravina said to Rav Ashi, ‘One could say that [the rep-
etitious verses] meant that one has transgressed two prohibitive state-
ments.’ That is to say, ‘Why would you interpret that these two negative
statements are about two different subjects? Perhaps both should be
interpreted as having the same meaning.’ And he [Rav Ashi] replied,
‘Whenever it is plausible to interpret them [distinctly], we do so, so that
we do not have redundant prohibitions.’” He [Maimonides] learns from
this that any negative statement that does not have additional content
is considered redundant. And even if it is repeated to indicate that the
perpetrator has transgressed two negative statements, they neverthe-
less considered this redundant, and it is improper to enumerate this [as
But Nachmanides had reservations about Maimonides’s decision to
enumerate according to the [number of] whippings, for we enumerate
365 prohibitions, of which there are many that are not punishable by
whipping [at all]. And he wrote that even if his words were correct [about
enumeration], his words were not correct where he said that when there

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are many verses concerning a single prohibition, there can be only a sin-
gle whipping. He cited proof from what Maimonides had quoted from
chapter “Kol Shaah” (Pesachim 24a), for it is taught there as follows.
“The verse (Lev. 7:19) ‘and the [sacrificial] meat which touches anything
unclean shall not be eaten’ could not apply to that [i.e., sacrificial meat]
only, since that is already evident by inference from the case of tithes.
For in the less stringent case of tithes the Torah said (Deut. 26:14), ‘I
have not consumed it, if unclean,’ and it is so much more so in the more
serious case of holy meat. Now you might still maintain that a prohibi-
tion derived from a minor-to-major inference is not sufficient for proper
warning [to be punished by whipping, the violator has to be warned by
citing the prohibition from the Torah], it can still be derived by a hekesh
[a rabbinic type of derivation from the juxtaposition of two cases]. For
it is written (Deut. 12:17), ‘You may not eat in your settlements of the
tithes of your grain [or of the firstlings of your herds, etc.].’ So if it [the
direct statement about sacrificial meat] is not needed, let it apply to all
[edibles] in the Torah that are forbidden [as sacrifices]. [This application
of a verse to cases not given in the actual scriptural words is a commonly
used rabbinic derivation].”
Now it is concerning the above quotation that they said, “Ravina
objected to Rav Ashi, ‘You could say that [the repetitious verses] mean
that one has transgressed two negative statements. Did not Abaye say
that if one ate a putitha [a small unclean fish] he is whipped four times;
if an ant, he is whipped five times; and, if a hornet, he is whipped six
times?’” This is saying that just as Abaye would impose six whippings
in one case on account of the repetition of the prohibition six times, so
here we could say that Scripture means [that if one ate] holy sacrificial
meat [that became] impure, he would be whipped twice, because of the
two prohibitions that were stated, i.e., the one derived from a hekesh
from the tithe prohibition, and the other being the prohibition that spe-
cifically applies to it. Thus, it is clear that if there are many prohibitions
about the same topic, one would be whipped for each prohibition, even
though it is a single topic.
But there is one condition about this that is agreed to by everyone,15
which is that the extra prohibitions for that commandment should not
be required to derive midrashic interpretations, and they only serve to

15 Some later commentators dispute this.

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repeat that commandment. But if the [repeated prohibitions] serve to

complete the legal features of that law, one would only be whipped once.
An example is the prohibitions stated about diverse clothing [shaatnez,
made of mixed wool and linen], one of them concerning wearing, “You
shall not wear shaatnez” (Deut. 27:11), and the second concerning put-
ting it on, “You shall not put on cloth from a shaatnez mixture of two
kinds of material” (Lev. 19:19). The two verses
were both interpreted, and in such a case, there *The next paragraph
appears to start out
is only a single whipping. There is only a single talking about a kohen,
whipping, since the [two] prohibitions serve to but in the latter portion
refers to the Gemara
complete the meaning. For they stated (Sifre Nazir [42b], which deals
Tetze, 82), “The term wearing is included in ‘put- with a Nazirite defiling
ting on,’ so why is it expressed explicitly? It is himself. There seems
to be a textual problem
to derive from it, telling you that just as wear- here. In fact, Duran lists
ing has the specific feature that it benefits the both a kohen gadol and a
Nazirite as being similar in
body, so all [kinds of forbidden use] are those having two prohibitions,
for bodily benefit, and it excludes anything not “not entering” and
for bodily benefit. Since the two prohibitions “not becoming defiled”
[prohibitions 166,167,
serve to complete the meaning, one would not and 266, 272]. Also, see
be whipped twice, once on account of putting Zohar Harakia commentary
on prohibition 262. In
on, and once for wearing.* any case, the printed
This is not like the case of the kohen who version, which mentions
enters the tent of a corpse, where the person an ordinary kohen, is not
relevant, since Duran says
is whipped twice, once because of “he shall not that he only is subject to a
become defiled” and once because “he shall not single prohibition.
enter” (Lev. 21:11, Num. 6:6 and 6:7), as is ex-
plained in Gemara Nazir 42b, for the prohibitions of becoming defiled
and of entry do not require each other for completion of the mean-
ing. Entering is one thing, and defiling is a separate thing; and when
he transgresses both [even both simultaneously], he is to be whipped
twice. And so it is said in the Sifre (the author of Ziv Hazohar could not
find this reference). But [in the case of shaatnez] “wearing” and “putting
on” refer to one thing, and the one prohibition is complementary to the
other; the person is whipped only once for both.
Similarly, the [multiple)] prohibitions about unclean beasts and un-
clean birds do not increase the number of whippings [as in the case of]
the putitha, ant, and hornet. This is because they [the extra verses for
beasts and for birds] come to complete the provisions of the command-

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ment. As they stated in Elu Terefot (Chullin 63b), “Why [were the laws
about clean versus unclean animals] repeated (in Deuteronomy 14 after
having been given in Leviticus 11)? For the beast, it is because of the [in-
clusion of] the sh’suah [Deut. 14:7 has this word, which normally means
“cleft,” but here the sages have claimed that it refers to an unusual type
of beast, which is only mentioned here]. For the birds, it is because of
the ra’ah (ibid., v. 13). And since they are needed to complete the mat-
ter, one is not to be whipped for them. Also, the repeated prohibitions
about the holidays all come for their teachings, and the prohibitions are
repeated for the new content in them, and they are only punishable once
by whipping.
And thus the multiple prohibitions about blood do not give rise to
multiple whippings. For they are expounded in Gemara Keritot (4b),
“Why are there five prohibitions stated about blood? One is for blood
of ordinary meat; one is for blood of sacrificial meat; one is for blood
covered with earth; one is for blood from organs; and one is for the last
oozing blood.” If it were not for this [interpretation of these verses],
they would have had a person who ate blood punished with five whip-
pings. And Rabbi Judah (ibid.) held that if one ate the forbidden fat of
sacrifices, he would be whipped three times. Once is for (Lev. 3:17) “You
shall eat no fat and no blood.” Another is for (Lev. 7:23) “You shall eat
no fat of an ox, lamb, or goat.” And another is for (Lev. 22:10) “No lay
person shall eat of the holy sacrifices.” Likewise, he (Rabbi Judah) would
impose two whippings for one who eats blood, since [besides the direct
prohibition] there is [an indirect one] from a hekesh [derivation by jux-
taposition, in this where blood is juxtaposed] with fat. So it is an evident
*The following
thing that with multiple prohibitive statements, there
remarks about are multiple whippings, even though they involve the
taking a pledge same word [here it is “blood”].*
and the Nazirite
are puzzling to Also, in the argument of Abaye and Rava about [a
me. They belong Nazirite eating] the husk or seed [of grapes, Stanza
more to the topic
of lav shebichlalut
63], and about taking as pledge the upper or lower
[inclusive millstone (Stanza 120), Abaye would have the trans-
prohibitions], rather gressor whipped twice, since the prohibition is du-
than repeated
prohibitions. plicated, although it concerns the same matter and
the same nomenclature. And Rava disagrees, since
the second prohibition is a lav shebichlalut. But if there had been a
separate prohibitive statement for each, a transgressor would have an

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extra whipping because of the repetition.

And in Gemara Makkot (17b), they stated that if a layman ate of a
burnt offering before sprinkling its blood, and this was outside the wall
[of Jerusalem], he incurs five whippings, according to Rabbi Shimon.
Now they raised the question that he should be punished for something
else, as it was taught that for anything that “must be wholly consumed,”
there is a prohibition against eating it (see Lev. 6:16). They concluded
that this is actually so, that for eating a burnt offering, there is one
prohibition, from Rabbi Shimon’s exegesis that the words your vows
refers to burnt offerings; and another prohibition derived from [the
verse about] the kohen’s meal offering, which includes all things that are
wholly consumed, and they stated that [the transgressor] is whipped on
account of the multiple prohibitive statements.
They also say there (Makkot 22a) that if one, for instance, burns
idolatrous asherah wood [as fuel, has transgressed] a prohibition from
this verse (Deut. 13:18),“Nothing that has been doomed shall stick to
your hand.” They objected that he should be whipped also on the basis
of (Deut. 27:26) “You shall not bring an abomination into your house.”
This objection remained unanswered, and indeed one is whipped twice
for one offense because he transgressed two prohibitions, and thus
did Maimonides decide in his explanation on this commandment
(Prohibition No. 25). [And this is so], although these prohibitions do not
have the same content, since one is specifically about idolatrous things,
while the other is more general, since it is stated about one who ben-
efits from [the belongings of an] apostatized city, and that also includes
idolatrous things, which are included in the tern “herem” (“condemned,”
see Deut. 7:26). This is similar to Abaye’s case of the putitha [a small
creature of uncertain description], which involves one prohibition spe-
cifically concerning unclean fish, and another which includes all types of
swarming things, as explained by both early and later authorities, and
as I will explain later [in this ninth principle].
And also in the Sifra (Kedoshim 9:12), it states that one who makes
an idol for himself transgresses two prohibitions, the one being (Lev.
19:4) “You shall not make,” and the other being “not for yourselves”
[i.e., the same phrase in Lev. 19:4, which says “you shall not make for
yourselves,” implies two prohibitions, one being not to manufacture an
idol, even for someone else, and the other being not to make it or have
it made for yourself]. But Rabbi Yose said that the person transgresses

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three prohibitions, [two being from] “you shall not make for yourselves,”
and [the third being] from (Exod. 20:3) “You shall not have.” Hence,
according to the words of Rabbi Yose, one is to be whipped twice on
account of two prohibitive statements regarding keeping an idol, the
one being “not for yourselves,” and the other being “you shall not have.”
And in Sanhedrin, we learned in the Mishnah (Sanhedrin 7:4) that
if one had intercourse with his daughter-in-law, he is guilty on account
of her being his daughter-in-law (kallah) and also on account of her be-
ing a married woman. And they raised the question (Sanhedrin 54a)
why he was not also guilty on account of her being his son’s wife [since
in Lev. 18:15, the first clause mentions kallah, and the latter part uses
the term your wife’s son]. Abaye replied that the verse begins with “his
daughter-in-law” and concludes with “his son’s wife” to indicate that
“his daughter-in-law” and “his son’s wife” are identical terms. One can
deduce from this that if it were not for this limiting meaning found in
the word hee [“she is,” which indicates that the term kallah here is lim-
ited to the son’s wife], they would hold him guilty on account of two
prohibitions stated about this, i.e. (Lev. 18:15), “You shall not uncover
the nakedness of your daughter-in-law,” and “she is your son’s wife; you
shall not uncover her nakedness.” One would have to [therefore] bring
two sacrifices [sin offerings] if he had intercourse with her mistakenly,
and a third [sacrifice] for [the prohibition of] a married woman. And so
it would be regarding whippings [i.e., three whippings, if done inten-
Nachmanides brought all the above proofs in order to refute the words
of Maimonides, who said that one is not punishable with two [or more]
whippings because of multiple prohibitive statements about a single
matter [lit. a single name], and that when a person is punished with
two whippings, it is only because there are two matters [two names]. So
from the totality of these proofs, his [Maimonides’s] opinion is refuted.
Also, he [Maimonides] had to give a very forced treatment of Abaye’s
dictum that if a person ate a putitha [a small creature of uncertain de-
scription], he is whipped four times [and other small creatures are also
multiply punished], by explaining that [the putitha, the ant, and the
hornet] involve [respectively] four, five, and six cases. He explains that
the putitha is a fowl, a swarming fowl, a swarming land creature, and a
swarming water creature, which makes four [distinct cases]. And an ant
is a winged creature, which is born from rotting fruit, which does not

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propagate, and for which one would be culpable, since it is a swarming

thing that has emerged from food. This is punished by whipping because
of (Lev. 11:42) “swarming things that swarm upon the earth, you shall
not eat them, for they are a detestable thing,” from which [this case) is
included, according to his [Maimonides’s] opinion. And the hornet, in
addition to this [the five aspects of an ant], is an unclean fowl and [one
who eats the hornet] is to be whipped [also] on account of [it being]
an unclean fowl. This is what I found written by Nachmanides concern-
ing his [Maimonides’s] view, according to [Maimonides’s] first version,
which came to his [Nachmanides’s] hand. But I found in a later copy
[of Maimonides’s Sefer Hamitzvot] that he [who ate a putitha] is guilty
on account of [it being] a worm from fruit and on account of [it being]
a land swarming thing and account of [it being] a thing that does not
reproduce and on account of [it being] a swarming flying thing. There
is a specific prohibition for each of these cases, as he explained, and as
I will mention in my commentary on these Azharot (stanza 72 of the
prohibitions). The ant has the additional [feature] of being a thing that
swims on the water, and one would be guilty on account of (it being) a
swarming thing of the water. The hornet has the additional [feature] of
being an unclean fowl, and one would be guilty on account of [it being]
an unclean fowl.
And Maimonides does not consider it farfetched that [one creature]
could be a swarming flying thing as well as an unclean fowl, since it
is possible that it should have characteristics and actions of a swarm-
ing flying thing and [also] characteristics and actions of a fowl. Also,
Maimonides does not think it farfetched that a worm emerging from a
fruit can [also] be an unclean flying thing, since we see that from rotting
fruit, there are generated flying creatures larger than a small nut. All of
the above words of Maimonides are in support of his words that a per-
son cannot be whipped twice for one “name” [case]. And the multiplicity
of whippings for the putitha, the ant, and the hornet is not on account of
many prohibitive statements [about the same thing], but on account of
the many different “names” [applicable to a single creature].
But there are many difficulties with his words. For he claims that the
putitha is a swarming land creature, while in the Gemara they do not
say this. For in the Gemara (28a), they raise an objection: “How could
Abaye think that fish are grown from the earth? Abaye has said that
if one ate a putitha, he is whipped four times; if an ant, he is whipped

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five times; and if a hornet, he is whipped six times. Now, if it were so

[that Abaye considered a fish as being grown from the earth], one should
also be whipped on account of ‘a swarming thing that swarms on the
earth’ (Lev. 11:42).” It is thus evident that a putitha is not something
that grows from the earth at all, but it is from the fishes, which do not
grow from the earth at all.
Also, he [Maimonides] thinks that a swarming thing that swarms
over a fruit is whipped because of a specific prohibition concerning this,
which is (Lev. 11:42) “all swarming things that swarm upon the earth;
you shall not eat them.” And [he also thinks] that when it falls upon the
earth and swarms over it, there is another prohibition. But this is not
true, for in chapter “Elu Trefot” (Chullin 67b), it is proved that a worm
from fruit is prohibited only after it gets off onto the ground, and it is
forbidden only because it has swarmed on the earth, not that it should
be a separate prohibition. This is not the place to expand on this, but one
may look it up there, if he is well versed in these laws.
Also, he [Maimonides] thinks that a swarming thing, which is born
from rotting matter, which does not reproduce, has a specific prohi-
bition, which is (Lev. 11:44) “with any swarming thing that moves
(romess) upon the earth (this emendation of the text is based on the
manuscript, the printed text being not understandable).” And this is
due to the difference between shoretz (swarms) and romess (moves).16
But this also is not so, for one finds the expression “moving” used for
those things born from male and female, like (Ps. 104:20) “in it all the
forest creatures move.” Therefore, all creatures [even those born with-
out sexual reproduction] are included under “swarming things of the
earth” (11:41). And in the Sifra, [which states that v. 11:44 teaches us
to include nonreproducing species], they do not derive this from the
expression “that moves” as a specific commandment, but [they derive
it] from [the inclusive term] any (in 11:44), that they [nonreproducing
things] are included with those born by sexual reproduction in the same
Now Maimonides states that if one eats a hornet, he is punished by
whipping on account of [it being] a worm from fruit and on account
of [it being] a swarming thing of the earth that reproduces and on ac-

16 The argument is that shoretz, as in 11:41, indicates sexual reproduction, while romess refers to
nonsexual generation.

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count of [it being] a worm generated from rotting fruit that does not
reproduce. [These are three of the six forbidden characteristics of the
hornet.] But all this is difficult, that a worm that develops from rotting
fruit should be able to propagate, for anything that is not generated by
[a union of] male and female should not be able to reproduce. And a
proof of this is that [as noted in Betza 7a] an egg that is generated by [a
hen] rubbing against the earth will not hatch into a chick. This objection
is what Nachmanides wrote. But this is not difficult at all, in view of
what they state (Chullin 127a) that a mouse that developed from the
earth [i.e., without parents] can procreate, and the accepted rabbinic
tradition was that such a mouse is a source of defilement [like any other
mouse]. And the only exception is for a mouse, which [is not fully de-
veloped, but] is half mouse and half earth, which is not considered as
reproducing; but when it is entirely developed, they considered it as a
source of defilement, since they consider him capable of reproduction,
as they mention in chapter “Haor V’harotev” (Chullin 126b). Thus, there
is no problem for Maimonides’s view that one can be punished [for eat-
ing a hornet] on account of it being reproducing and on account of it
being not reproducing, since it would not be possible for one species to
be reproducing and not reproducing simultaneously [since, although its
origin was not reproductive, it becomes capable of reproducing after its
full development, and thus it has characteristics of both].
Another thing [that makes Maimonides’s explanation of putitha, etc.
difficult] is that Scripture mentions only twenty-four unclean species
of fowl. And such a species that would evolve from fruits, with which
of those [twenty-four] could this be identified? For the Torah has no
[general] prohibition about unclean fowl except those particularly men-
tioned, “And these of the fowl you shall detest” (Lev. 11:13). Also, how
is it possible that the hornet [which according to Maimonides also has
properties of an unclean fowl] tramples and eats [its prey], for any fowl
that does not trample is not forbidden, as it is noted in the Gemara,
chapter “Elu T’refot” (Chullin 59a)?
Also, Maimonides wrote that there is a specific prohibition about
unclean fish (Prohibition No. 173) and a [separate] prohibition about
swarming sea creatures (No. 179) from the verse (Lev. 11:43) “You shall
not make yourselves abominable with any swarming thing.” This does
not specify fowl or earth creatures or water creatures, and this prohi-
bition would be applied to swarming sea creatures [i.e., land swarm-

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ing creatures and swarming fowl are already covered by other specific
verses, so Lev. 11:43 is needed particularly for swarming sea creatures].
But this is not true, for the Torah included in a single prohibition all
water creatures, whether large or small [small ones are indicated by the
term swarming], which is the verse (Lev. 11:10–11) “Of anything that
swarms in the water, and of any living being in the water, etc. . . . you
shall not eat of their flesh.” Therefore, Maimonides’s explanation about
“one who eats a putitha, etc.” is refuted [we follow the MS reading ni-
dcheh, not nireh]. Therefore, three [of Maimonides’s] prohibitions had
to be removed from our enumeration. These are (a) the prohibition he
interprets [as referring] to worms from fruit and (b) [that applying] to
swarming things that do not reproduce, for both are included in the pro-
hibition of swarming land creatures; and the [third deleted prohibition]
is what he explained as referring to swarming water creatures, for they
were already included with unclean fish.
Now, the [following is the] correct interpretation of Abaye’s teaching
that one who eats a putitha is whipped four times. For it is written re-
garding unclean fishes (Lev. 11:11) “They shall be detestable to you; you
shall not eat of their flesh.” And it is [further] written about swarming
things (v. 43), “Do not make yourselves detestable with any swarming
thing, and do not become unclean with them.” [Now,] “do not make
yourselves detestable” and “do not become unclean” constitute two
prohibitions including all swarming things, which are not specifically
about sea or land or flying creatures. And in Deuteronomy, it is written
(14:10), “Everything not having fins and scales you shall not eat.” [So
this is the fourth prohibition for the putitha, which is a fish.]
[Eating] an ant is punished by whipping five times [on account of the
following prohibitive verses:] “Any swarming creature that swarms over
the earth is detestable; it must not be eaten” (Lev. 11:41); “Anything
that goes on its belly . . . of any swarming creature that swarms over the
earth, you shall not eat” (v. 42): “you shall not make yourselves detest-
able with any swarming thing that swarms” (v. 43); “and you shall not
make yourselves unclean with them” (v. 43); “and you shall not make
yourselves unclean with any swarming that moves over the earth” (v.
44). [For eating] a hornet one is whipped six times, for the five prohibi-
tions about swarming creatures [which apply to the ant], and the sixth
is “Every swarming fowl” (either Lev. 11:20 or Deut. 14:19). And this is
how the Halachot Gedolot explained, and also Rav Acha of Shavcha in the

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She’iltoth (Shemini 84), and the Alfasi in his Halachot (Chullin, end of
Elu Terefot) explained thus, as well as Rashi in his commentary (Makkot
10b). And all the Geonim and the French rabbis decided thus.
Now Rashi raised an objection as to why there should not be a whip-
ping on account of a seventh prohibition [for swarming things], as it is
said in the Parshah Kedoshim Tihyu (Lev. 20:25), “You shall not make
yourselves abominable by beast or by fowl.” And he replied that the
verse did not apply to swarming things (sh’ratzim). Even though it is
written (later in v. 25) “which teems (tirmos) on the earth,” that expres-
sion means large creatures, whereas “a swarming thing” (sheretz) means
small creatures. But this reply is insufficient, since it (tirmos) includes
both large and small creatures, as it is said (Gen. 7:21), “And all flesh
that teemed (haromess, another form of tirmos) on the earth perished—
birds, cattle, beasts, and all things that swarmed over the earth”; and it
is written (Lev. 11:46) “which teems in the water” [where the subject is
“every living thing”]. Also that verse itself (i.e., Lev. 20:25) indicates this
[that it also includes small creatures], since after having said “you shall
not make yourselves abominable with beasts and fowl,” which means
large creatures, when it then says “which teem on the earth,” it is meant
to also include small creatures. Furthermore, why would one not be
punished [for eating] an unclean beast or unclean fowl with two whip-
pings, the extra one being on account of this prohibitive verse? And it is
known that one is [in fact] punished with one whipping, as is evident at
the end of chapter “Gid Hanasheh” (Chullin 100b).
But Nachmanides’s opinion [as to the proper answer to Rashi’s ques-
tion] is that this prohibitive verse includes everything prohibited in
other sections, just like the verse (Deut. 14:3) “You shall not eat any
abominable thing” includes everything that the Torah forbids after-
ward. So does this verse include everything preceding it in other sec-
tions. Included in this is the prohibition of unclean beasts, the prohibi-
tion of unclean fowl, the prohibition of swarming fowl, the prohibition
of swarming land creatures, the prohibition of swarming sea creatures,
and even the prohibition of carrion and of a terefah animal, and a limb
from a living animal, and others. For every “abominable thing” (to’evah
in Deut. 14:3) is equivalent to “make abominable” (shikutz in the form
t’shaktzu in Lev. 20:25), as expressed (Deut. 7:26), “You shall consider
it abominable and you shall consider it detestable” (shaketz t’shaktzenu
v’ta’ev t’ta’avenu).

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Similarly did they interpret in the Sifra (Kedoshim 127:20): “[The

verse Lev. 20:25 states,] ‘And you shall set apart the clean beast from
the unclean, the unclean bird from the clean.’ Is it necessary to say this
about [separating] a cow from a donkey, or a donkey from a cow? Are
these not clearly stated? So, what is the meaning of ‘the clean beast from
the unclean beast’? [It means] between that which is clean for you and
that which is unclean for you, (e.g.) between the one whose windpipe
is mostly severed [which is permissible] and the one that is just half
severed [and this is forbidden]. [The following clause is] ‘And you shall
not make yourselves abominable by beast or by fowl, or by anything that
teems on the earth, which I have set apart for you to hold unclean,’ [and
the Sifra comments that ‘to hold unclean’ means] to be forbidden.” And
so they include in the positive and negative commandments stated here
all prohibitions, even those due to faulty slaughter. Therefore, he, i.e.,
Nachmanides, says that one would not be punished by whipping for this
[i.e., verse 25], since it is a lav shebichlalut [inclusive prohibition encom-
passing a number of things]. This is similar to the prohibition “You shall
not eat over blood” (Lev. 19:26) and the prohibition of not eating any
holy thing that has become invalid as a sacrifice. Regarding this type of
lav shebichlalut, everyone agrees that [a violator] is not punished for it,
as I will discuss shortly.
Now that this has been clarified, I will explain the matter of different
types of lav shebichlalut; which types are punishable by whipping, and
which types are not punishable by whipping. Now, there are three types.
The first type is where one prohibitive statement includes many things
that do not resemble each other, like the prohibition (Lev. 19:26) “You
shall not eat over blood,” which includes eating an animal before its life
has totally left it; eating sacrificial meat before sprinkling its blood; a
court that has condemned a man to death eating during the entire day
of execution; and other matters. About this type of prohibition, they
said in Gemara Sanhedrin (63a), “One may not be punished by whipping
for [transgressing] a lav shebichlalut, and they explained that a lav shebi-
chlalut is where two or three prohibitions are contained in one negative
Now, Maimonides (in his ninth principle) included in this type “You
shall not place a stumbling block before the blind” (Lev. 19:14) and “You
shall not raise a false report” (Exod. 23:1) [the latter is Maimonides’s
Prohibition No. 281]. Nachmanides included with them the prohibition

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interpreted [by the rabbis] that any holy thing that has become invalid
[for its intended use] would be forbidden to eat [this is based on the
verse Exod. 29:34 or 33]. For this includes [holy things rendered invalid
by] becoming unclean, being removed from their proper place, being
unduly delayed, being slaughtered at night, wrongful thought during
slaughter, and other things. These are many cases totally different [in
nature], and everyone agrees that for this, one is not punished by whip-
ping. Also, if one hugs or kisses an idol, or sweeps or sprinkles [to keep
the dust down] before it, the sages (Sanhedrin 63a) consider these as
a lav shebichlalut, and there is no whipping for any of these. Now, as to
why they call this a lav shebichlalut, it is not because of the various kinds
of service17 that they are called a lav shebichlalut, for they are all of the
same nature, and they [all] are termed service. This is like the prohibition
of carrion, which includes a number of things of the same nature. And
[it is also like the] prohibitions “You shall do no work [on the holiday]”
(Deut. 16:8), which subsumes many distinct kinds of work, but their
character is the same, and the term work applies to all of them. So one
is whipped on account of these prohibitions, as is explained in Makkot
(21b), Pesachim (47b), and Yom Tov (Betzah 12a). Similarly, hugging,
kissing, etc., [an idol] are all expressed by the same term [i.e., service]; so
this is not the reason for considering this a lav shebichlalut [and thus not
subject to punishment by whipping]. But their intention in consider-
ing this a lav shebichlalut is [the following]. The prohibition that warns
against this is (Deut. 6:14) “You shall not go after other gods,” in which
separate matters are included. For it (6:14) comes right after what is
written (ibid., v. 13) “You shall fear the Lord your God, and Him you
shall serve, and by His name you shall swear.” So when it says thereafter
“You shall not follow other gods,” it gives warning that one should not
fear it [an idol], nor honor it, even in a way that is not the way it is usu-
ally worshipped, like hugging and kissing, and also one should not swear
by its name. [Also], one should not seek knowledge of the future from
it, and if we hear them [predictions of the future], we should not believe
them. It is on account of this [variety of content] that they considered
this a lav shebichlalut, and it is not punished by whipping.
Now, I have found another lav shebichlalut that they [Maimonides

17 We are here following the text of the first printed edition and the manuscript, which read avodot
instead of averot; hugging, kissing, etc., are various examples of service.

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and Nachmanides] did not mention, and this is what is stated about the
“inner” sin offering (Lev. 6:23) “it shall not be eaten; it must be burnt
in fire.” They said in the Sifra (Tsav 76:7) that this prohibition against
eating is applied to anything requiring burning, which includes a sin
offering that has to be burnt and piggul [sacrifices slaughtered with
wrongful intentions] and notar [sacrifices whose proper time of eating is
expired]. And Maimonides holds that only the prohibition that includes
everything should enter into the enumeration of the commandments,
not every individual prohibition [included in the general prohibition],
unless there is a difference in punishment among the particular prohibi-
tions, in which case they will be listed according to their punishments. I
will speak about these later in the commentary on the prohibitions with
the help of God; here it is only appropriate to write about what they
wrote on this principle.
The second type of lav shebichlalut is when a single prohibition
specifies several things, all of which are punished by whipping, but they
would be punished by a single whipping [even when more things than
one were transgressed simultaneously]. The proof for this is what they
say in Gemara Kiddushin (77b) about a widow, a divorcee, a chalalah [a
woman born from a union forbidden to a kohen], or a harlot [all of these
being forbidden to a High Priest]. Just as for an ordinary Kohen, the
divorcee is separate from a chalalah or a harlot, since there is a separate
prohibition for her (Lev. 21:7), “They shall not take a woman divorced
from her husband” [i.e., if a kohen had relations with a chalalah who was
also a divorcee, he is guilty of transgressing two prohibitions], similarly
for the high priest, the widow is considered separate from the divor-
cee or the chalalah. It can be inferred from this that, if it were not for
this interpretation [based on the specific verse about the divorcee (Lev.
21:7)], if one had intercourse with a woman who was all of these, he
would be punished by whipping only once, since they were all stated in
a single prohibition. This is also evident from what they said in chapter
“Gid Hanasheh” (Chullin 102b) about eating a limb from a live animal.
According to Rabbi Yochanan [one who ate both a limb severed from a
live animal as well as severed flesh] is whipped twice, since they [limb
and flesh] are, in his opinion, based on two separate verses. But accord-
ing to Resh Lakish, he would only be whipped once, since, in his opinion,
both cases are included in a single verse. Also, regarding flesh from a
living animal and terefah meat, Rabbi Yochanan holds that [if one eats

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both] he is whipped only once, since, in his opinion, they are both in-
cluded in the same verse; while, according to Resh Lakish, he is whipped
twice, since in his opinion the two are forbidden by two distinct verses.
Also, in the Gemara Sanhedrin (65a) and in the Gemara Keritot
(3b), regarding the ob and the yidoni [various types of witchcraft], it is
taught that they are not considered as separate regarding sin offerings
[if the wrongful acts were done unintentionally], since they are stated
in a single prohibition. And we deduce from this that the same applies
to whipping [i.e., only one whipping when the sin is intentional]. Also,
in the Yerushalmi in Tractate Nazir (6:1), they said regarding fat and
blood that the prohibition “You shall not eat any fat nor any blood” (Lev.
3:17) is inclusive [of both fat and blood], and it would have been pun-
ished only once [for eating both], if it were not for their separate specific
[prohibition] elsewhere (Lev. 7:24 and 26). Also, with the prohibitions
of a Nazirite, they were inclined to say that one should only be pun-
ished once, except that they found an additional
*Note that the following
word that separated the two [forbidden items]. two examples, i.e.,
Similarly, [the prohibitions) “[No fat of] ox, or homosexual intercourse
sheep, or goat [shall you eat]” (Lev. 7:23) and and mating of diverse
species, are not of the
“You shall eat neither bread, nor parched corn, same format as other
nor fresh ears” (Lev. 23:14) would rightfully be “type II” situations. In
the previous cases, the
punished only once, except that they found ex- multiple component
tra words that divided them.* prohibitions are explicitly
I found another proof for this stated in stated. In the two examples
following, the text appears
Sanhedrin, chapter “Arba Mitot Bet Din” to be single-component
(Sanhedrin 54b), “If a man comes upon a male, prohibition, but rabbinic
interpretation implied a
and let a male come upon him, he is guilty of two second prohibition. Thus
separate sins according to Rabbi Ishmael, the in a certain sense, it is
first based on (Lev. 18:22) ‘You shall not lie,’ and like a “type I” prohibition,
except that here the two
the second based on (Deut. 23:18) ‘There shall be components are closely
no sodomite.’ Rabbi Akiva considers him guilty related in content.
of a single offense, since lying or allowing a male
to lie is one [i.e., the verb tishkav in Lev. 18:22 can also be read tishakev,
implying the reversed roles; thus, both are included in that one verse]. If
one came on a beast and brought a beast on himself, he is guilty of two
offenses, according to Rabbi Ishmael, the first being from (Lev. 18:23)
‘You shall not lie,’ and the second from (Deut. 23:18) ‘there shall be no
sodomite.’ According to Rabbi Akiva, he is guilty of a single prohibition,

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since sh’chavt’cha (in Lev. 18:23) and sh’chivatcha [by altering the vowels
and understanding this as lying as a receiver] constitute a single pro-
hibition.” From all the above, it comes out that the particulars of an
inclusive prohibition are not to be punished separately.
And in the Yerushalmi, Tractate Kilayim, chapter 1 (7), I found writ-
ten: “Only concerning beasts is it written (Lev. 19:19) ‘You shall not
have your cattle mated with a different kind.’ How [is it known that this
prohibition applies also] to fowl? Some teachers learn this from (ibid.)
‘You shall observe my laws’ [which is a more comprehensive statement].
Other teachers derive it [the case of fowl] from ‘you shall not have your
cattle mate with a different kind’ [by means of rabbinic exegesis]. Now,
suppose that one grafted a tree [prohibition of grafting was derived by
the rabbis from ‘you shall not have your cattle . . .’] and also crossbred
his fowl. According to the sage who said [that the fowl is forbidden] by
‘You shall observe my laws,’ the person is guilty of two prohibitions.
But according to the sage who says [that fowl is forbidden] by ‘you shall
not have your cattle mate with a different kind,’ he is guilty of only one
prohibition [i.e., both actions are from the same prohibition, ‘you shall
not have your cattle . . .’]. Now, suppose one had crossbred his cattle and
also crossbred his fowl, then, according to the one who says that [fowl]
is from ‘You shall observe my laws,’ he is guilty of only one prohibition.
But according to the one who says it is from ‘you shall not have your
cattle mate with a different kind,’ one is guilty of two [prohibitions].”
But it seems to me that this is an erroneous version, and it should
be reversed. For [prohibitions] emerging from a single verse make [a
person] guilty once, while those emerging from two verses make one
guilty twice. And this is the way it also is in the argument of Rabbi Akiva
and Rabbi Ishmael regarding [a man] who comes upon a male and who
also brings a male upon him, that the text [as it appears in Yerushalmi
Sanhedrin 7:7] must be changed from “Rabbi Ishmael” to “Rabbi Akiva,”
and from “Rabbi Akiva” to “Rabbi Ishmael.” And the version of the
Babylonian Talmud (Sanhedrin 54b previously quoted) is correct. So
what emerges from all this is that particular things that are included in a
general prohibition should not be punished by whipping twice, but only
once, unless Scripture has separated them [the two component parts].
Now, Maimonides included in this [type II] category [the following
prohibitions]: [meat of the paschal lamb which is] partially roasted
or water-cooked (Exod. 12:9); grape skin and seeds [forbidden to a

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Nazirite, Num. 6:4]; leaven and honey [forbidden in a meal offering, Lev.
2:11]; [marrying an] Ammonite or Moabite (Deut. 23:4); oppressing the
stranger, orphan, or widow (Exod. 22:21).18; food, clothing, and marital
relations [not to be withheld by the husband (Exod. 21:14)]; and, finally,
“You shall drink no wine or strong drink” (Lev. 10:9). For all the above
are enumerated as only single commandments, since they are punish-
able by a single whipping. Nachmanides disagrees in some cases, and
their respective opinions will be explained in my commentary on the
prohibitions, with God’s help.* *The
Concerning the grape skins and seeds, they are included following
in Maimonides’s Book of Commandments among the text
[separately] enumerated prohibitions, and also in his large seems
work (Mishneh Torah, Hilchot Nezirut Introduction); and awkward.
he counts among the prohibitions for a Nazirite [regarding
eating] five prohibitions [among them two for grape skins and seeds].
But in his Hilchot Sanhedrin (19:4), where he enumerates the prohibi-
tions punishable by whipping, he lists [marrying] an Ammonite and a
Moabite [separately, nos. 164 and 165], but [all five] prohibitions for a
Nazirite as only a single [commandment, No. 101]. But this is because
in that enumeration (Hilchot Sanhedrin 19:4), he does not main-
tain consistency in that enumeration of commandments. For he may
separate a single prohibition into a number of cases of whipping, and
[conversely] he may include several prohibitions as one case of whip-
ping. For Maimonides did not mean (in Hilchot Sanhedrin 9:4) to be
precise about the enumeration of the commandments, but only to cover
as many case as there are of transgressors against prohibitions who are
to be whipped. He divided the subjects according to what he saw fit in
his mind, not paying attention if sometimes several entries are actually
included as a single prohibition, or if several prohibitions are included
in a single entry.
Now, the third type [of lav shebichlalut, in Maimonides’s classifica-
tion] is a prohibition having a general term and also particular terms,
and one is whipped for every individual term [that was transgressed].
Maimonides brought among these types the verse (Deut. 12:17) “You

18 But as pointed out by Perlow, the prohibitive clause in this verse does not mention “widow,”
and thus Duran’s statements here on this commandment are not understood. In Duran’s list of
commandments, in commandment no. 64, he omits the widow. It is interesting, however, that in
the related verse in Deut. 27:19, all three persons are mentioned.

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may not eat within your settlements the tithes of your grain, your wine,
or your oil, etc.” For they said in the Gemara Keritot (4b) that if one
ate tithe of grain, wine, and oil, he is [separately] guilty for each. They
objected to this: “Can you punish with whipping for a Lav Shebichlalut?”
And they responded that this is due to a redundant expression. Since it
is written (Deut. 14:23) “You shall consume the tithe of your grain in
the presence of the Lord your God,” why would it be necessary to write
(in 12:17) “You may not eat within your settlements, etc.”? You might
say that this is [needed in order to have an explicit] negative form [the
positive form in 14:23 is not sufficient to justify whipping for one who
eats these things outside of Jerusalem]. But for that purpose, it could
just say, “You shall not consume them.” Why should it have been neces-
sary to repeat all [three] of them? It is to imply that they are separately
They said likewise concerning (Lev. 23:14) “bread, parched grain, or
fresh ears” that one is whipped for each one separately. But how can
one be whipped for a lav shebichlalut? [Here also] a redundant verse is
written, and they conclude there that parched grain is not needed; and
since Scripture does record it between the other two things, this makes
one guilty for bread separately, and for parched grain separately, and for
fresh grain separately. And if it [parched grain] were at the beginning or
the end, one would be guilty for parched grain separately and for bread
and for bread and fresh ears separately [i.e., eating them both would
result in only a single whipping].
From here [i.e., this reasoning], Maimonides learned concerning
(Deut. 18:10–11) “Let there not be found among you one who consigns
his son or daughter to the fire, or who is an augur, a soothsayer, a diviner,
a sorcerer, one who casts spells, or who consults ghosts or familiar spir-
its, or who inquires of the dead,” that every one of these nine things is
enumerated as a separate prohibition. [This is because] among them are
persons who are [expressly] separately enumerated elsewhere, namely,
“You shall not practice divination, and you shall not practice soothsay-
ing” (Lev. 19:26). This is similar to parched grain, which, being placed in
the middle, separates everything specified along with it.
And also of this type (type III) is “they shall not take a woman who
is a harlot, or who has been profaned, and they shall not take a woman
who was divorced by her husband” (Lev. 21:7), as the sages mentioned
(Kiddushin 77b), and as I mentioned previously. And Nachmanides in

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this type included the case of partially roasted and water-cooked [pas-
chal lamb] grape skin and grape seeds [consumed by a Nazirite], leaven
and honey [in a meal offering], and oppressing a widow and an orphan.
And in my commentary on the prohibitions, I will explain the opinions
of both of them [Maimonides and Nachmanides].
He [Nachmanides] also does not agree with Maimonides, who enu-
merates [negative] commandments according to the number of separate
whippings, and he [Nachmanides] also does not [enumerate] according
to the number of prohibitive statements. But he enumerates every for-
bidden thing. Therefore, he enumerates among the commandments all
things that are specifically mentioned in the Torah. So he counts partial-
ly roasted and water-cooked as two, and the gift to a harlot and the price
of a dog [as two], and leaven and honey [as two], and Ammonite and
Moabite [as two], and other such cases. Even in Maimonides’s opinion,
there are eight items mentioned singly, but it is proper [in Maimonides’s
view] to count them only two by two [i.e., each pair belongs to a single
prohibitive clause, which is enumerated alone. But [Nachmanides]
counts tithe of grain, wine, and oil [when eaten outside of Jerusalem]
as only a single prohibition, for all [three] of them constitute “tithe.”
And similarly bread, parched grain, and fresh ears [which Maimonides
enumerates as three prohibitions], he [Nachmanides] counts as a single
prohibition, since it is a single subject, i.e., the prohibition of new pro-
duce. As for my own opinion on this, you will find it at the end of the
PRINCIPLE 10. One should not enumerate *The subject of
among the commandments the preliminaries Lav Shebichlalut is
and procedures that are for a single final result. complicated, and there
are many opinions
Therefore, everything written in the section of “And about it. Helpful
you shall take fine flour, etc.” (Lev. 24:5–9) should material is found in
The Puzzle of the 613
not be enumerated, except for the final purpose of Commandments by
this commandment, which is (Exod. 25:30) “And Philip J. Caplan, chap.
you shall set the showbread on the table.” Likewise, 27, pp. 227–245.

from the section “and they shall bring unto you

olive oil, etc.” (Exod. 27:20) we should only enumerate “to have a lamp
burning regularly.” Also, from the section “Take unto you spices, etc.”
(Exod. 30:34), we should only enumerate “when he tends the lamps, he
shall burn it” (Exod. 30:7). Everything stated in these sections about
preparing the bread, the oil, and the incense is the preliminaries to ar-

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ranging the bread, lighting the lamp, and the burning of the incense, and
it is the final commandment that comes into the enumeration, not the
preliminaries. Also, analogously, in the section “Take new choice spices,
etc.” (Exod. 30:23–28), we should only count the final purpose, not the
preliminaries, which is that we are commanded to anoint specific things
with this oil. This principle is true, and Nachmanides agrees, saying that
even the Gaon [author of Halachot Gedolot] also holds this opinion, even
though Maimonides considered him mistaken about this; and in my
commentary on the Azharot, all this will be explained.
PRINCIPLE 11. Specific parts of a commandment should not be
enumerated, each part separately, when the sum total of them consti-
tutes a single commandment. Now, regarding things that are mutually
invalidating [i.e., if one element of the group is absent, the remaining
elements have no status of fulfilling a commandment], it is an obvious
thing that the parts cannot be enumerated. This is like the four species
that comprise the lulav or the purification of the “leper” (Lev. 14:4–7)
with cedar wood, hyssop, scarlet stuff, and two birds, in which cases we
should only count the commandment of lulav as one commandment,
and the commandment of purification of the “leper” as one command-
ment. It is thus in all similar cases, and everyone agrees about this. But
Maimonides (in principle 11) raised some doubt about the tzitzit (Num.
15:37–41), since we learned in the Mishnah (Menachot 4:1) that the
[absence of] the blue thread does not invalidate the white thread, and
the [absence of ] the white thread does not invalidate the blue thread.
For it would be proper, according to this principle, to enumerate these
as two commandments. Nevertheless, he decided to count them as
only one commandment. For it is stated in the Mechilta,19 “It might be
thought that they [blue and white] are two [separate] commandments.
Therefore, Scripture says (Num. 15:39), “And it shall be for you” [imply-
ing a single commandment]. And I will write a more detailed analysis
about this in my commentary on the Azharot.
PRINCIPLE 12. One should not enumerate portions of any action,
each portion separately. Therefore, we enumerate “They shall make me
a sanctuary” (Exod. 25:8) as a single commandment, but we should not
enumerate everything about which it is said, “And you shall make” (e.g.,
vv. 10, 17, 23, etc., in Exod. 25) as a separate commandment. Now this

19 Actually Sifre Zuta Sh’lach 15:39.

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is true, and there is no argument about this, except about making the
ark, whether it is included in the general [commandment] of making
the sanctuary, or whether it is a separate commandment, and I will ex-
plain this in my commentary on the Azharot (Positive Commandments,
Stanza 49). Also concerning the preparation of the sacrifices, there is no
agreement among them [Maimonides and Nachmanides] as to how they
are included in the enumeration of the commandments, and all this will
be explained in my commentary on the Azharot (ibid., Stanza 45).
PRINCIPLE 13. The number of the commandments should not cor-
respond to the number of days on which that commandment applies.
Therefore, we count the additional offering for New Moon as one com-
mandment, and the additional Sabbath offering, and the additional
offering for all five holidays as one [apiece]. Also, the festival offering,
appearing [on the festivals with a burnt offering], and rejoicing [on fes-
tivals] are each counted as a single commandment. For, if these things
were enumerated corresponding to the number of days [when they are
required], then we would have to count the law of the daily offering as a
separate commandment for each day, and cleaning the lamps as a sepa-
rate commandment for each day, and the commandment of the lulav
as being seven, and the number of commandments would be much too
large. And this is the proof that the number of days does not increase
the number of commandments.
But Maimonides found fault with whoever [e.g. Halachot Gedolot]
counted all additional offerings as only a single commandment. For ac-
cording to their theory, they should have counted resting on all holidays
as a single commandment, whereas they [in fact] counted each holiday
separately. And he [Maimonides] wrote that their way is not straight,
and his is correct. I did not see Nachmanides saying anything about this
principle. I did see that he counts the two daily offerings [morning and
afternoon], and burning incense morning and evening, and reading the
shema morning and evening as two [commandments in all three cases].
For these are commandments that do not invalidate each other [i.e., if
the morning offering was not done, the afternoon offering is still re-
quired], and the time for one is different than the time for the other.
PRINCIPLE 14. This [deals with] how the various punishments are
to be included in the enumeration of the commandments. For example,
there is whipping, various kinds of capital punishment, having to bring
sacrifices, and the like. Much confusion has befallen this topic among

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the early authorities. What needs to be written about this the reader will
find scattered in my commentary on the Azharot. With this, the prin-
ciples are concluded. And now I am beginning to explain the Azharot,
adhering to the way of the earlier commentator [Moses ibn Tibbon],
except for the cases where I differ from his comment. And I ask for help
from God, blessed and exalted is He.

Blessed is the Merciful One who has supported us.

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The Positive Commandments*

1. My heart, heed the response; be exceedingly *The 248 positive

humble. commandments are
embodied in eighty-five
Fear God and enumerate His righteous stanzas. The number
words. of commandments in
a stanza varies. The
The poet speaks, as it were, to his own heart, poetic structure is that
and adjures and commands it to take heed of the each stanza has four
response (ma’aneh). And we do not know what “lines.” The first three
“lines” rhyme with each
ma’aneh refers to. Some explain that it is the re- other, while the fourth
sponse of Israel at Mt. Sinai who answered and “line” always ends in the
sound rim. This “poem”
proclaimed, “All that the Lord spoke we shall do” is well known and has
(Exod. 19:8). Or [perhaps] he is calling the Torah been translated and
a response (ma’aneh), since it is God’s speaking interpreted by various
scholars. The text of the
and communicating with Israel. He then instructs Azharot of ibn Gabirol is
it [his heart] to be humble (ne’eneh), for (ne’eneh) in bold font; the text of
the Zohar Harakia is in
indicates submissiveness, similar to “how long do regular font.
you refuse to be humbled (le’anot) before me?”
(Exod. 10:3), this being in the passive form.
He further urges it [his heart] to fear God and to enumerate His
commandments, which constitute the paths of God by which He guided
Israel, so that they should not follow paths that deviate from the truth.
The initial letters of the words of this stanza spell out his name and his
father’s name [Shelomo ben Yehuda].20

2. And He will forgive error, and He will give abundant

strength, And He will grant wisdom, to give understanding
to the simple.

20 Note that the poet uses the less-common form bimeod rather than just meod for the purpose of
incorporating his name here.

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The poet comes into a prayerful mode, that God should forgive his
sin if he errs in counting the commandments, since he is aware of his
weakness and inadequacy of his knowledge concerning the enumera-
tion. For this poet was not a rabbi, who is expert in the Talmud, and he
was relying on the words of the Halachot Gedolot. He is fearful lest he
might misunderstand his words [of the Halachot Gedolot], or lest that
author was mistaken, and that he himself would be following his error.
This is why he prays for forgiveness. He also prays to God to increase his
strength, for it is God who increases the strength of the powerless (Isa.
40:30). This strength refers to granting wisdom for “it is God who grants
wisdom, and from his mouth are wisdom and understanding” (Prov.
2:6). In the phrase l’havin nimharim, he refers to the simpleminded, all of
whose understanding was gotten hastily without careful consideration
(the adjective nimhar is found in Isaiah 32:4 and 35:4; also Job 5:13).

3. Let me tell weighty matters, sweet to the mouth,

And I will set up turrets, to lead the travelers aright.
The wisdom for which he prays is in order to proclaim wise doctrines
and commandments, for commandments are indeed sweeter to the
mouth than honey and the flow from the honeycomb (Ps. 19:110).21
“And I will set up turrets” in enumerating them, i.e., by poetic meter, the
reader will have the commandments like turrets, which are the teeth of
the wall “to lead the travelers aright,” that they will observe them from
afar and know the location of the city.

4. I will recount the positive commandments of the Law, [our]

stronghold and refuge, And may my sins be forgiven by Him
who reveals secrets.
God, exalted is He, is our stronghold and refuge, and he [the poet]
again beseeches that the Holy One, blessed is He, who reveals secrets,
will cover [forgive] his sins; and the covering of sins is linked with un-
covering (revealing) secrets, these antonyms [covering, uncovering]
being a poetic device.

5. Forty and eight and two hundred, which are planted,

21 Note that the Ziv Hazohar edition omits the words metukot lapiyot midvash v’nofet tsufim, which
follow the words shehamitzvot hem.

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———————————————— The Positive Commandments ————————————————

And anchored with nails in the number of limbs (also 248).

I have already explained this in the introduction, and the verse [on
which this stanza is based] is (Eccles. 12:11) “The words of the wise are
as goads, and as nails well fastened.”

6. At Sinai they were made known, on high they were heard,

And together they were imbedded in the Ten Words.
For they [the commandments] are well indicated by the let-
ters [of The Decalogue] being equal
To the number of the commandments, and they were ex-
pressed in them.
The vav in b’tevot nishtavot is weak, similar to the vav in eshet m’danim
nishtavah (Prov. 27:15).22

7. And He who saves you and who made known to you [the
Till [its conclusion] “which is your neighbor’s,” He made you grasp
All this is explained in the Introduction.

8. And the omniscient God thundered with a marvelous awe-

some voice,
Jumping over hills, skipping over mountains.
The Holy One, blessed is He, who is the omniscient God, emitted
awesome thunder, with an extraordinary sound, as recorded by Deborah
(Judg. 5:4) and David (Ps. 6:9): “the earth roared, etc.” And that sound
leaped over hills (Song of Songs 2:8); or the meaning may be that the
“jumping” and “skipping” refer to God.

9. And when he called them [the words] out, trembling seized

And their souls expired, with trembling and shattering.
Scripture says (Exod. 20:16) “Let not God speak to us lest we die.”
And it is written: (Exod. 20:15) “And all the people saw and trembled
and stood back.” “With trembling” (retet) is related [by replacing the tet

22 The vav is a consonant in nishtavah and nishtavot, although I don’t know that this is termed
grammatically as “weak.”

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by a tav] to r’ses [which also means trembling]. [The word retet] is found
in Jeremiah (49:24), “trembling seized her.”

10. He then brought down his misty dew, to his people, his subjects;
And in his mercy He restored the souls to the corpses.
This is mentioned in the Midrash, that [the Israelites at Sinai] died
when they heard the first voice, and that He revived them with dew.
Similarly, at the resurrection, He will revive the dead with dew, as indi-
cated in the Gemara (Shabbat 88b), and this is why we mention dew [in
the Sephardic ritual] in the blessing of resurrection [the second of the
Eighteen Benedictions].

11. “I brought you out, I adjured you,

I led you in the paths of righteousness.”
The commentator on the Azharot (Moses ibn Tibbon) includes here
the commandment of believing in God, which is indicated in the words
“I am the Lord your God” (Exod. 20:2). Maimonides also wrote this
[commandment], and he brings proof that the verse “I am . . .” is an enu-
merated commandment from what the rabbis said at the end of Makkot
(23b). “613 commandments were spoken to Moses at Sinai. Which verse
indicates this? It is (Deut. 33:4) ‘Moses commanded the Torah to us.’”
This is telling us that this [the number 613] is the numerical value of
[the word] Torah. Against this, the objection was raised that the actual
numerical value of “Torah” is only 611. The answer was given that two
commandments, “I am . . .” and “You shall not have any other gods . . .”
we heard directly from God’s voice [rather than through Moses]. These
are the words of Maimonides [proving that “I am . . .” is one of the 613
commandments], and on this basis, the commentator [ibn Tibbon] re-
lied. But this was not the intention of the poet [ibn Gabirol], for he based
[his poem] on the Gaon Rabbi Shimon Kayyara, the author of Halachot
Gedolot, and the latter did not write the utterance “I am the L . . .” in
the enumeration of the 613 commandments. Nachmanides has justified
the Gaon, saying that his intention was that the utterance “You shall
not have other gods, etc.” contains two commandments that complete
the number 613, one being “You shall not have . . .” and “you shall not
make . . .” and the other being “you shall not prostrate to them nor serve
them” (v. 5), which indeed the Gaon enumerated as commandments. As
to the Talmud saying that “I am . . .” and “You shall not have . . .” were

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heard from the divine voice, it did not mean that “I am . . .” is a com-
mandment that is part of the 613 commandments. It was only to say
that the language of these two utterances proves that they were heard
directly from the divine voice, not through Moses. For it is written “I am
the Lord your G . . . you shall not have other gods before me; for I am the
Lord your God,” while the other commandments are written in the third
person, with someone else mediating between them. So since we heard
the first two utterances from the divine voice, and the second utterance
contains two prohibitions, we therefore have 613 commandments, 611
from Moses’s mouth according to the numerical value of “Torah,” and
two from the divine voice, the statement “I am the L  .  .  .” not being
enumerated. This, then, is the discussion that took place between these
two great mountains [Maimonides and Nachmanides].
Now I have in my humble opinion found a basis for the words of the
Gaon that the utterance “I am, etc. . . .” is not to be enumerated, from
what is said in Horayot (8a) as an inquiry about the passage “And when
you shall err . . .” (Num. 15:22): “How do we know that this verse refers
specifically to [an unintentional error regarding] idolatry? The school
of Rabbi Ishmael derived it from the expression (ibid., v. 23), ‘from the
day that the Lord had given commandments, and onward, through your
generations.’ Which commandment [fits the description] as having been
spoken first? Presumably that about idolatry. An objection was raised
about this from the teaching that Ten Commandments had previously
been given at Marah [i.e., prior to the revelation at Sinai], and thus the
prohibition of idolatry was not the very first commandment. But it is
clear that we must revert to the previous answers that were given [as to
how it is known that the verse is about idolatry]. Now, if the utterances
[“I am, etc.”] were indeed enumerated among the 613 commandments,
then the utterance about idolatry would have been the first command-
ment spoken in any event!
The viewpoint of the Gaon [author of Halachot Gedolot] about this
is that it is not proper to include in the detailed numbering of com-
mandments that which is the foundation of the faith upon which all
commandments depend. For all commandments are decrees issued by
the Blessed Name as a consequence of this belief. And one who does not
believe in the deity has no [basis for] Torah at all, and it is impossible
for one who subscribes to the Torah not to accept this belief. Therefore,
how can one include in the detailed enumeration that which is the root

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and foundation of the whole Torah?

This seems to be the opinion of the rabbis who said in the Mechilta
(Yitro 6:3), “Why was the statement ‘You shall have no other gods, etc.’
made? It is because of his [previously] saying ‘I am the Lord your God’
This is similar to a king who entered a country and his servants said,
‘Issue decrees to them.’ He replied, ‘No, only when they accept my rule
will I issue decrees to them, for if they do not accept my rule, how would
my decrees be fulfilled?’ So did the Holy One, blessed be He, say to Israel,
‘I am the Lord your God,’ [and then] ‘you shall have no other gods,’ i.e., ‘I
am the one whose rule you accepted; therefore accept my laws, e.g. that
you shall have no other gods.’” [This is the end of the Mechilta quota-
tion.] I also found it [the above quotation] in the Sifre in the section
about forbidden sexual relations, in the same language as the Mechilta,
but there they added the following. “‘I am He whose dominion you ac-
cepted at Sinai.’ They declared ‘Yes, indeed.’ [He continued] ‘Therefore
accept my decrees, i.e., do not do like what is done in the land of Egypt
where you dwelt.’” From this, it appears explicit that the beginning of
the decrees of the Holy One, blessed is He, is the utterance “You shall
have no other, etc.,” while the utterance “I am, etc.” refers to the belief
in the deity that they already affirmed in Egypt. What He was saying to
them was that I am the Lord your God in whom you believed in Egypt,
and now you shall accept my commandments. This Mechilta [quotation]
was already mentioned by Nachmanides in his book.
He also cites another thing where they said (Mechilta Yitro 5:2),
“Why wasn’t the Decalogue stated in the beginning of the Torah? It is
comparable to one who enters a country and says ‘Let me rule over you.’
They said, ‘Have you done anything for us that you should rule over us?’
What did he do? He built them a wall, he brought water to them, and he
waged wars for them. He then said, ‘Let me rule over you.’ They said yes.
So it was with the Holy One, blessed is He, who brought Israel out of the
land of Egypt, split the Red Sea, brought the manna for them, supplied
them with the well, caused the quails to fly to them, and led them in the
war against the Amalekites. He then said, ‘Let Me rule over you’; they re-
plied, ‘Yes, indeed.’ This reflects credit on Israel, for when they all stood
at Mt. Sinai to receive the Torah and to receive the words with one heart,
they accepted the yoke of divine rule joyfully.” This quotation from the
Mechilta implies that the utterance “I am, etc.,” [which indicates] ac-
cepting the yoke of the kingdom of heaven, should be considered the

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detailed enumeration of the commandments.

But I am perplexed that Nachmanides deduced from it [this very
quotation from the Mechilta] that the expression “I am, etc.” should be
counted among the commandments, and he agreed with Maimonides
to count it among the 248 [positive commandments], since its meaning
[according to Duran] actually is closer to the opinion of the Gaon [not to
count it]. For this matter, there is conclusive evidence from its place [i.e.,
from its own text without regard to the Mechilta], for what difference
is there between the phrase “I am the Lord your God” in the Decalogue
and what is stated in the section on fair weights and measures, “I am the
Lord your God who brought you out of the Land of Egypt” (Lev. 19:36).
So I consider it better not to count “I am, etc.” as a distinct command-
ment, but rather the foundation and origin.
But I found in the Yelamdenu (Tanchuma Naso 2) that the phrase “I
am, etc.” is among the commandments and is also one of the ten state-
ments in the Decalogue. This is where it states that adulterers transgress
each of the ten statements of the Decalogue. How do they transgress
against “I am, etc.”? It is because anyone who commits adultery with the
wife of his fellow denies the Holy One, blessed is He, as it is said (Jer.
5:12) “They have belied the Lord and said ‘It is not He’” [connecting this
verse with the mention of adultery in verse 7]. Likewise in the Sedrah
Kedoshim (Tanchuma on Kedoshim 3) and in Vayikra Rabba (24) it is
mentioned that the Ten Utterances of the Decalogue are included in
the Sedra Kedoshim, one of them being the utterance “I am, etc.” It
is understood from this that this is one of the Ten Utterances, and it
would seem that since it is enumerated among the utterances, it is also
enumerated among the commandments. Also, one who does not believe
in Him is considered a kofer [unbeliever]. But this does not necessarily
prove it [i.e., that “I am” is an enumerated commandment], for one who
does not believe this would be considered a kofer whether it would be
inserted among the enumerated commandments or not. For those who
excluded it from the enumeration did not do so because it is not obliga-
tory, but because it is the foundation and source, and one should not
consider such a general statement as part of a detailed enumeration.
Also, its being one of the utterances in the Decalogue does not prove
that it must be enumerated as a commandment, for not every utterance
is a commandment, and also not every utterance is [only] a single com-
mandment. For the utterance about the Sabbath is a single utterance,

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but it contains both a positive commandment and a prohibition; the

positive one is sanctifying the day [“Remember the Sabbath day to keep
it holy”], and the negative one is the prohibition of working. Likewise,
the Gaon [Halachot Gedolot] and Maimonides both count in the [second]
utterance “You shall not have, etc.” more than a single commandment.
Thus, we may say that the utterance “I am, etc.” does not necessarily
imply that it is a commandment just on the basis of its being one of the
ten utterances. The conclusion of all this is that the words of the Gaon
are more appealing to me according to the plain meaning of the sayings
of the sages, and according to the plain interpretation of Scripture, un-
less the actual enumeration would require it, i.e., if we were not able to
complete the 248 positive commandments without including the state-
ment “I am, etc.” in the enumeration.

12. To declare the unity of the awesome God twice a day;

And to pray every day, evening and morning.
Here too the commentator on the Azharot includes the command-
ment of affirming the unity of God, as Maimonides did. And the content
of this commandment, in his view, is that we should believe that this
God in whose existence we believe, as stated in the utterance “I am,
etc.,” is one. And this is stated in the verse (Deut. 6:4), “Hear, O Israel,
the Lord our God, the Lord is one.” I do not see Nachmanides opposing
him about this, and he also includes this in the enumeration. But I do
not find the Gaon [Halachot Gedolot] enumerating this commandment
at all, but he did write down the commandment of reciting the Shema.
The proof that Maimonides brings from the words of the sages is that
they speak of “the commandment of expressing the unity,” and they also
call this “the kingdom of heaven,” when they speak of “accepting the
yoke of the kingdom of heaven”; this is his proof. Now in my humble
opinion, it seems that the declarations “I am, etc.” and “Hear, O Israel,
etc.” are identical in content, i.e., the acceptance of the kingdom of God
by believing in God and his unity, and this is not to be counted as an
individual commandment but constitutes the foundation and the root.
And this seems to be the opinion of the Gaon, and what is to be counted
here as a commandment is the recitation of the Shema.
A proof from the words of the sages is what they said that reading of
the first verse of the Shema paragraph constitutes the acceptance of the
yoke of the kingdom of heaven, and the Torah requires nothing except

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this verse for this commandment. This is stated in the second chapter
of Berachot (13b): “The words ‘Hear O Israel, etc.’ constituted the read-
ing of Shema for Rabbi Judah the Prince.” They further said there: “Rav
said to Rabbi Chiya, ‘I have not seen Rabbi [Judah the Prince] accepting
the kingdom of heaven.’ He [Rabbi Chiya] replied, ‘Noble sir, when he
[Rabbi Judah] covers his hands over his face, he accepts the yoke of the
kingdom of heaven.’” They further said in the last chapter of Berachot
(61b) regarding Rabbi Akiva [at his martyrdom] that when he was re-
ceiving the yoke of the kingdom of heaven by reciting the Shema, his
soul expired at the word one. Thus, they made it clear to us that receiving
the kingdom of heaven consists of reciting that verse, and that is what
should be counted as a commandment, not that the reading of Shema is
counted as one commandment, and receiving [the kingdom of heaven]
as a separate commandment, unless the actual count requires it. So the
words of the poet are not in agreement with those of the commentator.
Now the commandment of the reading of the Shema is undoubtedly
part of the enumeration, since they cite in the third chapter of Berachot
(21a) that if one is in doubt as to whether he has or has not recited the
Shema, he should recite it again, since it is a Torah law. They further
said there regarding one who is unclean as a result of a seminal emis-
sion should nevertheless recite the Shema and recite the blessings after
meals, since they are Torah laws. But Nachlmanides had to enumerate
the recital of Shema as two commandments, since this was needed by
him to complete the number of the 248 positive commandments, i.e.,
one in the morning and one in the evening, since the time for one is
not valid for the other, and the nonperformance of one does not in-
validate the performance of the other, i.e., if one did not recite it in
the evening, he still must recite the morning reading of Shema, as he
argues in the eleventh principle. Now I have considerable doubt regard-
ing his [Nachmanides’s] giving two reasons for his counting this as two
commandments, i.e., that they are done at different times and that the
performance of one does not invalidate the performance of the other.
For if they were to be done at the same time, and they did not invalidate
each other, it would be more of a proof for counting them as two. But
inasmuch as they apply at different times, it follows [automatically] that
they would not invalidate each other, for we never find a single com-
mandment applying at different times, such that if one would not do it
at one time, then it would invalid at the other time. But as to whether

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a commandment having separate times is sufficient to imply this [i.e.,

that it should be counted as separate commandments], this is possible;
but when you [actually] count up the number [of commandments], this
would become clarified.
The poet has included among the commandments “praying every
day,” whereas the Gaon [Halachot Gedolot] did not count prayer, but he
did write “to serve Him and to love Him.” Now if prayer is counted as a
commandment, it has no indication in the Torah other than the scrip-
tural verse (Deut. 11:13) “and to serve Him with all your heart and all
your soul.” Therefore, it is not proper to count prayer as one command-
ment and to serve Him as another commandment. Now Maimonides,
although he established one principle (No. 4) regarding enumeration of
the commandments that one should not count summarizing command-
ments, such as (Lev. 18:30) “you shall keep my charge” and like (Lev.
19:2) “you shall be holy” and the like, he nevertheless decided to include
this “service” among the commandments, since within this [general]
commandment, there is [also] a particular commandment, i.e., prayer,
and this is what is enumerated. He cites a proof from the phrase in the
Sifre (Ekev 13) that “to serve Him” implies prayer. And in the Midrash
of Rabbi Jose the Galilean, they said, “Whence do we know that prayer
essentially is among the commandments? It is from here (Deut. 10:20):
‘You shall fear the Lord your God and you shall serve him.’” And they
said [Midrash Tannaim on this verse], “Serve Him in His Torah, and
serve Him in His sanctuary,” i.e., go there [the sanctuary] to pray in His
Regarding what is said in the Talmud (Berachot 21a) that reading
the Shema is from the Torah, while prayer is rabbinic, this would be ex-
plained by Maimonides as referring to the regular time of prayer, which
is rabbinic, though prayer itself is a Torah commandment. This is said
in the Tosefta (Berachot 3:1): “Just as the Torah assigned specific times
for reading the Shema, so did the sages set times for prayer.” This is
Maimonides’s view. But Nachmanides objected that it seems from the
discussions in the Gemara that prayer is entirely a rabbinic command-
ment. For they said (Berachot 21a) regarding one who is impure because
of a seminal emission that he reads the Shema, but he should not pray,
and they gave the reason that reading the Shema is from the Torah and
prayer is rabbinic. Even if he remains impure for many days, he does not
pray until he immerses himself. Also, one who was unable to pray for

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many days, and thereafter he was in doubt as to whether he had or had

not recited that prayer that he intended to do now, he should not pray
[possibly again], for prayer is rabbinic. Now, if it were a Torah law, and
only its time rabbinic, they would be obliged to pray, both the one who
was impure, and the one who was in doubt as to whether or not he had
prayed, similar to the law for reading the Shema. And in the Talmud,
they make no distinction about this law whether it is a long time or
short time [since the last praying].
Also, if praying is a Torah law, at what time does it apply? In the case
of Rabbi Judah, he only prayed once every thirty days (Rosh Hashanah
35a), since he was very busy with Torah study, because scholars who are
occupied in Torah study are supposed to interrupt their study to recite
the Shema, but not for prayer, which is rabbinic. So if it is not a Torah
commandment to pray within thirty days, when is its required time ac-
cording to the Torah? From all this, it seems that prayer is not required
in the Torah; and as to the interpretation in the Sifre that “and to serve
Him” implies prayer, this is apparently only an asmachta.
So Nachmanides concluded that prayer is not a law from the Torah.
But regarding his enumeration of the commandments, he haltingly in-
cludes this [“to serve Him”] in the enumeration of the commandments,
in accordance with the Gaon (Halachot Gedolot), but disagreeing with
Maimonides, who does not interpret this “serving” as a commandment
referring to the entire Torah, but to a specific part of it, which is to be
enumerated. This is that all our service to God, exalted is He, should be
with all our heart, i.e., with proper intent toward Him and without any
bad thought. We should not perform commandments without intention
or being doubtful as to whether they have any value.
Nachmanides furthermore said that the statement in the Sifre “the
phrase ‘and to serve Him’ refers to study and also to prayer” means that
divine service includes studying His Torah and praying to Him in time
of trouble. Since this commandment has specific content of being single
minded in His service or also to pray to Him in time of trouble, it is
therefore possible for Nachmanides to include this in the enumeration
of the commandments. And I detect from his words that he is forcing
himself to include it in the enumeration of the commandments, since
the Gaon has counted it, and otherwise he would have deleted it from
his enumeration. Also, at the end of his book, when he counts each com-
mandment one by one, he does not count it, since the structure of the

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verse shows that it is a commandment encompassing the whole Torah.

That is that one should serve God, blessed be He, by His Torah with all
its commandments, whether in prayer or in the sanctuary by bowing
and performing the services; therefore, it would be improper to count it.
In any case, to count prayer as a commandment, and service as another
commandment, is something that no one could say.

13. To serve Him and love Him in your heart, and to cleave
to Him, And to adhere to his path with your footsteps and
I have already written in the previous stanza about the command-
ment of serving. Regarding the commandment of loving God, it is in-
cluded in the enumeration and its content, as it is stated in the Talmud
(Pesachim 25a) is to love God and not to deny worshipping Him, even
under dangerous circumstances; but one should rather be killed than
giving up loving Him. Also included in this is what is stated in the Sifre
(Ekev. 13): “Since you might say, ‘I will study Torah so that I might be
called wise’ or ‘that I may sit in the academy’ or ‘that I will have a long
life’ or ‘that I may be worthy of the world to come,’ the Torah asserts
that to love [God is the only proper motive].” A similar statement is in
the Talmud, tractate Nedarim (62a). Another thing stated in the Sifre
about the verse “And you shall love the Lord your God” (Deut. 6:5) is
that, at this point, one does not know how to love the Omnipresent;
so the Torah continues, “And these words which I command you this
day shall be upon your heart” (Deut. 6:6), for from this [embedding the
words of Torah in your heart], you come to awareness of Him who spoke
and the world came into being.
Another explanation23 is that v’ohavta is causative [i.e., not “you shall
love,” but “you shall cause love”], i.e., one should expound the Torah to
others in such a way as to inspire love in their hearts. This is stated in
the Sifre: “V’ohavta means that you should lead people to love Him, as
did Abraham our father, as it is said (Gen. 12:5), ‘And the persons whom
they acquired in Haran’ [which, taking the literal meaning of asu to mean
‘made,’ indicates that Abraham proselytized people in Haran by bringing
them to love God]. On this account he is denoted as ‘Abraham who loved
Me’ as it is said (Isa. 41:8), ‘the seed of Abraham who loved Me.’”

23 Maimonides, Sefer Hamitzvot, positive commandment no. 3.

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The poet continues, “To cleave to Him,” which was counted by the
Gaon [Halachot Gedolot] to which Maimonides agreed. The meaning of
this commandment, as included in the enumeration, is as the sages in-
terpreted in the Sifre (Ekev, end of 22), i.e., to be attached to the sages
and their disciples. They further said (ibid.) that it means that one should
study Aggada, since, from the words of Aggada, one becomes cognizant
of Him who spoke and caused the world to exist, and one becomes at-
tached to His ways. And in the Talmud (Sotah 14a), they included in
it [i.e., cleaving to Him] all kinds of attachment. Similarly, they said
(Ketubot 111a), “Is it possible for one to cleave to the Shechinah, when
it is written (Deut. 4:24), ‘The Lord your God is a consuming fire’? But
[the verse means] that anyone who marries the daughter of a scholar
or who gives his daughter in marriage to a scholar or engages in busi-
ness with a scholar or who lets him use his property, Scripture considers
this as tantamount to attachment with the Shechinah.” There is a similar
statement in the Yelamdenu (Tanchuma Mattot 1) and in Temurah (3b),
where they included in it swearing in God’s name to perform a com-
mandment [actually the citation in Temurah does not appear to discuss
the content of “cleaving to Him” at all]. This is what one can say about
the commandment on the basis of rabbinic interpretation.
But the standard [biblical] commentators [ibn Ezra and Nachmanides]
explained that “cleaving to Him” refers to the final outcome, which is a
deep insight, which says that one who worships God can merit a close
connection to Him. Although the concept is correct, it is not reflected
in this verse, for it is stated in Joshua (3:7), “Neither make mention of
the name of their gods, nor cause to swear by them, nor serve them,
nor worship them, but cleave to the Lord your God as you have done
to this day.” According to this, it [cleaving] just indicates a warning
among several warnings about idolatry, i.e., that you attention should
not deviate from God, blessed is He, to go after other gods, similar to
what is said elsewhere (Deut. 13:5), “Him you shall serve, and you shall
cleave to Him.” Likewise the Sifre says (Re’eh 60:5), “Separate yourselves
from idolatry, and cleave to the Omnipresent.” Though this is the simple
meaning of Scripture, one also includes here that a person’s thought
should be attached to God all the time, at every moment, whether at
eating time or when taking care of any bodily needs, as it is said (Exod.
34:28), “And he was there with God forty days and forty nights, etc.”
The sages stated (Berachot 63a) that the verse (Prov. 3:6) “Know Him

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in all your ways” means that [one should know Him] even with regard
to a transgression. This is the degree of excellence of the forefathers,
about whom it is said (Bereshit Rabba 47:48) that they constituted the
divine chariot. And the author of the Cuzari said that the people on this
spiritual level are a dwelling place for the Shechinah. In this respect, it
is also proper to count it [cleaving to Him] among the commandments
[because of its distinct content].
The poet says further, “And to adhere to His path with your footsteps
and strides,” which the Gaon enumerated, as did Maimonides, who
wrote that its content is to emulate Him, blessed is He, as much as we
can, which is expressed by (Deut. 28:9) “and you shall walk in His ways.”
And in the Sifre (Ekev 22), it says in explanation of this commandment,
“Just as the Holy One, blessed is He, is merciful, you too should be mer-
ciful; as He is gracious, you be gracious; as He is righteous, you be righ-
teous; as He is kindly, you be kindly.” And in Gemara Sotah (14a), they
said that Rabbi Chama bar Chanina said, “What does the verse ‘after
the Lord your God shall you go’ mean? Is it possible for a person to walk
behind the Holy One, blessed is He? But it means that just as the Holy
One, blessed is He, clothes the naked, so you should clothe the naked;
as He visits the sick, so you should visit the sick; as He buries the dead,
so you should bury the dead; as He consoles mourners, so you should
console mourners.” And we have in the Sifre (Re’eh 60:5) that “after the
Lord your God you shall go” constitutes a positive commandment; and
the content of this [in its context of the preceding verse] is that it refers
to the false prophets to whom we are not to pay heed, but we should
follow the counsel of His Name, blessed is He, and we should seek from
Him all that is unknown through His prophets. This is like what is said
(1 Kings 22:7), “Is there not here besides a prophet of the Lord, that we
may inquire of him?” and like another instructive verse (Jer. 42:2), “Let,
we pray, our supplication be acceptable to you, and pray for us unto the
Lord your God . . . that He tell us the way.” In the Gemara Sotah (39b),
they base on this [“going after the Lord”] the practice of accompanying
a Sefer Torah to its place of arrival. According to all of the above, it is
proper to count this also as a commandment.

14. To sanctify the Almighty, to fear His wrath,

To swear in His name, neither in vain or falsely.
The commandment of sanctifying the Name is to be included in

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the enumeration of the commandments undoubtedly, and so all the

early authorities have counted it. The proof for this is what is said in
the Gemara Sanhedrin (74b): “Is a descendent of Noah commanded to
sanctify the Name, or not?” The answer is derived from the teaching
that the descendants of Noah are charged with seven commandments,
and if sanctification were a commandment [to them], there would be
eight. So it is clear that it is one of the 248 positive commandments.
The content of this commandment is that we should let ourselves die a
martyr’s death during a time of persecution for [transgressing] even a
minor commandment and even when there is no persecution, if a gentile
insists that a Jew transgress not for his own enjoyment, but just to force
him to do a sin. In such circumstances, the commandment (Lev. 22:32)
“I will be hallowed among the children of Israel” applies. But if it is not a
time of persecution, and the gentile means that the transgression is for
his own benefit, then we are not obligated to submit our bodies to death
[rather than transgress] unless the sin is idol worship, which is derived
from the commandment of (Deut. 6:5) “And you shall love the Lord your
God . . . with all your soul”; or unless it is the sin of murder, which is
understood rationally, or unless it is the sin of sexual immorality, which
is derived from the case of murder, as is recorded in Sanhedrin (74a) and
elsewhere (Pesachim 25a and Yoma 82a).
To fear His wrath. The commandment of fearing is also an enumer-
ated commandment, and this is evident from what is said in Gemara
Sanhedrin (56a) in interpreting the verse (Lev. 24:16), “If one pro-
nounces (v’nokev) the name of the Lord” [How does one know that the
death penalty specified in this verse applies to the action of cursing the
divine name?] One might say that the meaning of (v’nokev) is merely
expressing the holy name needlessly, as [this same verb is used] in the
verse (Num. 1:17), “who were designated (nikvu) by name,” which is
forbidden according to the verse (Deut. 10:20) “you shall fear the Lord
your God.” They rejected this hypothesis, since this prohibition is [actu-
ally only] a positive commandment, and a positive commandment does
not count as a prohibition [i.e., a punishment is always assumed to ap-
ply only to an expressly prohibited action]. Similar phraseology is also
found in the first chapter of Temurah (4a) regarding pronouncing the
divine name needlessly, and it is thus made clear that “fearing” is a posi-
tive commandment applied to needlessly pronouncing the divine name.
They have also said in the Yerushalmi (Sotah 1:5), “Act from love, for one

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who loves does not act hatefully; act from fear, for if you are about to
rebel, you will be restrained.”
To swear in His name. The Gaon included this in the enumeration,
as did Maimonides, who brought a proof from what is said in the first
chapter of Temurah (3b), “Where is it indicated that one may take an
oath to keep the commandments? It is said (Deut. 6:13) ‘And in His
name you shall swear.’” This matter is perplexing, for the meaning of
the discussion there is not as Maimonides thought [i.e., implying that
swearing in God’s name is to be counted as a positive commandment],
since there we are investigating whether it is forbidden to swear in His
exalted name even if the oath is true, [the prohibition being based] on
the verse (Deut. 28:58) “to reverence this awesome and honored name.”
They said thus (Temurah 3b), “The expression v’hifla (Deut. 28:59)
[which the Gemara cites as the scriptural source for punishing by whip-
ping one who swears in God’s name] might even apply to a true oath.”
But they countered that a true oath is permissible [thus not punish-
able]. After some discussion [on the scriptural basis of permitting true
oaths], they say that there is another scriptural verse (Deut. 10:20), “by
His name shall you swear,” implying that here Scripture permits a true
oath and that one is not punished for that. But they objected that this
verse might apply rather to the teaching of Rav Gidal, who said that one
may take an oath to fulfill commandments [even though this is actually
a needless oath], as is reflected in the verse (Ps. 119:106). But they re-
sponded that it [swearing to fulfill commandments] is authorized by the
verse (Deut. 10:12) “unto Him you shall cleave.” To what then do I apply
“by His name shall you swear? It is not needed to permit a judicial oath,
which is permitted by (Exod. 22:10) “the oath of the Lord” So it must
be needed to permit nonjudicial oaths. And since it is not needed for an
oath to perform commandments, which is derived from “unto Him you
shall cleave,” then it is used to permit [true] oaths for ordinary use.
What comes out from this is that swearing in His name is not an obli-
gation, but a permission. Nachmanides found a proof [that it is a permis-
sion] from Midrash Tanchuma (Mattot 1), in which the Holy One, blessed
is He, said to Israel, “Do not think that you may [under any circumstances]
swear in My name, even for a true oath; you may not swear in My name
unless you have all these qualities: ‘fear the Lord your God, and serve Him,
and cleave to Him, and swear in His name’ (Deut. 10:20). If you have all
these qualities, you may swear, and if not, you may not swear.” It is un-

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derstood from this that “swear in His name” is not an obligation, but a
permission after all the conditions specified in the verse are met.
[But an argument against “swear in His name” expressing permis-
sion] is in accord with its repetition twice, i.e., once in Vaetchanan (Deut.
6:13) “You shall fear the Lord your God, and serve Him, and cleave to
Him, and swear in His name,” and then in Sedra Ekev (Deut. 12:20),
“You shall serve the Lord your God, and serve Him, and cleave to Him,
and swear in His name.” If it expresses merely permission, it would be
pointless to repeat it, for verses of permission are not repeated [repeat-
ing verses expresses urgency and emphasis]. Therefore, Maimonides
thinks that it is related to the following verse, i.e., “and swear in His
name” relates to “do not go after other gods” in this way by swearing in
their name. Although this is already forbidden by a negative command-
ment (Exod. 23:13), “You shall not mention the names of other gods,”
Scripture emphasizes it by both negative and positive formulation, for
the prohibitions against idolatry are numerous in the Torah. Thus, “and
swear in His name” is a prohibition derived from a positive statement,
i.e., swear in His name, not in the name of others, or associating another
with Him, as they said (Sukkah 45b), “Whoever associates the divine
name with anything else is uprooted from the world.” Thus also did
Ravad write24 [that it is not a “normal” positive commandment]. If it is
not a prohibition based on a positive statement, but an expression of
permission to take oaths, one can explain the duplication in Scripture as
expressing a prohibition not to swear unless one has fulfilled the condi-
tions expressed with it in this verse.
Whether regarded as an expression of permission or as a prohibition
derived from a positive statement, it would not be proper to count it
according to Nachmanides’s opinion, although Maimonides does count
a prohibition derived from a positive statement as part of the positive
list.25 But the Gaon does not count this [a prohibition derived from a
positive statement], as I wrote in the Principles, and we will treat this
later on here with God’s help. In any case Maimonides’s contention that
this is an actual positive commandment is refuted, and if he wants to in-
clude it as a prohibition based on a positive statement, which prohibits

24 Ravad’s criticism on Maimonides’s brief list of commandments.

25 In translating the above sentence, I have deleted the words ein ra’ui limnoto in accordance with the
manuscript reading.

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swearing in the name of anything besides Him, blessed is He, this would
be possible according to his policy. But the problem is with the Gaon
who counted it, for his policy is not to include this type in the enumera-
tion, and Nachmanides removed it from his list.

15. To render His law righteously, and to pursue His justice,

And to observe His law, and to perform His sayings.
The Gaon wrote, “To love justice and to make judgment righteous
(tzidduk hadin).” Now some say that tzidduk hadin means to recite the
blessing “the true judge” over a bad happening, and I saw in the Sefer
Mitzvot Katan that this is derived from the verse (Deut. 8:5) “And know
in your heart that as a man chastises his son, the Lord your God chas-
tises you.” To me, it does not seem right to include this in the enumera-
tion, since this is part of “and you shall love” (Deut. 6:5), as the rabbis
expounded in the last chapter of Berachot (54a) that “with all your
might” (ibid.) means that you should love Him whatever the measure
He metes out to you. But tzidduk hadin means to judge with fairness, and
the commandment about this is (Lev. 19:15) “and you shall judge your
neighbor righteously.” And in the Sifre (39:4), they explained that this
means treating both litigants equally. And doing justice in monetary
matters is a positive commandment, as it is said (Deut. 16:18), “They
shall judge the people with rightful justice.” Also, in chapter “Shnei
Dayyane Gezerot” (Ketubot 106a), they said that [there were involved in
the circumstances related there] both this positive commandment and
that positive commandment, referring respectively to equal justice and
honor due to a Torah scholar.
Now Nachmanides (in his critique of the fourteenth principle) in-
cluded in this commandment [of judging righteously] all sorts of cases,
whether fines, torts, accidents, and all types of monetary cases under
“they shall judge the people with rightful justice.” He proves this from
what they said (Sanhedrin 56b), “At Marah the people of Israel were
made responsible for ten commandments,” i.e., the seven Noachide
laws, and the three additional laws of the Sabbath, honoring father and
mother, and administering justice. Now it is said in the Mechilta on
the verse (Exod. 15:25), “there did He give them a statute and an ordi-
nance,” that this refers to laws of accidents, fines, and bodily injuries, so
all kinds of laws are included in one commandment. But at the end of
his book [where he summarizes his entire enumeration], I see that he

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agrees with Maimonides, counting each of these separately, as will be

explained later on, with God’s help (Stanza 53).
And to pursue His justice is not a countable commandment, because
this is part of being righteous in judgment [previously counted], namely,
to seek out a reliable court. And one should not enumerate a part of a
commandment as a separate commandment, as Maimonides explained
in his principle (No. 7).
To observe His law and perform His sayings is not a countable
commandment, since it is a commandment that encompasses the whole
Torah, and it is not proper to count such general commandments, which
Maimonides declared as a principle (No. 4). It is thus puzzling that the
Gaon wrote (Halachot Gedolot, positive commandments 40 and 41) “to
observe and to do.” Also, in Sotah, chapter 7 (37a), the sages declared
concerning the oath (at Mt. Gerizim and Mt. Eval to observe) the Torah,
that it refers to four commandments, to learn, to teach, to observe, and
to perform; but this source was not brought up by Maimonides who criti-
cizes [the Halachot Gedolot], nor by Nachmanides, who defended him.

16. Make His words a healing, in your heart and also in your mouth,
And you shall write them at the threshold of your doorposts
and gates.
We will take note later (Stanza 25) of the commandment of studying
the Torah, where it says, “And you shall learn and teach.” Here (in Stanza
16) he uses the scriptural expression in the section of the Shema, “and
these words shall be . . . on your heart.”
The words of the Torah are “healing,” as it says (Prov. 3:8), “It will be
healing to your navel.” When he says, “Also in your mouth,” he thereby
includes “and you shall speak of them” (Deut. 6:7). All these parts of the
commandments do not enter into the enumeration, as is known from
the principles (No. 7). But “and you shall write them at the thresholds of
your doorposts and gates” is counted as a commandment (Maimonides’s
Positive Commandment 15).

17. And you shall teach them always, to your son and to students,
And you shall assemble blessings, completing one hundred.
This is also concerning study of the Torah, which is a single positive
commandment of learning and teaching, and there is, in all this, no more
than a single commandment, whose parts are learning for oneself and

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teaching one’s son and one’s students and instructing the people of Israel,
as is explained in the first chapter of Kiddushin (30a). I have seen that
the Gaon wrote “to learn, to teach, to observe, and to do,” since all this
constitutes a single commandment, namely, that one should learn with
the intention of teaching, observing, and doing, as in Pirkei Avot (4:6).
But when he [ibn Gabirol] says, “And you shall assemble blessings,
completing one hundred,” he is following the Gaon, who includes
among the 248 positive commandments those that are rabbinic. And
Maimonides refuted him with great objections. The greatest objection is
from the language of the Talmud that 613 commandments were spoken
to Moses at Sinai, so how can you include in this rabbinic command-
ments? Now Nachmanides answered concerning this that, since at Sinai
they were commanded to accept ordinances of the sages, it is plausible
to say that all of them were [indirectly] spoken to Moses at Sinai. And
in the chapter “Shevuot Hadayyanin” (Shevuot 39a), it says concern-
ing the oath that Moses made Israel take [to observe the Torah], that
it is not only for the commandments given at Sinai, but also for new
commandments that would arise, like reading the Megillah. How is this
known, i.e., that Moses caused them to swear concerning the latter? It
is from the verse (Esther 9:27), “The Jews fulfilled and accepted upon
themselves,” i.e., they fulfilled what they had already accepted upon
themselves [under Moses]. So this is an explicit indication that Moses
made Israel swear to accept all the rabbinic commandments.
Furthermore, this is like our counting commandments in the section
on drunken priests, the duty division of the priests, and the sacrificial
portions of the priests, although they were spoken to Aaron [thus not
technically not describable as among “613 commandments spoken to
Moses”]. Also, in the section on the daughters of Tzelaphchad [we list
the commandments about inheritance] even though it was not spoken
at Sinai. Similarly one can count rabbinic commandments, even though
the expression in the Talmud specifies them as “spoken to Moses at
Sinai,” for the statement covers most of the 613 commandments. And in
chapter 1 of Berachot (5a), they said that the verse (Exod. 24:12), “And
I will give you the tablets of stone, and the teaching and the command-
ment which I wrote to instruct them,” means the following: “Tablets”
refers to the Decalogue; “teaching” refers to the Torah; “the command-
ment” refers to the Mishnah; “which I wrote” refers to the Prophets and
Holy Writings; “to instruct them” refers to the Gemara. This shows that

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all of the above [which includes rabbinic laws] were spoken to Moses at
Sinai. All of these arguments were written by Nachmanides.
Furthermore, I found in chapter 2 of Megillah (19b) a proof for the
Gaon, where they said that “upon them [the stone tablets] was like all
the words, etc.” [On the basis of the inclusive term k’chol, which means
“like all,” the rabbis claim that this verse] indicates that the Holy One,
blessed is He, showed Moses the details of the Torah, the inferences of
the scribes, and whatever new [commandment] would develop. So ev-
erything was spoken to Moses at Sinai. Now even though Nachmanides
found answers to all the objections that Maimonides brought up against
the Gaon, he nevertheless held with him [Maimonides] not to count
rabbinic commandments.
Thus, the commandment of reciting one hundred blessings is to be
deleted from the commandments, even though it is hinted in the Torah,
Prophets, and Writings [as follows]. In the Torah, the verse (Deut. 10:13),
“What (Heb. mah) does the Lord ask of you,” can be read with me’ah in-
stead of mah [which could then be understood as the Lord requiring one
hundred blessings of you]. They saw fit to interpret thus, since in this
verse, there are ninety-nine letters; and if you add the aleph in the middle
of mah, it becomes me’ah, which then means one hundred, in addition
to having one hundred letters. Furthermore, the letters mem and he,
forming the word mah, transpose according to the Atbash scheme [aleph
and tav interchange, bet and shin interchange, etc.] into yod and tzady,
whose numerical value of ten and ninety add up to one hundred. In the
Prophets (2 Sam. 23:1), the verse states, “The speech of a man raised on
high (Heb. Al ).” The letters ayin and lamed of al have the numerical value
of 70 + 30 = 100. And in the Writings (Ps. 128:4), we have “For thus (Heb.
ki chen) will be blessed the man.” The word for “will be blessed” (y’vorach)
has no vav (so it can be vocalized as y’varech, meaning “will bless”). Now
the numerical value ki chen is 20 + 10 + 20 + 50 = 100. Thus, the verse can
now be translated as “a man should make a hundred blessings” every day.

18. Redeem your firstborn sons, and put on totafot,

And rule the foreign slave, and circumcise the flesh.
The commandment of redeeming the firstborn son is part of the
enumeration, for we recite a blessing over it, as is mentioned at the end
of Pesachim (121b). And in the first chapter of Kiddushin (29a), it is
stated that all commandments that a father is charged with regarding

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his son [which includes redeeming his firstborn] are incumbent on men,
but not on women. The commandment does not apply to the firstborn
of Levites nor to the firstborn of daughters of Levites and certainly not
to kohanim, as is mentioned in the first chapter of Bechorot (4a).
And put on totafot. There is here an abridgment of the command-
ments, for totafot represents both the hand tefillin and the head tefillin,
although the term totafot really only refers to the head, as is mentioned
in the verse (Exod. 13:16). The expression totafot means a crown. It is
like we learn in the Mishnah (Shabbat 6:1) that a woman should not go
outside [on the Sabbath] wearing her totefet, which the Gemara explains
as a headband that reaches from ear to ear. This is how Nachhmanides
explains in his Torah commentary, differing from Rashi, who explains
totafot as referring to speaking, as in (Ezek. 21:2) “preach (hatef) to
the south.” But it would seem that Rashi’s words would make sense,
that originally totafot referred to tefillin, and later it was applied to a
crown, since it is worn on the place of the tefillin. This is borne out in the
Yerushalmi (Shabbat 6:1), where the phrase “should not wear her totefet”
is said by Rabbi Bun ben Rabbi Chiyya to refer to a kevurtaya, an article
situated in the place of totafot. Also the Targum Yonatan translates (2
Sam. 1:10) “the bracelet on his arm” as “the totefta on his arm,” because
the ornament is worn on the place of the hand tefillin. In this way, one
can find merit in the poet’s including in the word totafot both head tefil-
lin and hand tefillin. As to the word ta’adeh [which we translated as “put
on”], this has the meaning of decoration, since the head tefillin is called
a thing of beauty (pe’er), as it is written (Ezek. 24:17) “put on your head-
tire (pe’ercha),” and the rabbis explained that this refers to the tefillin.
They similarly explained “a garland (pe’er) instead of ashes” (Isa. 61:3).
Now these [head tefillin and hand tefillin] are counted as two com-
mandments. Maimonides brings a proof for this from what is said in the
Gemara Menachot (44a) expressing surprise at the idea considered that
one who does not have a head tefillin does not put on the hand tefillin,
for “if a person cannot have two commandments, should he not at least
perform the one commandment?” Thus, they are called two command-
ments, and it is proper to so count them, and Nachmanides agrees with
him, although the Gaon only counts them as one. Now Maimonides’s
proof does not refute the Gaon in my opinion, since, regarding the lulav
whose four species comprise only a single commandment, as everyone
agrees, they said (Sukkah 37b) that the etrog is held in the left hand

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and the lulav in the right hand [the more honored position]. This is be-
cause the latter consists of three commandments [palm branch, myrtle,
and willow], while the former [etrog] is just one commandment. So the
rabbis have [in the above quotation] termed the component parts of a
single commandment as commandments. [The tefillin are not counted
as more than two] although they said (Menachot 44a) that one who ab-
stains from wearing tefillin violates eight positive commandments, we
still do not count them as eight commandments, as is explained in the
principles (No. 9).
And rule the foreign slave. The Gaon wrote that to retain a foreign
slave [is a commandment], and Maimonides also includes it. For there is
an argument in the first chapter of Sotah (3a) whether [retaining lordship
of a foreign slave] is a duty or is merely permitted, and the conclusion
is that it is a commandment. And in the Gemara Gittin (38b), they said,
“Anyone who frees his slave transgresses a positive commandment, as it
is said (Lev. 25:46), ‘You will keep them as slaves forever.’” Maimonides
included with this the freeing of a gentile slave upon disabling of his
“tips of limbs” [by the master]. But Nachmanides decided to make it a
separate commandment, i.e., to carry out the rule that one who knocks
out his slave’s tooth, etc. must free him. This does not mean that the
master does a commandment by freeing the slave, for the freeing of a
gentile slave because of “tips of limbs” is nothing but a fine, and a fine
would not be entered among the commandments (see principle 14). But
the substance of the commandment is for us [the community, acting
through the court] to execute this law. And Nachmanides says that just
as we consider marriage and divorce as separate commandments, so is it
proper to count the commandment of retaining the slave and of freeing
him as two commandments.
And circumcise the flesh. The commandment of circumcision is part
of the enumeration. It is already stated in the beginning of Keritot (2a)
that there are thirty-six commandments punishable by “cutting off,”
and two of these are positive commandments, i.e., the paschal lamb and
circumcision. There are other proofs that are unnecessary to mention,
since they are well known.

19. And redeem the firstborn donkey, and observe the Sabbath,
And recite the whole hallel on specific days.
The Gaon counted the redemption of the firstborn donkey and the

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breaking of its neck as a single commandment, while Maimonides

made them two commandments. And he supported this by what the
sages said (Bechorot 13a), “The commandment of redemption takes
precedence over the commandment of breaking the neck,” just as they
said that the commandment of levirate marriage takes precedence over
chalitzah. And just as the levirate marriage and chalitzah are counted as
two, so should redeeming the donkey and breaking its neck should be
counted as two. I did not see Nachmanides criticizing him [Maimonides]
on this point, and he included this in his enumeration. But Ravad (Laws
of Firstborn, 12:1), at the end of his critique, wrote that this [breaking
the neck] should not be counted as a commandment, since he is wasting
wealth, as the sages said (Bechorot 10b), “He causes the kohen to lose
money, so he should lose his money”; it is thus more proper to call it a
sin rather than a commandment. And the term “the commandment of
breaking the neck” [cited by Maimonides from Bechorot 13a as a proof]
was used merely since it follows the expression “the commandment of
redemption,” for he is commanded to suffer a monetary loss, not that
this should be actually counted as a commandment. And I say that if we
are to include it as a commandment, we must say that the command-
ment is for the court to carry out this law of making him lose money.
The loss is not the commandment, but carrying out the law properly is
one of the commandments of the Torah, as is the case with other fines.
And observe the Sabbath. Along with profanation of the Sabbath
being punishable by stoning, there is a positive commandment to rest
on the Sabbath, and we enumerate the negative part among the negative
commandments, and the positive part among the positive command-
ments, as I wrote in the sixth principle. Concerning the commandment,
it is like what they said in the first chapter of Yevamot (6b), “Let ex-
ecution override the Sabbath on the basis of a kal vachomer (inference
minor to major),” i.e., capital punishment is a positive commandment,
and they have said that a positive commandment overrides transgres-
sion of a negative commandment.26 The Gemara’s response to this sup-
position was that a positive commandment overrides a prohibition only
when there is only a prohibition, but when a positive commandment

26 Perlow, in his note on this section, says that the words above misrepresent the Gemara cited; I
presume that he is referring to the apparent identification of the kal vachomer with the principle
of a positive commandment overriding a negative commandment.

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is attached to the prohibition, that prohibition cannot be overridden.27

A similar passage in the second chapter of Bava Metzia (32a) is about
a person whose father tells him to profane the Sabbath, where the
positive commandment of honoring the father does not override the
negative and positive of “observe my Sabbaths” (Lev. 19:3). The Torah
expresses this [positive] commandment by (Exod. 34:21) “and on the
seventh day you shall rest.” And the Talmud in chapter “Eilu Kesharim”
(Sabbath 114b) and “Bameh Madlikin” (Sabbath 25a), Keitzad Tzolin
(Pesachim 84a) uses the expression, “resting on the Sabbath is a positive
Now28 there is concerning the Sabbath a positive commandment
indicated in the last chapter of Yoma (81b), where it is learned that one
adds from the profane time [preceding the onset of a day of rest] on to
the holy time, in all instances of rest days in the Torah. This is not just
based on an asmachta, for in the fourth chapter of Yom Tov (Betza 30a),
they said that [the following principle applies not only to rabbinic laws
but also] to Torah laws, [i.e., the principle of not interfering with widely
established infractions of the law], for it is better that the public should
be sinning in ignorance than intentionally. They cite the example that
people customarily ate and drank on Yom Kippur eve until dark [thus
not observing the additional observance time], and the authorities
did not restrain them [thus the additional time is regarded as a Torah
law]. You might argue that the augmented time and the basic time are
all counted as one commandment. But you can’t say that, because the
time of one does not coincide with the time of the other. And the ad-
ditional time involves only a positive commandment [resting], while
the basic commandment involves both positive and negative command-
ments [resting and not working]. And since Scripture separates them
[i.e., differentiates the basic day from the additional time with respect
to the prohibition], it is proper to count the addition to all the rest days
as a single commandment, since the Torah expresses this in one com-
mandment (Lev. 23:32), “From evening to evening you shall keep your

27 The fact that the Gemara is saying that the Shabbat commandment cannot be overridden because
it has a positive commandment proves that there is indeed a positive commandment of resting on
28 At this point, we switch into another aspect of the Sabbath, which is not so evident from the
Hebrew text. I would like the text to read “hineh od yesh bashabbat.”

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Now Maimonides [in another context, makes a separate command-

ment of an extended observance time, since he] counts in the list of
negative commandments the prohibition of eating chametz before the
holiday (Pesach) as one commandment, and the prohibition during the
holiday as another one. And what clinches [the conclusion] that this
[the additional rest on the holidays] should be enumerated comes from
[the fact] that the rabbis in the Talmud had to derive that women are
subject to the law of the additional rest period from a ribbui on the word
ha’ezrach (Lev. 23:42), and they are not exempt because of the principle
that this is a positive time-dependent commandment; this is discussed
in chapter “Hayashen” (Sukkah 28b). But if the additional time is just
an expansion of the day itself, they would not need this derivation that
they [women] must observe the day itself.
And recite the whole hallel on specified days. If the hallel is a rab-
binic commandment, we have already (Stanza 17, end) spoken about
this [whether rabbinic laws may be enumerated] in connection with the
daily hundred blessings, which are rabbinic. The Gaon did enumerate
them, while Maimonides does not. But there is some doubt regarding
hallel on another issue, i.e., one can claim that it is actually from the
Torah. Some say that it is included in the verse (Deut. 10:21) “He is your
glory.” But I say that, if it is a Torah law, it is included in (Lev. 19:24)
“holy for giving praise to the Lord,” since from there, we are enjoined to
praise His name when our joy is great because of the abundant produce
and likewise of every day of our rejoicing. It is also said in Isaiah (30:29),
“You shall have a song as on the night when a festival is hallowed,” which
means that when you will be saved from Sancheriv, you will be singing as
you do on one of those days when you recite the whole hallel. He alludes
to the most outstanding miracle, which is [celebrated in] the hallel re-
cited on Passover night, since the miracle of Sancheriv also happened on
Passover night, as the rabbis mentioned in chapter “Chelek” (Sanhedrin
95b) and in “Tractate Arachin” (10b); and they deduce [from that verse]
that a night hallowed as a festival requires singing.
This [that hallel is from the Torah] is supported by what is said in the
Gemara Taanit (28b), “The Rosh Chodesh hallel is not from the Torah,”
which implies that on the days that the entire hallel is recited, it is a
Torah law. There is another proof from what is said in Pesachim (117a)
where they discuss who originally said the hallel. Rabbi Yose said, “My
son Elazar said that Moses and Israel said it when Israel was standing

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at the Red Sea. But his fellow scholars differed, saying that David said
it first. But his [Elazar’s] words are more reasonable; for could it be
possible that the people of Israel were slaughtering their paschal lambs
and taking their lulavs without saying Hallel?” They further spoke there
about who [originally] said Hallel [as follows]. “Rabbi Eliezer the Great
said that Moses and Israel said it when the evil Pharaoh stood against
them. They said (Ps. 115:1), ‘Not for us,’ and the Holy Spirit replied (Isa.
48:11), ‘For My sake, for My sake, will I do it.’ The other sages said that
the prophets among them established it (the hallel) to be recited on
every holiday and for every trouble which may befall [may it not!] upon
the congregation. And when they are saved, they should say it for their
redemption.” So according to Rabbi Eliezer, Moses said it concerning the
oppression of Pharaoh, and then David wrote it [in the book of Psalms],
just as he wrote down (Psalm 90:1) “A prayer of Moses, the man of God,”
for the book of Psalms is a collection of all the songs of praise that were
said in Israel. And in the first chapter of Bava Batra (14b), it says that
David wrote down the book of Psalms on the basis of hymns of the ten
elders (Adam, Malchizedek, Abraham, etc.).
But even according to the words of the sages who said that the
prophets who came out of Egypt instituted the hallel in Moses’s time for
every redemption, and even according to the one who said that David
composed it, it is not farfetched to say that hallel is from the Torah. For
Maimonides admits that prayer is a Torah law, but the form of prayer was
instituted by the Men of the Great Assembly, as he explained in the first
chapter of the Laws of Prayer (par. 4). A similar thing is the song that
was sung in the temple, according to the opinion that the essence of the
song was the voice, the music being an accompaniment for the voice, and
the song is essential to the sacrifice according to the Torah; then David
established it [the specific songs to be recited], as was taught in tractate
Arachin (13a). Also, regarding the blessing after meals, which is a Torah
commandment, Moses instituted the first blessing, Joshua the second,
Solomon the third (Berachot 48b). From all the above, it is seen that,
although the commandment in all cases is from the Torah, the text of the
blessings and the songs were established by the prophets. Therefore, it is
plausible that the hallel is a Torah law, even though David composed it.
But there is a difficulty with all this from what is said in the second
chapter of Tractate Berachot (14a), “May one interrupt the reading of
hallel and of the Megillah? Should we say that, since one may interrupt

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the reading of the Shema, which is a Torah law, so it is even more logical
to permit interruption of the Hallel.” From this, it seems that the hallel
is a rabbinic law. But it might be that they were only referring to the hal-
lel of Chanukah, similar to the Megillah, but the hallel at the slaughter
of the paschal lamb and that accompanying the taking of the lulav could
be from the Torah. All of the above is what Nachmanides wrote [in his
critique of principle 1].
It is certainly plausible to maintain that the hallel for the slaughter
of the paschal lamb and for taking the lulav is from the Torah, according
to the words of Rabbi Yose and Rabbi Eliezer the Great, as I mentioned
previously. But regarding the proof he brought from Taanit (28b), which
says, “hallel on Rosh Chodesh is not from the Torah,” which implies that
other recitations of hallel are from the Torah, this is not a decisive proof,
in my humble opinion. For it is characteristic of the Talmud to call the
essential part of an enactment a Torah law, even though it is rabbinic.
For it is taught in Megillat Taanit (chap. 2), “It is found that Pesach Sheni
is from the Torah, which means that it is forbidden to have a eulogy or
a fast day [on Pesach Sheni], which is based on a kal vachomer, and on
Pesach Rishon it is forbidden even more so.” So “from the Torah” [as used
here] is not exactly accurate, for it is forbidden by only by rabbinic law,
and it is established that Megillat Taanit is no longer valid, and when
they say “from the Torah,” it only means that this is a basic element of
the rabbinic enactment.
Rashi commented similarly in chapter “Ha’or V’harotev” [perhaps re-
ferring to Rashi on Chullin 120b on the phrase “af terumah.”] They said
similarly in the first chapter of Rosh Hashanah (16b), “The Torah said,
‘Recite before Me Malchuyot, Zichronot, and Shof ’rot,’” and it is clear that
these blessings of Rosh Hashanah are only rabbinic, as mentioned in the
last chapter of Tractate Rosh Hashanah (34b) and in the first chapter of
Berachot [perhaps this reference is actually to the fourth chapter 29a].
And in Yevamot (4a), they said, “How do we know about the validity of
deriving laws from juxtaposition? It is from the verse (Ps. 111:8) ‘They are
established for ever and ever’ [the word smuchim, meaning ‘established,’
is also used to mean juxtaposition of paragraphs in the Torah].” And
in Menachot (81a), they said, “The Torah said, ‘Better that you do not
vow’ (Eccles. 5:4).” And they said in the first chapter of Tractate Chullin
(17b), “Whence is it known that examination of a slaughtering knife is
a Torah law?” when this law is actually just a sign of respect for the sage

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to whom one shows the knife, as is mentioned there. And the expression
“Torah” in this citation is not precise; it only signifies a teaching and an
established practice, as in Gittin (44a), “From me, Ami bar Natan, Torah
(i.e., teaching) goes forth to Israel.” Also, in certain places, they speak of
a private positive commandment [which conflicts with a public positive
commandment] even though that [private] commandment is rabbinic,
as in Tractate Mashkin (Moed Katan 14b) regarding mourning on the
first day, according to the French sages who say that this is a rabbinic
commandment, and there are other similar instances.
So when it is said that the hallel of Rosh Chodesh is not from the
Torah, the meaning is just that this is inferior to the status of hallel on
Chanukah, and it is known that Chanukah itself is rabbinic, and so much
more is the hallel recited on it rabbinic. Nevertheless, even if we would
agree that hallel in certain instances is from the Torah, we could still
find justification that it should not be enumerated; for it is possible that
it is included in the commandment of rejoicing on holidays, as it is writ-
ten (Num. 10:10), “And on your joyous occasions, your fixed festivals,
and new moon days, you shall sound the trumpets.” The main rejoicing
would be by vocal music with the instruments as accompaniment; the
commandment would consist of an appropriate song at the time of the
sacrifice, and of the recitation of hallel not at the time of sacrifice. On
the new moon, however, the sages eliminated the recitation of hallel
outside the temple, since it is not a day hallowed as a festival. Similarly,
in Tractate Arachin (11a), they said, “Whence is the principle of singing
from the Torah? It is from here: ‘Because you did not serve the Lord
your God in joy and gladness’ (Deut. 28:47). What is service in joy and
gladness? Presumably it is singing.”
In summary, we have three distinct possibilities for this matter: (1)
hallel is rabbinic according to Maimonides, and in his view should not
be enumerated, while the opinion of the Gaon is that it is enumerated;
(2) it is from the Torah and should be enumerated; and (3) it is a Torah
law but should not be enumerated, since it is part of a commandment of
rejoicing, and this is Nachmanides’s view.

20. And on the corner of your garment, attach fringes,

And lend to the poor, and assuage the distressed with words.
Maimonides counted the commandment of tzitzit as a single com-
mandment. But in keeping with the way he counted tefillin as two

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commandments, he should have, according to his principles, counted

tzitzit as two commandments. For he wrote in principle 11 that for any
commandment whose components do not prevent the performance of
each other, it is proper to count each part separately. Just as we learned
(Menachot 44a) that [absence of the head tefillin] does not prevent the
performance of the hand tefillin, so we learned (Menachot 38a) that
[absence of] the blue fringe does not prevent the keeping of the white
fringe observance. But Maimonides decided to count it (tzitzit) as a
single commandment, on account of what is found in the Mechilta [ac-
tually Sifre Zuta, Num. 15:34] that it is just a single commandment. It
says there, “You might think that they comprise two commandments,
that of the blue [threads] and that of the white [threads]; so the Torah
states, ‘It shall be your tzitzit,’ i.e., it is a single commandment, not two
But this is no proof, since this Baraita follows the opinion of rabbi
(Judah the Prince), who said in chapter “Hatechelet” (Menachot 38a)
that the blue thread does prevent the performance of the white fringe.
And the meaning of the Baraita is you might think that they are two
commandments, which do not interfere with each other; therefore,
Scripture says, “And it shall be your tzitzit,” which means it is a single
commandment, and the two do interfere with each other. They said a
similar thing in the Sifre (Shelach 67) and in the Mishnah (Tractate
Menachot 28a): “The four fringes mutually interfere, for the four of
them constitute a single commandment; but Rabbi Ishmael said that
the four of them are four separate commandments [i.e., they do not
invalidate each other].” From this, it is evident that in every instance
when they say that they constitute a single commandment, they are
only referring to the opinion of rabbi (Judah the Prince), who holds that
the parts invalidate each other; but according to the sages who hold that
they do not invalidate each other, they are two commandments. And it
would be proper, according to Maimonides’s principle, to count them as
two commandments, just as he counted the tefillin as two command-
ments. We already indicated that the Gaon (Halachot Gedolot, Positive
Commandment 2) counted tefillin as just a single commandment, since
what is written in one is written in the other. So much more is it proper
that the tzitzit should be counted as one commandment comprising
both the blue and white components, since the action [of wearing the tz-
itzit] is a single one, and the intent of both is the same, i.e., to remember

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the commandments of the Lord and to perform them. According to the

words of Maimonides [that tefillin is two commandments], it would be
plausible to say that tzitzit is two commandments. For if tefillin, where
there is no difference between them regarding the Torah portions, what
is written in one likewise being written in the other, and the intention
of both tefillin is that the teaching of the Lord should be placed near
the heart and mind, which are the organs of thought; so much more
is it proper in the case of the tzitzit [to consider them as two], since
one part is white and one part is blue. But perhaps Maimonides could
make a distinction between tefillin and tzitzit in that putting on the
tefillin requires two actions, which justifies counting them as two com-
mandments, while putting on the tzitzit is only a single action. This is
what Nachmanides wrote to explain the enumeration of Maimonides.
But in keeping with his [Maimonides’s] own principles, since his proof
from the Mechilta is invalid, it would be proper to count them, the blue
fringes and white fringes, as two commandments, just like tefillin.
In my humble opinion, there arises another doubt for me concerning
the enumeration of the commandments, and this concerns what is said
in the Gemara Menachot (44a) that a person who does not have a tzitzit
on his garment transgresses five positive statements. Now Maimonides
has already explained in the ninth principle that it is not right to enu-
merate the number of the negative and the positive statements, only
the subject matter that is prohibited or enjoined by them. Therefore,
he decided to count the commandments of tzitzit, tefillin, the priestly
blessing, and mezuzah only according to the subject of the command-
ment, without regard to the number of positive statements about them,
even though there are five statements about tzitzit, eight about the
tefillin, three about the priestly blessing, and two about the mezuzah.
This is true, and I have no doubt about this, but I have some suspicion
as to whether there may be one statement among the five [relating to
tzitzit] that does not refer to the action of wearing the tzitzit and which
could be counted separately.
Now Maimonides explained that the five positive statements are
(1) “Let them attach to the fringe of each corner” (Num. 15:38); (2)
“Let them make for themselves a fringe” (ibid.); (3) “That shall be your
fringe” (ibid., v. 39); (4) “You shall make tassels” (Deut. 22:12); (5) “On
the four corners of your garment” (ibid.). This is his explanation, but
it is not acceptable, for the entire verse (Deut. 22:12) is no more than

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one commandment, “You shall make tassels on the four corners of your
garment,” and the latter part of the verse only specifies the place of the
tzitzit, and it is not a statement action. Therefore, it would seem that
the fifth positive statement is “and you shall see it” (Num. 15:39), and
Rashi also has explained thus. If so, why should we not count the com-
mandment of seeing as a separate commandment, which is the main
commandment, as they said in chapter “Hatechelet” (43b), “Seeing leads
to remembering, remembering leads to doing”? And in Midrash Tillim
(Yalkut Shimoni, Tehillim No. 723) it is said that David said before the
Holy One, blessed is He, “I praise you with all my limbs. With my head
I turn it as I recite the shema; with the hair on my head I fulfill the
prohibition against rounding the corners of the head (Lev. 19:27), and
I also place the tefillin on my head; with my neck I perform the com-
mandment of wrapping in a fringed garment; and with my eyes I fulfill
‘and you shall see it.’” And it is further said there, “With my right hand
I write, and with it I point out the logical reasoning in the Torah; on my
left hand I bind the tefillin; and I hold my tzitzit during the reading of
the Shema in order to see them with my eyes.” Therefore, why should the
commandment of seeing not be counted as a distinct commandment,
for wearing is one action, and seeing is a separate action? The author of
the Book of Commandments has already counted “gazing at the tzitzit”
(SeMaK, Positive Commandment 29).
Do not err in thinking that this [taking “you shall see it” as a com-
mandment] would only be said according to the sages who do not
interpret this passage as implying that night clothes are exempt from
tzitzit. For they think that it is a positive commandment, which does
not depend on time and which [consequently] is incumbent on women.
But Rabbi Shimon does interpret this clause as exempting night clothes
from requiring the tzitzit [for in the dark one does not see], and it is a
time-dependent commandment, for which women are not responsible
[women generally do not observe time-dependent commandments].
Indeed, the law follows his opinion, according to the decision of the
early authorities. [You might think that] he would not construe “and
you shall see it” as a commandment, since it is used for this limitation
[of tzitzit not applying to night clothing]. But this assumption would be
erroneous, for even though Rabbi Shimon finds in this verse exemption
for night clothing, the main message of this verse does not depart from
its simple sense, which is a commandment to see the tzitzit. For they

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said there (Menachot 43b), “And you shall see it, and you shall remem-
ber . . . and you shall do” (Num. 15:39); seeing leads to remembering,
remembering leads to doing. Rabbi Shimon ben Yochai says that anyone
who is careful about this commandment merits to encounter the divine
presence, for it is written here (Num. 15:39) “And you will see Him [tak-
ing oto to mean Him rather than it],” and it is written elsewhere (Deut.
6:13), “You shall fear the Lord your God and serve Him” [oto here clearly
means Him]. So it is evident that although Rabbi Shimon interprets this
verse to exempt night clothes, he does not desist from considering it as
a commandment, and it is equivalent to receiving the Divine Presence.
Therefore, why not include it in the enumeration of the commandments.
But the commandment of remembering is not to be included, since it is
one of the all-inclusive commandments, which are not to be enumer-
ated, as is known from the principles (No. 4).
And lend to the poor is an enumerated commandment, as is stated
in the Mechilta (Mishpatim 19:182),“Every im (if) in the Torah express-
es permission, except for three cases, to wit ‘If you lend money’ (Exod.
22:24) is a duty. How do you know it is a duty, and not just permission?
It is from the verse ‘You shall surely lend him’ (Deut. 15:8), which ex-
presses duty, not permission.”
And assuage the distressed with words. This is from the proph-
ets (Isa. 58:10), “If you draw out your soul to the hungry.” This means
that if you have no money, draw out your soul to him and tell him, “If
I could fill your need with the blood of my life, I would do so.” This is
part of doing acts of kindness and is included in “And you shall love
your neighbor as yourself” (Lev. 19:18). It is therefore not counted as
a separate commandment, for it is part of another commandment, and
the commandment of loving comrades has already been counted.

21. Recite the proper blessing for food, slowly or with haste;
And may you not be undernourished by the affliction of
The blessing for food after meals is from the Torah. It is clearly
stated thus in the third chapter of Berachot (21a), “The reciting of
Shema and the blessing for food are from the Torah.” And they said in
the Yerushalmi (Megillah 4:1 and Berachot 7:1), “The law of blessing
after food is written in the Torah, but the blessing before food is not
written in the Torah.” And they said in the Tosefta (Berachot 6:1), “The

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blessing for food [i.e., after the meal] is from the Torah, as it is said
(Deut. 8:10), ‘And you shall eat and be satisfied and you shall bless.’” And
in Tractate Chullin (87a), it is explained that the four blessings consti-
tute just one commandment, not four commandments. For when our
holy rabbi (Rabbi Judah the Prince) gave a certain main forty gold coins
as a reward for his reciting the blessings after a meal, they learned from
that incident that the reward was not ten coins per commandment, but
ten coins per blessing, for had it been ten coins per commandment, he
would have given him only ten coins altogether, since the four blessings
constitute only a single commandment.
Slowly or with haste is poetic to complete the rhyming [mazon
rhymes with chipazon].29
And may you not be undernourished by the affliction of atonement.
It is a commandment to afflict oneself on the Day of Atonement. And
there are five afflictions that are written concerning this command-
ment, as mentioned in the last chapter of Yoma (73b), but it is counted
as only one commandment, since the action is expressed as a single ac-
tion [afflicting oneself], as is expressed in the principles (principle 9).
The expression “And may you not be undernourished” is an assurance
that one would not become lean.

22. Return the poor man’s security pledge; let it not remain
with you;
And return what was robbed, and what was gained from eco-
nomic oppression.
Maimonides explains that for every commandment that involves
both a prohibition and a positive statement, the prohibition should be
listed among the prohibitions, and the positive statement should be
listed among the positive commandments. And in these two command-
ments, namely, returning a pledge and returning a robbed article, there
are prohibitions for each one, i.e. (Deut. 24:10), “You must not enter
his house to seize his pledge” and (Lev. 19:13) “You shall not commit
robbery.” And there is also a positive commandment involved, i.e. (Deut.
24:13), “You must return the pledge to him” and (Lev. 5:23) “He shall
return that which he robbed.” And in Tractate Makkot (16a), they said

29 The meaning of this phrase is obscure. Perhaps it refers to the alternative versions of the blessing,
which is valid in difficult circumstances.

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about these commandments that they are prohibitions, but they are at-
tached to a positive commandment [i.e., the offense can be corrected by
returning the object].
Note that even though robbing and coercion (Lev. 19:13) comprise
two enumerated commandments (Lev. 19:13), “You shall not coerce”
and “you shall not rob,” returning the objects taken [by coercion or rob-
bery] is only counted as a single commandment, for the scriptural ex-
pression is “he shall return what he got by robbery or coercion.” Since it
is expressed in one clause, it is only counted as a single commandment,
although this positive statement corresponds to several prohibitions,
i.e., robbery, coercion, or wrongful retention of a deposit, as I mentioned
in the principles (No. 6).

23. Be humble to the elder, for his understanding and his age;
Rise before him, and honor his presence.
Giving respect to the wise and elders by rising before them and hon-
oring them is an enumerated positive commandment. It trains one to
be humble, which is the greatest virtue, and brings one toward the Holy
Spirit (Avodah Zarah 20b). The chief of all the prophets was praised for
it [his humility] (Num. 12:13), and the wise one (Solomon) said (Prov.
22:4), “Fear of the Lord results from humility.” The poet [Gabirol] ex-
plains [by his phraseology] that this commandment applies to both a
wise youth and an undistinguished older person [termed zaken ashmai
in Kiddushin 32b], meaning an empty person (bur).] [The source for
ashmai meaning empty] is the Targum on the verse v’ha’adamah lo tes-
ham (Gen. 47:19) as lo t’vur (will not become empty). Therefore, he said,
“For his understanding and his age,” i.e., whether it is intellectual age or
temporal age. The commandment consists of rising and honoring, as is
mentioned in Kiddushin (32b).

24. And you shall learn and teach, and honor your parents;
And you shall return a lost article, and sanctify the firstborn.
Just as the Torah repeated the commandment of studying the Torah,
so did the poet repeat it twice. He said previously, “Make his words a
healing” (Stanza 16), and again, “You shall diligently teach them con-
tinually.” And here he said, “And you shall learn and teach”; and in all
this, there is only one enumerated commandment, which is the com-
mandment of Torah study for oneself, one’s children, and one’s pupils

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who are also considered children (Sifre Devarim 6:7).

Now, Nachmanides added the commandment to recite a blessing
before reading the Torah, this being from the Torah, as it is said (Deut.
32:3), “When I proclaim the name of the Lord, give glory to our God,”
and thus it is stated in the Yerushalmi (Berachot 7:1). He wrote that it
would not be correct to count the reading of the Torah together with
the blessing as a single commandment, just as the recital concerning the
first fruits is not enumerated as part of bringing [the first fruits], and
just as telling about the Exodus from Egypt [is not counted together]
with eating the paschal lamb.
And honor your parents. In the words your parents are included
father and mother. Also included here from the Torah are stepmother
and stepfather and older brother. For in Ketubot (103a), we have that
in the will of our holy master [Rabbi Judah the Prince], he said to his
children, “Be mindful of the honor due to your mother.” And the ques-
tion was asked: “This is a Torah commandment, as it is written, ‘Honor
your father and your mother,’ which includes your stepmother from the
*Why did Rabbi Judah have
et in v’et imecha, and your elder brother is de-
to exhort his children to do rived from the vav in v’et imecha.”* It is clear
something that was already that honoring the stepmother and stepfather
ordained in the Torah? The
Talmud replies that the law and older brother is a Torah law, but it is all
of honoring a stepmother counted as only one commandment, because
is meant by the Torah to be
binding only during the father’s
these laws only apply during the lifetime of
lifetime. Rabbi Judah was thus the natural parent, as was mentioned there;
asking his children to maintain it all reverts to the honor due to the natural
the honor of their stepmother
even after his death. parents and is a single commandment. Also,
the inclusion of the older brother from the
vav is analogous to the inclusion of the stepmother and stepfather dur-
ing the natural parents’ lifetime from the word et. Thus, everything re-
fers back to the honoring of the natural parents; the parent is distressed
if his younger son does not respect the elder son, and the whole matter
constitutes a single commandment. Even if honoring the older brother
applies even after the parent’s death [which is not explicitly clear from
the Talmudic citation], still we have not seen anyone who includes this
in the enumeration of the commandments. Nachmanides reasons that
it is not counted, since a law derived by inclusion from a vav is not like
a law derived from et; the latter being an authentic derivation from the
Torah, whereas a law based on a vav is only an asmachta. For the ac-

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cepted ruling in the Talmud is in accord with the opinion that we may
not use a vav to extract a law. In any event, all agree that the father and
the mother comprise a single commandment, because they are stated
in one clause. We need not belabor the point, looking for justification
that all the extra included persons are not to be separately numbered,
for there is only a single commandment regarding the natural parents
and the ancillary persons included in the scripture. In a similar way, we
count returning what was robbed or obtained wrongfully or what was
deposited in our care, all as one commandment. Also, rising and honor-
ing an elderly person or a scholar is a single commandment, and so I
have written in the fourteen principles.
And you shall return a lost article. The Mechilta states concerning a
lost article that it is commanded by both a positive and negative state-
ment. This comment also comes in the Gemara (Bava Metzia 32), i.e.,
returning a lost article is stated both as a positive and negative com-
mandment. And they argued that a person who is keeping a lost article
[until the owner shows up] is like a paid guard, since he is exempt from
giving a perutah to a beggar as charity [while he is occupied with the lost
article], since he is already busy performing a commandment, so he is
exempt from another commandment.30 Furthermore, they stated in the
Sifre (Tetze 42) that the verse (Exod. 23:4), “When you encounter your
enemy’s ox or ass wandering, you must take it back to him,” is a positive
commandment. I have previously written in the principles (No. 6) why
this commandment is enumerated separately from that of returning an
article that was robbed.
And sanctify the firstborn. This means the dedication of the firstborn
of clean animals. Maimonides holds that this law applies to the land of
Israel, while Nachmanides says that it also applies outside the land of
Israel, and he discusses this at length in his Laws of Firstlings.

25. Be merciful to the poor, and comfort the mourners;

Converse with the sick, and bury those who are cut off.
The poet repeated the commandment of charity in a number of stan-
zas; in this stanza and in the following stanza, “to open and to give”; and

30 Note that in the version of this opinion of Rav Yosef in Bava Kamma 56b, the small donation
to the beggar is a rifta [a piece of bread]; but in the version of his opinion in Nedarim (33b), the
donation is a perutah [ a small coin].

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in the next one, “and to perform charity.” For the Torah also reiterates
this commandment in a number of places. But since the action is the
same, i.e., giving to the poor, it is only counted as a single command-
ment. And in chapter 3 of Shevuot (25a), they said that if a person
takes an oath to give to a poor person, [it does not count as a separate
obligation] since he is already bound by the oath at Sinai [to observe
the Torah]. The commandment of granting loans has previously been
separately enumerated.
And he says, “Be merciful to the poor,” a poetic phrase, even though
Scripture says (Exod. 23:3), “You must not show deference to a poor per-
son in his dispute,” and Onkelos rendered this, “v’al miskena lo t’rahem”
(lit. “You shall not show mercy to the poor”).
Comfort the mourners; converse with the sick. The Gaon (author of
Halachot Gedolot) counted these as positive commandments. The rabbi
[Maimonides] criticized him, for these laws are homiletically derived in
the Talmud from the verse (Exod. 18:23), “And you shall show them the
way wherein they should walk,” with the word yeilchu indicating visiting
the sick, and the word va indicating burying the dead. The rabbi does not
consider such interpretations as enumerable commandments, as I have
written in the introductory fourteen principles. But Nachmanides has
defended the gaon by asserting that he did not include these command-
ments on account of the quotation from Bava Metzia, but from another
Talmudic passage (Sotah 14), where Rabbi Chama ben Chanina, “What
is the meaning of ‘And you shall walk after the Lord your God (Deut.
13:5)?’ Is it possible to walk after the Holy One? It means, however,
that as the Holy One clothes the naked, so should you, as He visits the
sick, so should you, as He buries the dead, so should you, as He com-
forts mourners, so should you.” These laws are derived in the Sifrei from
(Deut. 28:9) “and you shall walk in His ways,” so they are Torah laws,
but are not to be enumerated separately; they are part of either “walking
in His ways” or “love your fellow as yourself.” And regarding mourning
itself, it is an enumerated commandment from the verse (Lev. 21:3) “for
her he shall defile himself,” which is explained in Sotah (3a) as a com-
mandment [rather than expressing permission].
As to what he says converse with the sick, it is because talking is
beneficial to the sick, as it is stated (Nedarim 41a), “Talking is helpful
for a fever.”
And bury those who are cut off. It is a positive commandment to

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bury those executed by the court, as it is said in the Talmud (Sanhedrin

46b), “There is a hint regarding burial in the Torah, as it is said (Deut.
21:23), ‘But you must bury him on the same day,’ and the statement in
the Sifre (Tetze 40) is ‘but you must bury him’ is a positive command-
ment.” A dead person is termed cut off from the land of the living, for
the law [of burial] applies to corpses in general, although the scriptural
verse is only referring to those executed by the court; for they said there
(Sanhedrin 46a) that anyone who leaves his dead [kin] unburied trans-
gresses a negative commandment; thus, just as the negative command-
ment applies to all corpses [not just to those executed by the court], so
does the positive commandment of burial apply generally.31

26. And to open and give to the impoverished needy;

And to destroy and put to death, Amalek the archenemy.32
The Torah says [with regard to giving charity], “You shall surely open”
(Deut. 15:8) and “you shall surely give” (Deut. 15:10). This was men-
tioned above (in the previous stanza).
To destroy and put to death, Amalek the archenemy. [The un-
usual verb form] lashmid means the same as [the more conventional]
l’hashmid, and its source is lashmid ma’uzneha (Isa. 23:11). The expres-
sion “archenemy” [lit. head of enemies] is [suggested by] “Amalek is
the first of nations, and will ultimately be destroyed forever” (Num.
24:20). It is a positive commandment to wipe out the descendants of
Amalek. They have already stated in Sanhedrin (20b) that Israel was
commanded three commandments at the time of their entry into the
Land: to appoint a king, to build for them the temple, and to destroy the
descendants of Amalek. So this is an enumerated commandment, and
the Gaon [Halachot Gedolot] also listed it.
The poet included in his statement another commandment, i.e., to
remember what Amalek did to us, for remembering precedes destroying

31 See reference on this in Ziv Hazohar pp. 25, 26, note 364. He mentions Torah Temimah on Devarim
21, 23, note 160, which argues the opposite of Zohar Harakia. He claims that the extension to a
general corpse of the prohibition is an obvious asmachta, and from this, it is clear that the positive
commandment is likewise an asmachta.
32 The fourth Hebrew word in this stanza is “v’chatet.” But we adopt here the reading yechatet,
according to the reading in the MS and in the first printed edition, replacing the vav with a yod.
The word yechatet is an unusual form, which would mean “one who is destroyed,” and we translate
it as “impoverished.” The usage of “yechatet” referring to a poor person is in keeping with the verse,
(Prov. 10:15) “The destruction of the poor people is their poverty.”

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and leads to it. In the Sifre,33 it is stated, “[The expression] ‘remember’

(Deut. 25:17) means verbally; ‘you shall not forget’ (ibid., v. 19) means in
your heart.” And in the Sifra, it is stated, “You might think that ‘remem-
ber’ means in your heart; however, ‘you shall not forget’ already implies
in your heart. So one must apply ‘remember’ to verbal repetition.” Just
as the commandment of remembering the Sabbath is an enumerated
commandment, so should this one be enumerated. Although the Gaon
does not count it, Maimonides does count it.
Now Nachmanides also counts (Deut. 24:9) “Remember what the Lord
your God did to Miriam” as a commandment, which means that a person
should keep far away from slander, for on account of the sin of slander,
diseases come. This is why Scripture juxtaposes the verse (Deut. 24:8)
“Be careful regarding the illness of tzora’at.” In the Sifre, it is stated, “The
verse ‘Remember what the Lord your God did to Miriam’ could be inter-
preted as meaning in your heart. When Scripture says, ‘Be careful regard-
ing the illness of tzora’at,’ this already covers keeping in mind. So I must
apply ‘remember’ to verbal repetition.” Also, Nachmanides expresses
doubt regarding the rabbis’ interpretation (Sifra B’chukotai): “(The verse)
‘Remember, do not forget, how you angered the Lord in the wilderness
(Deut. 9:7)’ could mean remembering in the heart, etc.” Was this spoken
just to that generation, or is this is a commandment for all generations,
like what is said (Mic. 6:5), “My people, remember what Balak, king of
Moab, planned.” In his [Nachmanides’s] view, it is right to include such a
commandment, although earlier authorities do not count it.
I have found another commandment of remembering that I consider
correct to enumerate, i.e. (Exod. 13:3), “Remember the day when you left
Egypt.” Concerning this, in the Mishnah in the first chapter of Berachot
(12b), they explained [the verse] “in order that you may remember the
day of your departure from Egypt all the days of your life.” [They explain
that] the meaning of “all the days of your life” is, since “the days of your
life” refers to this life, “all the days of your life” refers to the time of the
Messiah as well. In the Gemara (ibid., 13a), it is explained that freedom
from all national persecution in the Messianic time would be the main
thing to remember, while remembering the Exodus from Egypt would
be secondary; nevertheless, the latter will never be eliminated. And in
chapter 2 of Berachot (13b), it says that rabbi [Judah the Prince] used

33 Ziv Hazohar discusses this apparently mistaken citation.

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to review the portion about the Exodus [in the course of his lectures],
but he would nevertheless say the complete recital of Shema [as part of
the evening service, which includes “who brought you out of the land of
Egypt”], so as to mention the Exodus at the proper time [of the evening
Shema]. In the same chapter (ibid., 14b), they express amazement at
those who did not recite the portion about the tzitzit [as part of recit-
ing the Shema] at night, since one has to make mention of the Exodus
from Egypt [at night, as well as in the day]. They answered that [those
who omitted that paragraph would in its stead] say the following: “We
acknowledge, Lord our God, that you brought us out from the Land of
Egypt.” And in chapter “Mi Shemeito” (Berachot 21a), they said that if
one is in doubt as to whether or not he recited the section emet v’yatsiv
[following the scriptural portions of the Shema], he should go back and
say this, because emet v’yatsiv is from the Torah, i.e., because of [its con-
taining material on] the Exodus from Egypt. Thus, it [remembering the
Exodus] should be an enumerated commandment. Now, Maimonides
must have included this law with that of “you shall tell your child” (Exod.
13:38). This does not seem right, for that commandment [of telling] ap-
plies particularly to that night [of Passover], and neither the recital of
the section vayomer [concerning the tzitzit] nor the [following] section
emet ve’emunah [although both sections allude to the Exodus] discharge
a person of his duty of telling his children. This is like our counting read-
ing the Torah as a commandment [which applies at all times, as does
the commandment to remember the Exodus] and reading the Shema as
a separate commandment, which applies at a particular time [like the
commandment to “tell your child” on Passover night]. [They are sepa-
rately counted, even though they are of essentially the same nature,]
since the same blessing suffices for both of them, namely the blessing
ahavah rabbah, as indicated in chapter 1 of Berachot (11b). So it is cor-
rect to count the commandment of remembering separately and that of
telling separately even more so [remembering and telling being different

27. To eliminate leaven, with decisive destruction;

And to burn an abominable thing, idols and asherahs.
The commandment of eliminating [leaven before Passover] is from
the Torah, as it says in chapter 1 of Pesachim (4b), “It is sufficient to
renounce ownership [of the leaven].” And in the Jerusalem Talmud in

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Sanhedrin (5:3), it states, “One is obligated to eliminate by a positive

commandment, as it is written (Exod. 12:15), ‘You shall eliminate.’”
This is what Maimonides has written. I have also found this in Pesachim
(Yerushalmi 1:4). They have already argued there (Pesachim 21a) as to
whether the elimination should be by burning or otherwise. The poet
wrote [the expression kala necheretzet, following the phrase in Isa.
10:22 kilayon charutz (meaning decisive destruction)], whatever type
that may be.34
And to burn the abominable image is like the scriptural expres-
sion (1 Kings 15:13) “[He cut down] the abominable image (Heb. mi-
fletzet) and burnt it,” referring to the idol pejoratively, derived from
(Job 9:6) “And its pillars tremble” [i.e., abomination so intense that
it makes one tremble]. But the Talmud (Avodah Zarah 44a) explains:
“What is mifletzet? It is composed of two words mafle and letzanuta
(meaning extraordinary lewdness).” The commandment is to destroy
any idolatrous object with all kinds of destructive action, breaking,
burning, and wrecking. This is from the Scripture (Deut. 12:2), “You
shall utterly destroy all the places where the nations worshipped, and
you shall smash their altars and break down their pillars, etc.” And in
Sanhedrin (90a), it is stated with wonderment concerning idolatry,
“What positive commandment is there?” Rav Hisda explained that it is
“and you shall smash,” which means that it is a positive commandment
to uproot idolatrous objects.

28. To make the day of rest joyous, with quiet and security;
And to feast and rejoice, and to love converts.
It is a positive commandment from the prophetic tradition (Isa.
58:13), “And you shall make the Sabbath a delight.” It should not be
enumerated, unless one counts rabbinic commandments [i.e., any laws
not from the Torah of Moses], as is the opinion of the Gaon, author of
Halachot Gedolot. The commandment of resting on the Sabbath, which
is from the Torah, was recorded previously (Stanza 19), “And you shall
keep the Sabbath.”
And to feast and rejoice comprises two enumerated command-
ments. They said in the Sifre (Re’eh 191:11), “Three commandments
apply to a festival, namely, feasting, appearing [at the sanctuary], and

34 Actually kala v’necheratza in verse 23 is closer to ibn Gabirol’s phrase.

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rejoicing.” Mentioned later (Stanza 55) is “to appear and to go up.” The
commandment of feasting means to offer the festival peace offerings,
and the commandment of rejoicing means to offer additional peace of-
ferings for rejoicing. It also includes various other types of rejoicing, like
rejoicing with the drawing of water [on Sukkot] and providing enjoy-
ment to one’s children and other family members, to each one according
to what is fitting, as noted in chapter 1 of Chagigah (8a) and in the last
chapter of Pesachim (109a). I previously wrote (at the end of Stanza 19)
that it may be possible to include the recital of hallel in this command-
ment [of rejoicing].
Ulesimchah (to rejoice) is not a noun [although “simchah” is usually
the noun “rejoicing”], but an infinitive, like velismo’ach [the usual infini-
tive form]. It has a parallel about the Philistines gathering (Judg. 16:23)
“to offer a great sacrifice to Dagon their god and to rejoice (ulesimchah).”
And to love converts is a special commandment for converts in
addition to [the commandment to love] other Israelites, love of one’s
fellow [Israelite] being counted as a specific commandment. We learn
[that we have two distinct commandments] from what the rabbis said
(Bava Metzia 59b) that if one wrongs a proselyte, he transgresses (Lev.
25:17), “You shall not wrong each other” and (Exod. 22:20) “You shall
not wrong a proselyte.” Analogously, we count loving an Israelite and
loving a convert as two commandments.
Now, I wonder why there was not included among the sum of the
commandments that of receiving converts, which specifically applies
to the court to receive them35 and not to put them off, as it is said in
Yevamot, chapter “Hacholetz” (47b), “He is to be circumcised immedi-
ately, for one does not delay a commandment.” A similar statement was
made (ibid., 39a) about the levirate marriage, that if [the dead brother
had] a younger brother as well as an older one who lived in a distant
country, one cannot say that one should wait until the older brother
arrives, and the reason given is that a commandment should not be de-
layed. Therefore, receiving proselytes by the court is a commandment.
And this is expressed in the Torah (Deut. 1:16) as “And you shall judge
rightly between a man and his brother, and the stranger.” From here,

35 At this point, the acronym bet, yod, mem, kaph appear in parentheses in the recent editions but are
absent in our manuscript and in the Lemberg edition.

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they learned36 that a court of three judges is needed to instruct him

on both lighter and more serious commandments, as is mentioned in
chapter “Hacholetz” (Yevamot 46b) and in third chapter of Kiddushin
(62b), for the expression of “judging” is written there. And they said in
Ketubot (11a) that a gentile minor [who is a candidate for conversion]
would be immersed [as part of the conversion] based on the consent
of the court [even though a minor is generally not competent for such
transactions]. And this ruling is due to this commandment that they are
responsible for receiving converts.
Therefore, it is proper that this should be enumerated as a separate
commandment. I do not know to which [other commandment] we could
attach this [receiving converts] if it is not counted as a distinct com-
mandment. If all kinds of judicial decisions would be included under a
single commandment, as I myself think (commandment No. 144, “to
judge righteously”), one could include this among all the others. But
since they [Maimonides and Nachmanides] decided to enumerate the
various judicial functions as separate commandments, they should make
this [also] a separate commandment. There is not any commandment
among all the civil laws, [which are enumerated by Maimonides] which
is more deserving of enumeration than this [commandment of conver-
sion], since it is completely dissimilar to them, since it is not a civil case
and not a matter of claims that occurs between a person and his fellow.
Just as the law of inheritance is counted as a separate commandment
(Maimonides’s Positive Commandment No. 248), even though it is part
of civil laws, since Scripture applies the word judgment (mishpat) to it, as
mentioned in chapter “Yesh Nochalin” (Bava Batra 113b); so is it proper
to count receiving converts? And even if we include all legal procedures
under a single commandment, as is my opinion, this commandment
should be separately counted.

29. And to act charitably, according to one’s ability and to the

And loaded burdens to raise and lift.
The commandment of charity was previously mentioned. [In the
word] uch’missot, [which I translated as “according to  .  .  . needs,” al-
though it is usually understood as “measure”], the mem is vowelized

36 According to Tosafot, though Rashi cites another scriptural source.

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with a chirik, in accordance with the language of Scripture (Deut. 16:10),

“with the measure of the voluntary donation of your hand.”
And loaded burdens does not have an “and” [connecting the
two nouns mas’ot and ma’amasot], since mas’ot is in the semichut form
[meaning “burdens of” rather than “burdens”], and the intent is “heavy
burdens.” Getting the animal up and lifting [the fallen load] are two
separate commandments. The one is derived from what is said (Exod.
23:5), “You must raise it with him,” and they explained in the Mechilta
(Mishpatim 20:208) that this is a positive commandment to remove the
burden from an animal who has fallen under the burden. The second is
derived from what is said (Deut. 22:4), “You must help him lift them
up,” which is to replace on the animal a load that fell from it. In the
second chapter of Bava Metzia (32b), they said that the commandment
of removing [an excessive load] takes precedence over reloading [a fallen
load], on account of the pain of a live creature.

30. And joyful study, to beautify and make pleasant;

And to correct one’s fellows, and love comrades.
Some read this text as v’talmid sha’ashuim [which would mean “a be-
loved pupil” instead of “joyful study”], meaning that a beloved child who
is studying with a person should be honored and treated pleasantly, as
they said (Avot 4:12), “Let the honor of your pupil be as important to
you as your own.” This is not an enumerated commandment, since it is
an excellent trait, which is part of the commandment of (Deut. 28:9)
“And you shall walk in his ways” or part of (Deut. 6:5) “and you shall
love your neighbor.” But some read the text as v’talmud sha’ashuim (joy-
ful study), and the Torah is called a beloved study on the basis of the
expression (Prov. 8:30) “I [Torah wisdom] was by Him as a nursling, and
I was a delight (sha’ashuim).”
The commentator on the Azharot [Moses ibn Tibbon, whose com-
mentary was lost] inserted here the commandment of writing a Torah
scroll, which has been counted as a commandment (Maimonides’s
Positive Commandment No. 18). This is based on what is said in
Tractate Sanhedrin (21b), “Rabbi Abba [or Rabbah] said that even if a
person inherited a Torah scroll from his parents, it is a commandment
to write his own, as it is said (Deut. 31:19), ‘And now write this song
for you.’” The meaning is that, since one must write the song, one must
complete the whole Torah, since one is not allowed to write the whole

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Torah in separate sections.

The above commentator explained l’hanim (to act pleasantly) as
meaning to read melodically. This is based on what is said in Nedarim
(37b), “It is a Torah law to read the musical notes of the Torah.” This is a
good explanation.
And to correct one’s fellows is an enumerated positive command-
ment from the verse (Lev. 19:17) “Reprove your comrade,” and love of
neighbors is an enumerated positive commandment from the verse
(Lev. 19:18) “And you shall love your neighbor as yourself.”37 This in-
cludes many things, as they said (Yerushalmi Nedarim 9:4), “This is a
great general rule of the Torah.”

31. Wholeheartedness and humility, and wine for kiddush and

Revering the sanctuary, and sages and parents.
The Gaon mentioned this commandment in his enumeration of
the commandments, which is to be wholehearted. And Nachmanides
(Additional Positive Commandment No. 9) supported him and ex-
plained that one should be single minded in his worship of God, as it is
said (Ps. 119:80), “Let my heart be whole in your statutes.” We should
believe that He alone made everything, and we should not go astray to
astrologers, as they said (Pesachim 113b), “From where is it that we do
not consult astrologers? It is from the verse (Deut. 18:13) ‘You shall be
whole-hearted with the Lord your God’” And Nachmanides brought a
proof from the text of Sifre (Shofetim 66:13), “If you have done every-
thing stated about this matter [in the previous verse], this constitutes
being whole-hearted to your God” Now, what is stated about this matter
is the prohibition against witchcraft and asking [foreknowledge of the
future] from an ov or a yidoni, or the dead or a soothsayer or an augur.
And [the wholehearted person] believes that everything is in the hand
of heaven, and He “frustrates the tokens of the impostors, and makes
diviners fools” (Isa. 44:25). And he does not inquire from charmers, as
it is said (Jer. 10:2), “Learn not the way of nations, and be not dismayed
by the signs of the heavens.” Such a person is considered wholehearted.
And our father Abraham was charged with this commandment by His
saying (Gen. 17:1), “Walk before Me and be whole-hearted,” and as the

37 The translation of the previous sentence is according to Perlow’s emendation.

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rabbis said (Sabbath 156a), “Depart from your astrology, etc.” Thus far
is the explanation of Nachmanides.
Now in my humble opinion, I find an objection against him
[Nachmanides] from what is said in Gemara Sanhedrin (59a), that any
commandment spoken to the descendants of Noah and repeated at Mt.
Sinai applies to both [Jew and non-Jew]. Thereupon, they objected that
circumcision was stated for the descendants of Noah [in the loose sense
that it was stated previous to the giving of the Torah at Sinai, i.e., to
Abraham], [in the verse] “And you shall observe my covenant” (Gen.
17:9). And it was repeated at Mt. Sinai, i.e., “On the eighth day . . . shall
be circumcised” (Lev. 12:3). Nevertheless, it [in fact] applies to Israel and
not to other descendants of Noah [contrary to the above generalization
about such repeated commandments]. Now, if being wholehearted is an
enumerated commandment, they would have raised a similar objection
from what was said to the descendants of Noah [again actually spoken
to Abraham], “Walk before Me and be whole-hearted”; it was repeated at
Sinai, “You shall be whole-hearted” (Deut. 18:13); and it applies to Israel
and not to the descendants of Noah. For if it applied to the descendants
of Noah, there would be eight commandments for the descendants of
Noah, whereas the Talmud only enumerates seven. There should thus
be no difference between being wholehearted and circumcision on
the eighth day [with regard to their status as commandments] in my
opinion.38 Also, the verse that Nachmanides brought, “Let my heart be
perfect in Your fear,” is not true, but it is “Let my heart be perfect in your
statutes, that I be not ashamed.”
If, however, this commandment should be enumerated, as is the
opinion of the Halachot Gedolot, we would have to explain that His say-
ing to Abraham (Gen. 17:1), “Walk before Me and be whole-hearted”
pertains to circumcision and is a warning not to be negligent about it,
which is not Nachmanides’s interpretation. But “you shall be whole-
hearted” (Deut. 18:13) would then apply to Israel, and not to the sons
of Noah.39

38 The version of Nachmanides’s text used by Duran had the verse from Psalms 119:80 misquoted,
reading b’yiratcha, “in your fear,” rather than b’chukecha, “in your statutes.” The wrong version
possibly would have been a better support for Nachmanides’s thesis than the true reading. Duran
does make a point of giving the quotation correctly.
39 i.e., the commandment of wholeheartedness in Genesis and that in Deuteronomy are referring
to different things, the one to circumcision, and the other to fortune telling. Thus, the Zohar
Harakia’s objection on the basis of Sanhedrin 59a would be solved.

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The expression humility includes all aspects of modesty.40 There is

included under this [humility] the substance of another commandment,
which is actually enumerated, namely, to hearken to the voice of a proph-
et, expressed by (Deut. 28:15) “to him you shall hearken.” [Disregarding
this commandment] involves capital punishment, as is mentioned in
Sanhedrin (89a). This also includes a prophet who transgresses his own
words and one who suppresses his prophecy.
Wine for kiddush and rejoicing. It is said of wine (Judg. 9:13),
“That makes God and men happy,” and they explained (Arachin 11a)
that one should recite a song over the wine. It is the preferred way of
performing the commandment of sanctifying the Sabbath. They have
already said (Berachot 20b) that women would have been exempt from
the commandment of kiddush, if they were not included on the basis of
the argument that anyone commanded to observe the Sabbath (Deut.
5:12) is also commanded to remember it (Exod. 20:8). The intent here is
that since it [kiddush] is a time-dependent positive commandment [from
which women are generally exempt, we needed a special argument to in-
clude them here]. They stated (furthermore in Berachot 20b), “Women
are obligated to [verbally] sanctify the Sabbath day by Torah law.” So it is
clear that sanctification of the Sabbath day is enumerated under the 248
positive commandments. Likewise, they stated, “The kiddush at night is
a Torah law, while the daytime kiddush is a rabbinic law.”41
Revering the sanctuary. It is a positive commandment to revere
the sanctuary, as it is said (Lev. 19:30), “And you shall revere My sanctu-
ary.” Revering it means not to enter it with one’s staff and pouch, as
mentioned at the end of Berachot (54a). They stated in the Sifra that it
is not the sanctuary itself that you should revere, but Him who ordained
the sanctuary. There is another [related] commandment [to be enumer-
ated], which is to exclude defiled persons from the sanctuary, as it is said
(Num. 5:2), “. . . to remove from the camp anyone with an eruption or a
discharge.” The Mechilta states, “Removing from the camp is a positive
The sages. The Gaon counted revering the wise through the interpre-
tation (Bava Kamma 41b) that the verse (Deut. 10:20) “You shall revere

40 “Humility” as such is not a counted commandment; the Zohar Harakia does, however, enlarge on
“humility” in stanza 23.
41 This statement does not seem to be an actual Talmudic quotation.

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the Lord your God” includes [revering] the wise. Maimonides criticized
him, since he considers this as only a rabbinic law, since this interpreta-
tion is based on the inclusive property of “et”; and Maimonides holds
that any such interpretation is only rabbinic. Even if this is so, we have
already stated that this is no problem for the Gaon, since he does enu-
merate some [totally] rabbinic commandments.
But Nachmanides differs with Maimonides, since his [Nachmanides’s]
opinion is that all rabbinic interpretations constitute Torah law, unless
it is expressly stated that they are rabbinic and that the Torah verse is
cited merely as an asmachta. We have already found many instances in
the Talmud, where something is derived from a ribbui [derivation from
an inclusive term, of which et is an example], and it is a Torah law. This is
what I mentioned before (Stanza 24) regarding honoring a stepmother
and stepfather. Likewise, they said in the Gemara (Sukkah 6a), “The law
of interpositions [i.e., anything preventing contact between the body
and the water of a mikvah renders the immersion invalid] is a Torah
law. However, the law that the hair [as well as the flesh requires im-
mersion] is known only by rabbinic tradition [and not directly from the
Torah]. This law, however, [on second thought] is also a Torah law, since
it is written (Lev. 14:9), ‘v’rachatz et b’saro bamayim,’ the redundant et
indicating that what is attached to the flesh, i.e., one’s hair, also [needs
immersion].” I found also in chapter “B’not Kutim” (Niddah 35a) the
opinion of Rabbi Eliezer that even the third emission of a zav should be
investigated [as to its authentic zav character, since the symptoms at the
outset may be misleading, and unless there are three consecutive zav
emissions, the man is not considered a full-fledged zav who must bring]
a sacrifice [after his recovery]. His opinion is based on the interpreta-
tion of et [in the phrase hazav et zovo in Lev. 15:33] that hazav indicates
one instance, et indicates the second, and zovo the third. It is evident
from this that a ribbui interpretation from et is a Torah law.
Thus, revering the sages is a Torah law, and he counts them as two
commandments, i.e., revering God and revering the wise, since it is pos-
sible to revere one without the other. Now, according to this, it would be
proper to enumerate one’s father and mother and fearing them as two
commandments [in both cases], and I have not seen anyone who does
this. Nachmanides agreed with Maimonides on this matter, and this is
correct in accordance with what I wrote in the principles (No. 9) that
particular cases in a single commandment are enumerated as one item,

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since they were proclaimed in a single statement. And in the second

principle, I wrote a defense of Maimonides [as to why he excludes enu-
meration of laws derived by rabbinic exegesis of the Torah, even though
they have the force of Torah law].
And “parents” means father and mother, as I explained (v. 24). The
commandment of revering [parents] is explained in Kiddushin (31a),
and it is part of the enumeration.

32. And teach faithfully to the children with chanting;

And the orphan and widow, and Levite with strangers.
The best possible interpretation of this stanza is that of the com-
mentator on the Azharot, which is telling about the Exodus from Egypt
on the first night [of Passover], as it is said (Exod. 13:8), “And you shall
tell your son on that day,” this being an enumerated commandment.
The meaning [of the stanza], accordingly, is to teach the faithfulness
(ne’emanah) of God to your children with song, as they said (Pesachim
85b), “When they had an olive’s bulk of the Paschal lamb in the house,
the singing of the hallel burst out from the roof,” i.e., they recited it
loud, reaching to the heavens. A similar expression is found in Song
of Songs Rabba on the verse (Song of Songs 2:14) “Let me hear your
voice.” Although in chapter “Keitzad Tzolin” (i.e., the above quotation,
Pesachim 85b), this saying is quoted regarding the practice of eating
the paschal lamb on the ground floor and reciting the hallel on the roof
[rather than to show that the hallel was sung loudly]; both deductions
are true. A fact that supports this interpretation [of our stanza] is that
Rabbi Isaac Albargelone wrote down this commandment with similar
phraseology, when he says, “Let the freedom of the night of watching
be proclaimed with songs [i.e., the hallel], and tell and inform your son
of my faithfulness; thus, one acts praiseworthily, understanding and
knowing Me (Jer. 9:23).”
The end of the stanza includes the less fortunate together with one’s
children, as the Torah says (Deut. 16:14), “Rejoice on your festival, etc.”

33. Keep the poor man’s tithe, and also the second tithe;
And the first and eighth day, sanctify with glory.
The poor man’s tithe is a commandment, which is to remove it
in the third and sixth years of the sabbatical cycle, unlike the second
tithe [which is removed during the first, second, fourth, and fifth years].

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Concerning the poor man’s tithe it is stated (Deut. 14:28), “At the end of
every third year you shall bring out the full tithe of your produce.” And
regarding second tithe, it is stated (ibid., v. 22), “You shall surely take
a tithe (aser t’aser) from all the produce of your sowing” [the dual form
aser t’aser implying a second tithe for one’s own celebration of holidays,
as well as the first tithe, which must be given to Levites]. Both these
commandments [second tithe and poor man’s tithe] are enumerated
Concerning the first and eighth days of the Sukkot holiday, it is a
commandment to sanctify them with glory and honor by resting. These
are two commandments, namely (Lev. 23:35), “On the first day there is
a holy occasion” and (ibid., v. 36) “On the eighth day there is a holy occa-
sion.” For each one, [the term] shabbaton (resting) is prescribed, and the
expression in the Talmud (Sabbath 25a) is “Rav Ashi said that shabbaton
is a positive commandment”; and on this basis, they said that that the
holidays entail both a positive and a negative commandment [regarding
resting]. Even though the resting is identical [on both days], neverthe-
less, since the days are separated, the first day and the eighth day, they
are counted as separate commandments. This opinion was upheld by
all who enumerated the commandments, as Maimonides agreed in the
thirteenth principle.

34. Tithing from the tithe, and also the recitation for the tithes;
And give the cattle tithe, and the first shearing of the flocks.
It is a positive commandment to remove a tithe [called “first tithe”]
from the produce of the land, as it is said (Num. 18:24), “For it is the
tithe set apart by the Israelites as a gift to the Lord,” and (Lev. 27:30)
“All tithes from the land, whether seed from the ground or fruit from
the tree, are the Lord’s.” The above is what Maimonides wrote, and it is
in error, for the verse (Lev. 27:30) was said about second tithe, which is
considered holy [as described at the end of verse 30], and which is to be
eaten in Jerusalem but can be redeemed to be eaten outside Jerusalem,
and about which it is said there (v. 31), “If a man wishes to redeem any of
his tithes.” But first tithe need not be eaten in Jerusalem, and one need
not redeem it, and it is said concerning it (Num. 18:31), “You may eat it
anywhere.” Nachmanides already noticed this (in the twelfth principle).
Actually, the commandment for both the first tithe and second tithe is
from (Deut. 14:22) “You shall surely tithe all the produce of the seed”;

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and they explain [in Rosh Hashanah 8a, that the dual form, aser t’aser,
implies that] the scripture is talking about two tithes, i.e., first tithe and
second tithe. Now, according to this, these [first tithe and second tithe]
should have only counted as a single commandment [as they both derive
from a single clause]. However, in the Sifre (Korach 55), they learn this
[the commandment of first tithe] from another verse (Num. 18:26),
“You [the Levites] shall set apart from it [first tithe] a gift for the Lord”
The Sifre continues, “It would seem [that the mention of the first tithe]
is intended to teach [us something about the Levites’ gift from their
portion]. [On the contrary, something] is learned [about first tithe from
the Levites’ gift]; i.e., just as the Levites’ gift is stated as a positive com-
mandment, so is giving first tithe [to the Levites] a positive command-
ment.” Scripture specifies that this tithe is to be given to the Levites, as
it states (Num. 18:21), “And to the children of Levi, behold, I have given
all the tithes in Israel,” and the Levites are commanded to remove a tithe
of their tithe and give it to the priests, which is explicit in Scripture
(ibid., v. 28). Now these are enumerated as two commandments, first
tithe and the removal of [the portion for the kohanim] from the [first]
tithe. Their legal severity is not the same, since the [consumption of first
tithe by a layman] is not a capital sin, while [consumption of the priests’
portion] is a capital sin.*
*The last clause
Also, in the Sifre (Korach 57), it is taught that
“while . . . capital sin” “and you shall set apart from it” (Num. 18:26) im-
is missing in the Ziv plies that one must separate from a given species
Hazohar edition. The
entire subject of how produce of the same species and not that of another
the various elements species. They also derived that one should not sepa-
of the agricultural
portions levied on the
rate from uncut produce for harvested produce, nor
farmers are derived vice versa; not from new produce for old produce,
from scriptural roots nor vice versa; not from fruits of Israel for fruits
is complicated. There is
yet more to come. grown outside, nor vice versa. In view of this, there
is another commandment, a prohibition inferred
from a positive statement, such that if one [wrongfully] separated in
this way, he would be transgressing a positive commandment [i.e., “you
shall set apart from it”]. This is similar to one who eats an olive’s size of
the roasted [paschal lamb] while it is yet daytime, and thus transgresses
the positive statement [of eating it at night]. Nachmanides counts this
in his enumeration (Additional Commandments No. 12); [indeed he also
includes a closely related case of priestly portions wrongfully separated

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in No. 9]. Thus, it is proper to include this positive statement in the

enumeration. Also, in the first chapter of Temurah (5a), they discussed
separating terumah of one species for another, on the basis of (Num.
18:12) “All the best of the oil, and all the best of the wine, etc.,” the
repetition of “all the best” for both this [oil] and that [wine, thus imply-
ing that one separates from each species individually. Now the Gemara
continues:] “We have learned in the Mishnah (Terumot 2:6) that if one
separated terumah of one species for a different one, the terumah is in-
valid.” From this, the Gemara raised an objection against Abaye, who
claimed generally that when the Torah forbids an action, it is still effec-
tive [although wrong]. In view of this [discussion, we see that using one
species as terumah for another] is forbidden from the Torah.
Also the recitation for the tithes. It is a positive commandment
to recite before the Lord the tithe avowal, as it is said (Deut. 26:13),
“And you shall declare before the Lord your God, ‘I have removed the
consecrated portion from the house.’”
And give the cattle tithe. It is a positive commandment to tithe cattle
according to the statement (Lev. 27:32), “All tithes of the herd or the
flock, of all that passes under the shepherd’s staff, shall be holy to the
Lord” And thus is it stated in the Sifre: “[The phrase]‘shall be holy to the
Lord’ means that every tenth of the cattle must be tithed [even though
there is not an explicit “you shall tithe”], and the ohanim get no part of
this sacrifice or of the paschal offering, but the blood is for the altar, and
the rest belongs to the owner.” Now I am wondering what compensation
did Hashem give the kohanim for this service, since it seems from the
scriptural language in Sedra Tzav (Lev. 7:31ff) that the priestly portions
are compensations for the priestly service, like the remnant of the meal
offerings, and the breast and the thigh, and the cakes of the thank offer-
ings, and the hide of a burnt offering, and the meat of sin offerings and
guilt offerings.42
The first shearing of the flocks. The commandment of the first of the
shearing is stated (Deut. 18:4), “The first of the shearing of your sheep
you shall give to him.” The expression “of the flocks” is used, since one is
not obligated to give the first of the shearing unless there are five sheep,
as it is said (1 Sam. 25:18) “five sheep ready dressed” constitutes a flock.

42 Actually, the author of Ziv Hazohar notes that elsewhere Duran says that the priests do eat the
meat of the tithed cattle, and this has become a subject of controversy among the authorities.

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The poet (ibn Gabirol) forgot one commandment and did not write it,
namely (Deut. 18:3), “He must give the priest the shoulder, the cheeks,
and the stomach.”

35. And My holy sacrifices, and second tithe,

You shall eat in My dwelling, and remove the dough-offering.
The Gaon (Halachot Gedolot) enumerated eating holy offerings and
second tithe in Jerusalem, while Maimonides did not. Nachmanides
(Additional Commandment No. 1) reinforced the words of the Gaon
from what is said in the Gemara (Pesachim 59a) that a person who has
not given his atonement offering [required, for example, for completing
purification from “leprosy”] can immerse himself and eat [meat from
his sacrifice] in the evening any day of the year [even though normally
one is required to offer the various sacrifices before the afternoon daily
offering]. That is, he brings his sacrifice after the afternoon daily offer-
ing so that he can eat the sacrificial meat. Concerning this assertion,
they ask, “We have this commandment [eating sacrificial meat] and that
commandment [completion of all other offerings before that afternoon
daily offering]; why should one override the other?” So it is evident that
eating from an offering by the one who brought it is a positive com-
mandment, just as it is commandment for a priest to eat his priestly
portions. Nachmanides further proposes that these are really two com-
mandments. Eating second tithe is one, as it is said (Deut. 14:23), “You
shall eat in the presence of the Lord your God the tithes of your grain,
etc.,” while eating other holy offerings is a second commandment, as
Rashi wrote in chapter “Shelosha She’achlu” (Berachot 48b) that one
recites a blessing for a sacrifice, “Blessed is He, who commanded us to
eat the sacrifice.” Where is it commanded? In the verse (Deut. 12:27)
“And you shall eat the meat.” Nevertheless, Nachmanides in his actual
enumeration only listed them as a single commandment. Also, he listed
another commandment from the same proof source (Pesachim 59a),
which is the positive commandment of completing all sacrifices be-
tween the morning daily offering and the afternoon daily offering, since
it states “this is a positive commandment [eating sacrificial meat] and
that is a positive commandment [completion of offerings between the
two daily offerings].”
And remove the dough offering. It is a positive commandment to
remove the dough offering from the dough, as it is said (Num. 15:20),

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“The first of your kneading-troughs.”

36. And strengthen the poor person who is slipping, and you
will never slip;
And in the seventh year, release the spontaneous growth of
produce and of grapes.
And strengthen the poor person who is slipping is included in
the commandment of charity, which he already mentioned (stanzas 25
and 29), and it is based on the Torah’s expression (Lev. 25:35) “When
your brother becomes poor, and his hand slips with you, then you shall
uphold him, etc.” The Gaon considered enabling your brother to live as a
[separate] enumerated commandment [from the concluding words of v.
35, “and he shall live with you”]. The poet wrote it later (Commandment
No. 80), and there I will explain it.
And you will never slip is a promise [not a commandment].
And in the seventh year, release the spontaneous growth of produce
and of grapes. It is a positive commandment to disown the fruits of the
seventh year, as it says (Exod. 23:11), “But in the seventh year you shall
let it rest and lie fallow.” This is a positive commandment, as they said
in the Mechilta (Mechilta of R. Shimon bar Yochai on that verse), “The
vineyard is specifically mentioned as a positive commandment [in v. 11
after the general term and you shall let it rest at the beginning of the
verse], and it is also specifically mentioned in the prohibition [not to
harvest grapes in the sabbatical year, see Lev. 25:5, although we do not
have there a general prohibition against harvesting all kinds of produce.
But the fact that grapes have both a positive and negative command-
ment, so all produce has that feature.] So it is evident [from the language
of the foregoing Mechilta] that just as there is a prohibition against till-
ing the soil [and harvesting it], so there is a positive commandment to
disown the produce, that the poor may come and eat them, as it says
(Exod. 23:11), “That the poor of your people may eat.” [The above trans-
lation follows the text of the Zohar Harakia, which I found confusing in
its brevity. The same quote from the Mechilta is explained in some detail
in Maimonides’s Positive Commandments No. 134.]
Nachmanides added another commandment here, namely, eating
the fruits of the sabbatical year, since it says (Lev. 25:6), “The sabbati-
cal growth of the earth shall be for your food,” and they interpreted as
implying that it is for food but not for business. For they said in the last

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chapter of Avodah Zarah (62a) [concerning the possibility of interpret-

ing a Baraita as meaning that if donkey drivers were doing work with
produce of the sabbatical year, they could be paid with sabbatical-year
produce] that in this case, one would be paying a debt with sabbatical-
year produce, while the Torah said that it can be used as food, but not
for business [so the above-proposed interpretation could not be valid].
Likewise, Scripture repeats this commandment (Exod. 23:11), “That
the poor of your people may eat,” i.e., they are obligated to eat these
fruits and not to abandon them as unclaimed property, as is the case
with dropped sheaves of grain, whose law is (Lev. 19:10) to “leave them
for the poor and the stranger” [but the poor person is not obligated to
eat it]. It is thus found that if someone does business transactions with
seventh-year fruit, he transgresses a positive commandment, and this
enters into the enumeration of commandments.
Also, I have a proof for this from what is said in Yoma (86b) in an alle-
gory of two women who were to be flogged in court. One of the two had
committed adultery, and the other had eaten seventh-year fruits. The
latter was punished for not eating unripe seventh-year fruits normally,
and she transgressed the verse “for your food,” and what she did was not
normal consumption of food.
There is another commandment here, which is enumerated according
to everybody. This is to desist from tilling the fields in the seventh year,
as it is said (Exod. 34:21), “You shall rest in threshing time and harvest
time.”43 It is repeated in another place (Lev. 25:5), “It shall be a year of
rest (shabbaton) for the land,” and the sages have stated “shabbaton” is a
positive commandment.

37. And release debts, and the forgotten [sheaf], and edges [of
the field];
On trees and in fields, and immature [grapes] without harvest-
And dropped [grapes] from harvest, and dropped [fruit]
from harvest;
Leave them without aggravating the unfortunate poor.

43 The simple meaning of this verse is addressed to the Sabbath day rather than the seventh year.
It is thus curious why Duran, as well as Maimonides, cites this verse primarily. The question is
discussed in Heller’s edition of Maimonides’s Book of Commandments, positive commandment
no. 135, and in Ziv Hazohar on the Zohar Harakia.

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The remission of debts is a positive commandment from the Torah,

as it is said (Deut. 15:2), “Every creditor shall remit that which is due.”
The meaning of masha’ot [akin to the words mashei and yasheh in this
verse] means debts, as in mashat me’umah (ibid., 24:10).
And the forgotten [sheaf]. It is a positive commandment to leave
it, since it says (Deut. 24:19), “If you forget a sheaf in the field, do not re-
turn to fetch it; it shall be for the stranger, the orphan, and the widow.”
This commandment is to leave it for them, just as it is said regarding
the dropped produce and the edge of the field and the dropped grapes
(Lev. 19:10), “You shall leave them to the poor and the stranger.” They
explain in Tractate Makkot (16b) that these are prohibitions connected
with positive commandments. [This means that if one transgressed the
prohibition of harvesting dropped sheaves, the edge of the field, etc.,
he can later rectify this through the positive commandment of “leaving
them to the poor and stranger.”]
There are five such commandments that are enumerated: the for-
gotten sheaf, the edge of the field, unripe grapes, dropped grapes, and
dropped grain. The rabbis noted that for the tree and the grain, i.e.,
either for the orchard or for the grain field, the two commandments of
leaving what is forgotten and leaving the edge of the field apply. But the
commandment of leket applies specifically to dropped harvested grain,
while ole’lot (unripe grapes) and peret apply specifically to the vineyard.44
Reading miv’tzirim (from the fruit harvests) with a soft bet (i.e.,
vet) is not a mistake, for it is written (Judg. 8:2), “The unripe grapes of
Ephraim are better than the fully ripe ones (miv’tzir) of Aviezer,” with
the soft letter (vet) [though grammatically unusual]. It is from that
verse that the poet derived his expression. The commandment is to leave
them [the agricultural gifts for the needy], so as to relieve the poor who
are lacking any good thing (cf. Ps. 34:11), and are cursed with a curse
(Mal. 3:9). And in the Gemara Chullin (131a), they said that four gifts
[to the poor] are given for the vineyard: dropped fruit, immature fruit,
forgotten fruit, and the edge of the field; three are given from grain,
dropped grain, forgotten grain, and the edge of the field; and two from
fruit trees, the forgotten fruit and the edge of the field.
Now, Maimonides enumerated a commandment to exact payment

44 See note in Yad Halevi, pos. comm. 124, which asks why leket and peret are not considered a single

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from a gentile [whose debt is not cancelled by the sabbatical year], be-
cause of what is said in the Sifre (Re’eh 130) that the verse (Deut. 15:3)
“You may/shall exact payment from the gentile” is a positive command-
ment. Nachmanides disagreed, [saying] that this verse only means to
prohibit collecting debts from one’s fellow Jew, emphasizing it by the
implication from this positive statement, as well as by the explicit pro-
hibition. The meaning of the verse is “you may exact payment from a
gentile,” but not from your brother. It is called a negative command-
ment implied by a positive statement.
Similarly, Maimonides wrote (Positive Commandment No. 198) that
it is a positive commandment to take interest from a loan to a gentile,
since it says in the Sifre (Tetze 129) that “from a gentile you may/shall
take interest (Deut. 23:21)” expresses a positive commandment. But
it [actually] only means to forbid [taking interest] from an Israelite
through a prohibition implied by a positive statement, as well as an
explicit prohibition, so that one who lends to an Israelite with interest
is transgressing both a positive and a negative statement. This is seen
from what is said in Bava Metzia (70b): “The meaning of lanachri tashich
(Deut. 23:21) must be that you may lend with interest [to a gentile].”
“Not necessarily,” it continues. “It may mean that you can borrow from
him with interest [because of the causative form of tashich].” The Gemara
objects, “Is it not self-evident without this [i.e., that this is permis-
sible]?” The meaning is that if Scripture were permitting lending with
interest, this would be new information that Scripture permits inter-
est of a gentile, similar to permitting [keeping] his lost article, and one
would not need to construe lanachri tashich as a commandment. But if
the verse comes to permit borrowing from him, it would be unnecessary
for Scripture to permit giving interest to the gentile. Thus, what purpose
would this verse have, since it would be impossible to think of it as being
a commandment? This is the meaning of “Is it not self-evident without
this?” They answered [finally] that [the positive permissive statement
implies] that your brother is excluded, and it is not permissible, so that
this transgression involves both a positive and a negative expression.
This is how the matter concludes.
Now, I found a proof there for Nachmanides that the commandment
lanachri tashich is not an actual positive commandment, from what is
stated in Sanhedrin (25b), concerning the penitence, which is appropri-
ate for one who has lent with interest, which is that he should not even

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lend to gentiles. Now, if it would be a commandment to lend to a gentile

with interest, this would be a penitence entailing a transgression, while
the Gemara calls it a complete penitence. And in Tractate Makkot (24b),
it states that the verse (Ps. 15:5) “He does not lend his money with inter-
est” includes interest from gentiles [implying that lending with interest
to a gentile is certainly not a commandment], and Nachmanides wrote
this in his novella (ibid., Bava Metzia), and therefore he does not con-
sider them as complete commandments [that one must do something],
but they are prohibitions implied by positive statements. He does not
cause a difficulty for Maimonides except for the interpretation of the
verse, but regarding the enumeration, there is no objection in the case
of lanachri tashich, since he, Maimonides, does enumerate such prohibi-
tions derived from positive statements as part of his enumeration of
positive commandments. This is contrary to the policy of the Halachot
Gedolot, as I noted in the principles (principle 6), and we will discuss this
later (on v. 84). But the verse (Deut. 15:3) “You may/shall exact payment
from the gentile” should not be enumerated, since it has an explicit posi-
tive form, as it is said (Deut. 15:2), “Every creditor shall remit the due,”
and Nachmanides did count this.

38. And look toward them with giving and lending;

And fulfill your contributions and vows, lest you be caught.
Look toward them. Look toward the above-mentioned poor to have
mercy on them with gifts and loans. The commandment was previously
mentioned (Commandment No. 18) “And lend to the poor,” and there I
explained it, but giving a gift (ha’anek) refers to a Hebrew slave when he
goes free, as it is written (Deut. 15:14), “You shall furnish him liberally,”
and this is an enumerated commandment.
And fulfill your contributions and vows, lest you be caught.
“You must fulfill and perform what has come out of your lips” (Deut.
23:24) is a positive commandment, as they explained in the first chapter
of Rosh Hashanah (6a). He says “lest you be caught” based on the verse
(ibid., v. 22), “When you make a vow to the Lord your God, do not delay
fulfilling it, for the Lord your God will require it of you, and you will have
incurred guilt.” [The word tilavet] means “you will be caught,” [for the
verse] “v’evil s’fatayim yilavet” (Prov. 10:8) is rendered yitachez (will be
caught) by the Targum [for yilavet]. The meaning is you will be trapped by
your sin, similar to (Prov. 5:22) “His own iniquities will trap the wicked.”

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Contributions (nedavot) are when one says, “Here, this thing [is
given for charity],” while vows (nedarim) are when one says, “I am
obligated [to give such and such].” In Maimonides’s view, this com-
mandment encompasses both vows for holy purposes (nidrei gavo’ah)
and elective vows, which the sages call nidrei bittui. But Nachmanides
considered them as two enumerable commandments, since they differ
in content; since for nidrei gavo’ah one does not have to mention that
this is a vow, but simply says, “This animal is for sacrifice” or “This article
is for temple maintenance” or “This amount of money is for the poor.”
For such a commitment, the admonition, “You must fulfill and perform
what has come out from your lips,” applies. But for elective vows, one
needs to mention that this is a vow or some phrase indicating that [for it
to be fully binding]. Another distinction between them is that for nidrei
gavo’ah, one transgresses “Do not delay” (Deut. 23:22); while in the case
of nidrei bittui, this transgression does not apply. So it states in Bava
Kamma (80a) that if one vowed to buy a house or to marry a woman
in the land of Israel, he is not required to do so immediately, only after
he can find one suitable for him; but the commandment (Num. 30:3)
“He shall do all that came from his mouth” applies to nidrei bittui.
Consequently, Nachmanides (on Positive Commandment 94) counts
them as two. There is some difficulty [with this view], since both of them
are alike with regard to the prohibition (Num. 30:3) “He shall not break
his word.” From this, we might infer that, since this prohibition applies
to both types, so should the positive commandment be counted as a
single topic [combining both nidrei gavo’ah and nidrei bittui]. But we have
already found the reverse of this, where many prohibitions correspond
to a single positive commandment, i.e., the commandment to restore
(Lev. 5:23) corresponds to several prohibitions, such as something
robbed and something obtained by oppression, as I explained in the
principles (No. 9).
Now there is another commandment to be listed along with fulfill-
ment of nidrei gavo’ah, which is to bring them to the temple by the first
festival, which occurs thereafter. Even though one does not become
guilty of “Do not delay” until three festivals have passed, there is a posi-
tive commandment to offer it on the first festival. In the Sifre (Re’eh 11),
they said that the verse (Deut. 12:5–6) “You shall come there, and you
shall bring” is stated in order to make this an obligation. And it is said
in Tractate Rosh Hashanah (6a) that Rabba said that when one festival

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passes by, one transgresses a positive commandment. They also said

there that Rabbi Meir’s reason [for considering one guilty of lateness
even after one festival] is that the words and you shall come there mean
that you must bring your vow as soon as you come, while the rabbis said
that [the verse means that] this is a positive commandment. So it is
clear that they were saying that “and you shall bring there” is a positive
And bringing offerings to the temple rather than elsewhere is a sepa-
rate enumerated commandment from the statement (Deut. 12:14) “And
there shall you do everything I command you.” And the statement in the
Sifre (Re’eh 24) is “The verse (Deut. 12:13) ‘Take heed that you do not
offer your burnt-offerings in every place’ might lead me to think that
this means only burnt-offerings. How do I know about other sacrifices?
It is from the verse (ibid., v. 14) ‘and there you shall do everything I
command you.’ I might still think that only burnt-offerings are covered
by both positive and negative statements; how do I know that other sac-
rifices [are covered by a negative as well as a positive statement]? This
is from the statement ‘and you shall do everything I command you.’”46
Thus, it is clear that the verse, “And there you shall do everything I
command you,” is a positive commandment, i.e., to offer the sacrifices
in the temple. It is also stated at the end of Zevachim (112b) that one
who sacrifices outside the temple transgresses a positive and a negative
commandment. Now, Maimonides enumerated another commandment
(Positive Commandment 85), to bring sacrifices from outside the Land
of Israel to the Temple. This is from the verse (ibid., v. 26) “But your
sacred and votive donations as you may have, you shall take and come,
etc.,” concerning which the Sifre comments that “your sacred, etc.” refers
to sacrifices from outside the Land of Israel. Nachmanides disagrees,
saying that this law is included in the previous one, that we are ordered
to bring all sacrifices from whatever place to the temple. So it seems
from the Baraita in the Sifre. It is stated there as follows: “The verse says
‘But your sacred, etc.’; to what is it referring? If it refers to sacrifices
from the Land of Israel, this has already been stated. It must then refer
to sacrifices brought from outside the Land.” From this, we learn that

45 The text in our Talmud differs significantly from that quoted here.
46 It is not clear to me how the conclusion is drawn that other sacrifices are also covered by an explicit
negative expression.

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all sacrifices constitute one subject and one commandment concerning

bringing them to and sacrificing them in the temple. But in the Gemara
Temurah (17b), another interpretation is given.

39. Rejoice and say “he’ach,” when you give life to your brother;
And what remains in the fireplace should be cast in the fire.
The Gaon listed this [sustaining your brother] from the verse (Lev.
25:36) “That your brother may live with you.” But Maimonides consid-
ered this as included in giving charity. Nachmanides agrees with the
Gaon, explaining that this verse means to save one’s brother from an
accident, that if he is drowning in a river, or a pile fell down on him,
one must save him; and if he becomes sick, one should heal him. This is
the commandment of saving a life, which overrides the Sabbath, and it
includes the ger toshav [resident alien abiding by the Noachide laws]. For
it says (Lev. 25:35), “When your brother becomes poor, and his means
fail with you, you shall uphold him, as a stranger or a sojourner, he shall
live with you.” They stated in the Talmud (Pesachim 21b) that you are
commanded to sustain a ger, but not a gentile [who is not a ger toshav].
Nachmanides adds on a separate commandment (Additional Positive
Commandment No. 17) to return interest, if he had sinfully taken it.
Just as the commandment of returning stolen goods is enumerated
(Maimonides’s Positive Commandment No. 194), so is the command-
ment of returning interest. This they derive (Bava Metzia 62a) from the
verse (Lev. 25:36) “Take from him no interest or increase, but fear your
God, that your brother may live with you,” implying that you return the
interest so that he may live with you. From this, they proclaimed that
the court forces the return of actually stipulated interest. The poet said
that one should accept the commandment of saving the life of one’s
brother happily, as the Torah ordered about this (Deut. 15:10), “Have
no regrets when you give to him.” And say “he’ach” is an expression
of happiness, as in (Ezek. 36:21) “Because the enemy has said against
you he’ach.” We only find it [the word he’ach] as [rejoicing for] revenge,
but the poet was not particular about this. But we find (Isa. 44:16) “he
also warms himself and says ‘he’ach,’” and the poet has justification from
here [that he’ach is not necessarily a sound of joyful revenge].
What remains on the fireplace should be cast on the fire, which
means that what remains should be thrown into the flames in the fire-
place. The word ach means the oven in which the fire is kindled, taken

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from the verse that says (Jer. 36:33) “in the fire that was in the ach”
and (ibid., v. 22) “the ach was burning before him.” The commandment
enumerated is to burn in fire what was left over from a sacrifice. In the
Mechilta (our standard Mechilta does not have this, but it is found in
the Yalkut, Remez 199, and in Mechilta of Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai on
Exod. 12:10), they said that by “you shall not leave any of it over” and
“whatever is left over until morning you shall burn with fire” (Exod.
12:10), Scripture means to express this as a positive as well as a negative
commandment. And in Tractate Pesachim (84a) and in Tractate Makkot
(4b), it is said that this law of not leaving it over is not subject to punish-
ment by whipping, since it can be rectified [by burning the remainder].

40. And when piggul rots, burn it in fire;

And the paschal lamb is to be roasted in fire, and the matza
and maror.
The poet made notar (the leftover sacrificial meat) and piggul (invalid
sacrificial meat because of wrongful intention, as explained below) two
separate commandments, while not enumerating burning sacrificial
meat that has become impure, and that is an omission. Also, what he
says, “And when piggul rots,” is inaccurate, since piggul refers to a sac-
rifice that has been offered with intention to sprinkle its blood or eat
its flesh beyond its allotted time. And if one eats it even on that very
day [when it would normally be permitted], he is punishable by excision
(karet), and it is a positive commandment to burn it immediately, even
though it has not become rotten. It would make sense to emend the
poem to read “That which is impure should be cast on the fire in the
fireplace, and when that which is left over (notar) becomes rotten, burn
it in fire,” and I previously explained burning the notar (end of previous
Now, we do not find a verse concerning piggul, but it is included in
notar, since we have found that the Torah speaks of piggul in terms of
notar, in the rabbinic interpretation of the verse(Lev. 19:6–7) “And if it
be eaten at all on the third day, it is piggul,” which [according to the rab-
bis] means when it is slaughtered with the intention of eating it beyond
its proper time. Regarding burning sacrifices that have become impure,
it is written (Lev. 7:9), “Meat that touches any unclean thing must not
be eaten; it must be burnt in fire.” In the second chapter of Tractate
Shabbat, it is said that just as it is a commandment to burn sacrificial

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meat that has become unclean, so is it a commandment to burn terumah

oil, which has become impure. Now, they gave the reason in the Mishnah
(Sabbath 2:2) that one should not kindle lamps on a holiday using oil
that must be burnt. [They said] that this refers to terumah oil, which
has become impure, and it is a commandment to burn it. They said that
the prohibition against burning things on a holiday is enjoined both
by a positive and by a negative commandment, and the positive com-
mandment [of burning impure terumah] does not override the negative
and positive [commandment regarding the holiday, although a positive
commandment can override a negative commandment alone]. It is thus
evident that burning impure terumah oil is a positive commandment.
I wonder why we do not enumerate under burning of notar two
commandments, the one stated regarding the paschal offering, and the
other stated regarding the peace offering in Sedra Tzav, as it is said (Lev.
7:17), “What remains of the sacrificial meat on the third day must be
burnt in fire.” Just as we count in the negative commandments every
verse prohibiting notar separately, i.e., counting one for that of the first
Passover offering, one for that of the second Passover offering, and one
for the thank offering; so it would be proper to count the burning of the
notar of the paschal offerings as one [positive commandment] and that
of the peace offering as one. This should be investigated. Furthermore,
consider what is said about the “inner” sin offering [whose blood is
sprinkled on the inner altar], “Any sin-offering whose blood is brought
into the Tent of Meeting to atone in the sanctuary, may not be eaten; it
must be burnt in fire” (Lev. 6:23). Why should we not include that [being
burnt] among the positive commandments?
And the paschal lamb is to be roasted in fire, and matzah and ma-
ror. This constitutes three commandments. The first is to slaughter
the paschal lamb on the fourteenth of Nisan. This entails the penalty
of “cutting-off” [if not performed]. As we learnt in Keritot (Mishnah
1:1), “Cutting-off is prescribed for violation of 36 precepts . . . [which
includes] the paschal lamb and circumcision among the positive com-
mandments.” The second commandment is to eat it, having been roasted
in fire, on the fifteenth day of the month. And the third commandment
is eating Matzah, whether or not we are observing the paschal lamb.
But the maror (bitter herb) is not counted as a commandment, since
eating it is not a requirement in itself unless the paschal lamb is there.
This is what they said in the last chapter of Pesachim (120a), “Maror at

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the present time [when there is no paschal lamb, in the absence of the
Temple] is only a rabbinic ordinance.” But concerning matzah, they said,
“Scripture has made this a duty,” as it is said (Exod. 12:18), “In the eve-
ning you shall eat matzot.” It is clear from this that eating the paschal
lamb is one commandment, eating matzah is a separate commandment,
while eating maror is just an adjunct to eating the paschal lamb, and [its
absence] does not invalidate eating it [the paschal lamb]. Likewise, they
said in the Mechilta (Bo 6:39), “Whence do you assert that if there is no
matzah and maror, one still performs one’s duty of eating the paschal
lamb? The Torah says (Exod. 12:8) ‘they shall eat it’ [singular, i.e., the
lamb itself]. You might have thought that just as without matzah and
maror one fulfills the duty of eating the paschal lamb, similarly, if there
is no paschal lamb, one fulfills [partially] the duty [of the paschal offer-
ing] with matzah and maror. [But this is negated by the] verse saying
‘they shall eat it’ [specifically the lamb].” Since [in absence] of eating the
paschal lamb, the eating of matzah and maror is invalid [as the paschal
offering]; while [in absence of] eating matzah and maror, the eating of
the paschal lamb is not invalidated [as the paschal offering], then the
commandment of eating the paschal lamb is the main thing, and mat-
zah and maror are auxiliary to it. And were it not for Scripture specifying
a requirement to eat matzah aside from eating the paschal lamb by say-
ing, “In the evening you shall eat matzot,” eating matzah would not have
been enumerated, as is the case with eating maror.
Nachmanides added here another commandment, that the paschal
lamb should be eaten [that night] not while it is daytime. He brings a
proof from Pesachim (41b) where they said that if one eats, while it is
still day, a piece of roasted lamb, which has the size of an olive, he trans-
gresses a positive commandment. This is on account of the verse (Exod.
12:8) “And they shall eat the meat on this night,” implying that it must
be done at night, and not by day. This is a prohibition derived from a
positive statement, which is considered a positive commandment.
In my humble opinion, I would add another commandment, to re-
frain from eating leaven all seven days of Passover. For thus did they
say in the Jerusalem Talmud (Pesachim 1:4), “The verse (Deut. 16:3)
‘Seven days you shall eat matzah with it’ implies that leaven must not
be eaten, and a prohibition based on a positive statement is considered
a positive commandment. Maimonides indeed quoted (in his Mishnah
commentary to Pesachim, chapter 1) this section of the Yerushalmi re-

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garding destroying leaven [that it is enjoined both by a positive and a

negative commandment]. So I wonder why he did not derive from this
section regarding eating leaven [that it is forbidden both by positive and
negative commandments]. Perhaps he rejected this because our [the
Babylonian] Talmud, where they bring this up at the end of Pesachim
(120a), states that this verse expresses permission [to eat matzah]; and
since it is a statement of permission, it does not intend to imply that it
forbids eating leaven by a positive commandment. But it seems that it
would be quite the contrary, for if the positive statement was set into
itself [i.e., was an actual positive commandment], they would not be in-
terpreting it as a prohibition derived from a positive statement, which
forbids eating leaven, since any positive statement, which is “set into
itself,” is needed for itself and would not be interpreted [as implying
a prohibition]. Rather, since the Yerushalmi is in agreement with the
Babylonian Talmud that it is a permissive statement, they interpreted
it as a prohibition against eating leaven on the basis of the positive
statement. It is similar to (Lev. 11:3) “it you may eat,” which refers to
clean animals, which does not imply a duty to eat it, but it forbids eat-
ing unclean animals with a prohibition implied by the positive state-
ment*, i.e., it you may eat, but not an unclean animal.
*The next
seventeen words Everyone is in agreement about this, and this is stated
in the Hebrew in the Gemara (Makkot 18b). So just as Maimonides
text from “v’chen”
through “te’achel” counts “it you may eat” among the commandments (his
are to be omitted. Positive Commandment No. 149), so he should count
“seven days you shall eat matzot with it,” meaning to
abstain from leaven, as being among the commandments. This is similar
to a person who does not bring his sacrifices to the temple and thereby
transgresses a positive commandment, as it is said (Deut. 12:14), “And
there you shall perform everything that I command you,” as I wrote pre-
viously (Stanza 38). And even in the case of a positive commandment
that expresses an obligation, one can have a prohibition implied by the
positive commandment, such as eating an olive’s bulk of roasted paschal
lamb during the daytime, as mentioned previously (in this stanza).

41. And the first and the seventh you must sanctify on the holi-
day of my salvation;
And the Shavuot convocation, with the first of the harvests.
I have already explained that every day among the holidays is ap-

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propriately counted as a separate commandment. Here, he counts three

commandments, the first and seventh [days] of Passover, which he calls
“the holiday of my salvation,” since it is the time of our freedom and [also
the holiday of] Shavuot. Concerning these three days, it is not written
that they are rest days. But this is derived from the other holidays by
the hekesh of Rabbi Jonah in the first chapter of Sh’vuot (10a). [It states
that in the verse, Num. 29:39] “There you shall offer to the Lord in your
appointed seasons,” so that all of the appointed holidays are equated
with each other. And there is a proof for this matter, since in chapter
“Ketzad Tzolin” (Pesachim 84a), they state a reason for forbidding the
burning of leftover meat of the paschal meat as follows. The positive
commandment of burning leftover sacrificial meat does not override
the combined positive and negative commandments regarding resting
on the holiday. They quote Rav Ashi, who said that resting on the holi-
day is enjoined by a positive commandment [as well as a negative com-
mandment], and a positive commandment does not override another
commandment, which is both negative and positive. There is no explicit
commandment to rest on the first day of Pesach, but it is derived from
other holidays by [the above-mentioned] hekesh. Likewise, in chapter
“Rabbi Eliezer D’milah” (Shabbat 123a), they learn that circumcision
does not override [resting on] a holiday, unless it is on time [the eighth
day since birth] for the same reason.

42. And the Memorial Day of blowing, and the Day of Atonement
for error;
And the Sukkah and the four choice plants.
Here he includes two other commandments of rest, on Rosh
Hashanah and Yom Kippur, and resting is already specified in each case
as a positive commandment. The meaning of to’ah is similar to ta’ut, i.e.,
unintentional errors. This is found in the verse (Isa. 32:6) “To speak
wrongly concerning God,” and in Nehemiah 4:2, “To cause confusion
therein.” There are included in here two other commandments, i.e., to
blow the shofar on Rosh Hashanah, and the second is to confess sins.
The expression in the Torah is (Lev. 26:40) “And they shall confess their
sins.” And the expression in the Mechilta (Sifre Zuta, Naso 5) is “From
where do you include other commandments [i.e., other than those ex-
pressly stated in the biblical verse]?” And there (in the Sifre) all [kinds
of] commandments are included, positive and negative, those that ap-

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ply in the land of Israel and those that apply outside it.
He lists dwelling in the Sukkah as a positive commandment, and he
lists taking the lulav as a separate commandment with its four species,
[which in the absence of any one] the other three are rendered invalid,
as I explained in the principles (No. 11).

43. Willow [sprigs] in bloom, and [sprigs] of a beautiful thick tree,

And the fruit of a beautiful tree, and palm branches.
[These specifications of the four species] do not indicate an additional
commandment. The term willow sprigs in bloom indicates that the leaves
should not be dried up, and they remark in the Yerushalmi (Sukkah 3:1)
that “the dead do not praise God” (see Ps. 115:6).
A beautiful thick tree [the biblical term a branch of a thick tree is
applied to the willow] indicates that if some of the
*The real meaning is
“to execute upon them leaves fell off, it still must maintain its thickness
the judgment written; (Sukkah 32b).
it is glory . . .” But in
the poetic adaptation The term beautiful (Heb. hadar) [which in the
quoted here, the words Torah is applied specifically to the etrog] is required
would mean “one
for all four species. Maimonides, among the prohi-
should do for them
[the four species] the bitions dealing with the laws of Sukkot [this cita-
law of beauty which is tion is questionable], quoted the verse (Ps. 149:9)
“la’asot bahem mishpat katuv hadar.”*

44. And the High Priest must abhor marrying a widow;

He must marry a virgin, and he shall raise his hand.
The high priest is commanded to marry a virgin, as it is said (Lev.
21:13), “And he shall take a woman in her virginity,” and this is a definite
positive commandment. They have already said (Horayot 11b) that he
[the high priest] is commanded concerning a virgin; and if he had rela-
tions with a nonvirgin, he has transgressed a positive commandment.
Likewise, they said (Ketubot 29b) that Rabbi Akiva considered the child
of a union forbidden by a positive commandment as a mamzer, and they
explained that this applies to the child from a union of a high priest
with a nonvirgin. And in chapter “Haba al Yevimto” (Yevamot 60a), one
finds that Rabbi Eliezer ben Yaakov held the opinion that if he [the high
priest] had intercourse with a woman raped by someone else, the child
is a chalal [invalid for priesthood]. They explain that this is because he
holds that a child born from a union forbidden by a positive command-

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ment is a chalal.
Now, I wonder why they did not count this as specific commandment,
besides the commandment [of marrying] a virgin. For if he married a
virgin, he has fulfilled a commandment; and if he had intercourse with a
nonvirgin, he transgressed a positive commandment. This is analogous
to eating an olive’s bulk of roasted paschal lamb while it is yet day, about
which we wrote previously (v. 40) that even though eating at night and
eating during the day come out from the same verse [they are counted
as separate commandments]. Our present case is even more so, for the
commandment about the nonvirgin has its specific verse (Lev. 21:14),
“Only a virgin of his own people may he take to wife,” which implies not
marrying a nonvirgin.
Also, why did they not enumerate [marriage to] an Egyptian or
Edomite as positive commandments? (The verse Deut. 23:9) “The third
generation may be admitted into the congregation of the Lord” excludes
the first and second generations as a prohibition derived from a posi-
tive statement. Maimonides writes this at the beginning of his Laws of
Marriage (1:8), but he does not enumerate this commandment. In the
Gemara Yevamot (49a) and Kiddushin (68a) and chapter 3 of Ketubot
(30a), these commandments are equated with the prohibition of a high
priest marrying a nonvirgin. It is proper to count them as a single com-
mandment, although there is a specific prohibition for each case.*
And he shall lift his hand to bless the
*The meaning of the last
people, as it is said (Lev. 9:22), “And Aaron sentence is problematic. It
lifted up his hands toward the people and seems that the implication is
that there is a direct prohibition
blessed them.” They have already said (Sotah of marriage to an Egyptian or
38b) that any kohen who does not ascend the Edomite convert in the first
or second generation. In fact,
platform [to bless the people] transgresses
there is no such prohibition,
three positive commandments, but it is only and the only prohibition is
counted as a single commandment, as I men- that derived from the positive
statement above (Deut. 23:6)
tioned (Stanza 20). But one should also count permitting marriage to a
separately the prohibition for an Israelite third generation convert.
See comments in Perlow’s
[other than a kohen] to lift his hands [in the
comments on this section.
priestly blessing]. For they said in chapter 2
of Ketubot (24b) that lifting the hands by a non-kohen constitutes the
violation of a positive commandment and is analogous to one who eats
an olive’s bulk of roasted paschal meat while it is yet daytime, which
Nachmanides included in his enumeration.

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45. And he shall know the times to purify clothing and houses;
And he shall break [meal-offerings] into pieces, and he shall
bring sacrifices for burning.
The priest must know after which week clothing or a house [which
has been afflicted with tzora’at] becomes purified. But the commentator
on the Azharot did not explain it thus. These are to be enumerated as
two commandments, the one being cleanness or uncleanness of cloth-
ing, and the other being the cleanness or uncleanness of a house. But
Nachmanides does not count any form of uncleanness, as we will explain
his view [later]. Any of the details pertaining to these two command-
ments [clothing and house] would not be separately counted, for only
the entire thing is counted, as Maimonides explained in the seventh
Sut [the unfamiliar Hebrew term used by ibn Gabirol] means cloth-
ing, as in the verse (Gen. 49:11) “And his garment in the blood of
grapes.” Nachmanides added here a commandment not to have any
benefit from a garment defiled by the plague (of tzora’at). And they said
in the Sifra that the verse (Lev. 13:51) “A malignant tzora’at” means that
one should consider it malignant so that one would not have any benefit
from it. I might think that this applies only where the tzora’at is defi-
nitely established. How do we know that even suspected tzora’at under
observation is forbidden for use? It is from the additional verse (Lev.
13:52) “For it is a malignant tzora’at.” One who derives benefit from
this or from the stones of a plagued house transgresses this positive
statement. They said in the Yerushalmi (Orlah 3:3) that if the plagued
stones were made into plaster, they are forbidden, for the verse “a ma-
lignant tzora’at” means that you should consider it malignant and not
benefit from it. Nachmanides claims that the above prohibition is not
just included as part of the law of impurity of the house, but it is a law in
itself, in the same way that the law that a “leper” [with tzora’at] must sit
isolated, which Maimonides listed separately, is not just part of the law
of a person with tzora’at. Nachmanides said that this applies even more
convincingly in the above case [of afflicted clothing and houses].
And he shall break [meal-offerings] into pieces. The Gaon counted
pouring the oil, mixing, breaking, salting, bringing near, and waving [all
these are preparations of a meal offering], since these are command-
ments assigned to the sons of Aaron. As they said (Menachot 18b),

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“Whence is it known [that for participations in priestly portions, one

must acknowledge the validity of the sacrificial service], which includes
15 actions, i.e., pouring, mixing, etc? It is from the verse (Lev. 7:33) ‘He
from among Aaron’s sons who offers the blood of the peace-offering,
etc.’ [This implies that, regarding] any service entrusted to Aaron’s sons,
any kohen who does not affirm its validity, is not to have any portion
in [the privileges of] the Priesthood.” So whenever a kohen does any of
these tasks, he is performing a commandment; but the commandment
for one who committed a sin to offer certain sacrifices [in atonement]
for his sin is not enumerated [by the Gaon].
Now Maimonides disagreed with him and said that these [prepa-
rations] are portions of a commandment, and it is not right to count
them, only the total commandment. He summarized all these tasks
as five positive commandments, i.e., preparation of the burnt offer-
ing, preparation of the sin offering, preparation of the guilt offering,
preparation of the peace offering, and preparation of the meal offering.
Nachmanides’s opinion [also] is that we should not enumerate these
actions [pouring, etc.] as commandments, since this is the execution
of what we were commanded to bring a bunt offering or sin offering or
peace offering or meal offering. It is necessary to explain the manner of
preparation of each one; and once we have listed bringing them, how
can we list their preparation? Nevertheless, he wrote (principle 12) that
it seems plausible that we count the entire sacrificial service as one com-
mandment, not distinguishing whether the kohen is performing a sin
offering, guilt offering, burnt offering, or peace offering. All the descen-
dants of Aaron are commanded to perform their service under a single
commandment, as it is said (Num. 18:7), “I will make your priesthood
a service of dedication.” However, in his actual listing, Nachmanides
agrees with Maimanides.
In my humble opinion, I favor the opinion of the Gaon, for in the
Gemara Chullin (132b) and in the Gemara Menachot (18b), where they
list the fifteen tasks assigned to the children of Aaron, they include
among them lifting the hands [in the priestly blessing] and salting sac-
rifices and having the suspected adulteress drink [the prescribed water]
and breaking the neck of the calf [as required for an unsolved murder]
and the purification following tzora’at. Since these particular tasks are
counted as individual commandments by everyone, [I think] that pour-
ings, etc, should also be counted as separate commandments. Also, I

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found in the Sifra (96:24): “The verse (Lev. 6:7) ‘This is the law of the
meal-offering’ indicates that all [voluntary] meal-offerings [whether
offered by priests or Israelites] have the same law, i.e., they require
preparation with oil and frankincense. Rabbi Akiva, however, [deriving
his teaching by logic rather than from the wording ‘This is the law of the
meal-offering’] said, ‘Since we find that Scripture does not distinguish
between the sin-offering of an Israelite and a sin-offering of kohanim,
in that one does not put in [oil and frankincense], similarly we should
not distinguish between a voluntary meal-offering of an Israelite and a
voluntary meal-offering of kohanim, that one does put in [these ingredi-
ents].’ Rabbi Hanina ben Yehuda objected [to Rabbi Akiva’s argument],
‘What kind of proof can one bring from not putting in, which is a pro-
hibition, to putting in, which is a positive commandment.’” This shows
that putting in the oil and frankincense is a positive commandment, in
agreement with the Gaon.
And he shall bring sacrifices for burning. This is one of the priestly
functions, i.e., bringing them near the southwestern horn of the altar
to the point of the horn. The poet neglected to include the command-
ment of offering the two daily offerings. Maimonides reckoned this as
a single commandment, while Nachmanides counts this as two com-
mandments, the morning offering as one and the evening offering as
another. Likewise, he counts reciting the shema as two commandments,
as I have written (principle 13).

46. And he is sent for burning and salting,

To obtain atonement and forgiveness for a multitude of
And to pour and mix, and to slaughter a bullock or ram,
And to pinch the bird’s neck and receive blood, and to take a
fist-full of memorial offerings.
Burning offerings, salting them, pouring oil, mixing, pinching [a
bird’s neck], receiving blood, taking a handful [of flour] are types of
service assigned to descendants of Aaron, just as is breaking into pieces
[the meal offering] previously mentioned (Stanza 45) where I explained
this. These are according to the words of Rabbi Shimon, but the other
rabbis differ with him, in that pouring and mixing are not restricted to
the kohanim, since only those actions from taking a fistful [of the meal
offering mixture] and onward are assigned to the kohanim, as stated in

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the second chapter of Menachot (18b).

Burning refers to burning the limbs [of an offering] and the fistful
of a meal offering on the flames of the wood pile. This is not the same as
bringing sacrifices for burning (end of Stanza 45) as the commentator
on the Azharot [Moses ibn Tibbon] had thought.
And to salt. It is a positive commandment to salt the sacrifice. The
expression “And he is sent” [i.e., the kohen] comes from the statement in
Nedarim (35b), Kiddushin (23b), and Yoma (19a) that the kohanim are
sent as agents of the Merciful One.
To obtain atonement and forgiveness for a multitude of transgres-
sions, i.e., by the process of the priestly services serious transgressions
can be atoned for.
And to slaughter a bullock and ram. This is not an action assigned
to the kohanim, since only those actions from receiving [the blood] and
onward are commanded for the kohanim. This indicates that slaughter-
ing [which precedes receiving] is valid when done by a layman. Also, in
the Gemara Chullin (132b), when they enumerated fifteen kinds of sac-
rificial service, they did not count slaughtering. Even though the Gaon
[Halachot Gedolot] did count it, he did not mean that it should be like
the other services that are restricted to kohanim. It is just that he consid-
ers slaughtering sacrifices as an enumerable commandment, although
slaughtering nonsacred animals is not counted by him.
And to take a fist-full of memorial-offering is the fistful of frankin-
cense, as it is said (Lev. 2:9), “Its memorial portion.” There is in this
context another enumerated commandment, that the kohanim should
do their services in courses, as it is said (Deut. 18:6, slightly misquoted),
“And the Levite shall come, etc.,” and (ibid., v. 7) “then he shall serve.”
And it is written there (ibid., v. 8), “Besides his purchased rights accord-
ing to the fathers.” [It is explained in Sukkah 56a]: “What did the fathers
sell one to the other? ‘You take the right to serve in your week, and I
will take my week.’” And so did Onkelos explain it (in the Targum on v.
8). Now Nachmanides (on Maimonides’s Positive Commandment No.
36) considered dividing the commandment into three commandments,
one commandment that the kohanim may serve “with all the desire of
their soul” [the sages interpreted this phrase in Deut. 18:6 to mean that
all kohanim can share equally in the sacrificial service on the festivals,
not just the group of kohanim assigned for that week]. The second com-
mandment is that both kohanim and Levites are assigned to specific du-

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ties [i.e., Levites are either singers or gatekeepers, etc.]. And the third is
that they should sell their particular weeks of service to each other. But
when he [Nachmanides] enumerates them, he agrees with Maimonides
that it is a single commandment.
The poet has neglected several enumerable commandments, which
are connected with the kohanim. One is to light the fire on the altar, as
it is said (Lev. 6:6), “Fire should always be burning on the altar”; and in
explaining this, they said (Yoma 21b) that even though the fire comes
down from the sky, it is still a commandment to bring ordinary fire.
The second commandment is to remove the ashes each day from the
altar, as it is said (Lev. 6:3), “The priest shall dress in linen raiment . . .
and he shall take up the ashes.” The third is carrying the ark on the
shoulder, as it is said (Num. 7:9), “For theirs is the service of the sacred
objects, they shall carry by shoulder.” Now Maimonides thought that
this commandment was given to the Levites in the wilderness, since the
kohanim were few in number, but in future generations applied only to
kohanim. But Nachmanides wrote that this commandment applies to all
descendants of Kehath, either Kehathite Levites or kohanim, for they
are all descendants of Kehath [Aaron being a grandson of Kehath], and
he brought many proofs for his words. I discuss this at length among
the negative commandments (Stanza 115). The fourth commandment
is guarding the temple, as it is said (Num. 18:4), “And they shall keep
the charge of the tent of meeting.” Now in the Mechilta [actually in the
Sifre Zuta, end of Korach], they said, “One can see [from the above verse
only] a positive commandment, but whence do we see a prohibition?”
It is from the word v’nishmartem (v. 5), [which often has the force of a
prohibition]. The fifth one is that the tribe of Levi should perform the
tasks specifically assigned to them concerning gatekeeping and singing,
as it is said (Num. 18:18), “And the Levites shall serve.” They stated in
the Sifre (Korach 52), “One might have thought that if he wants to, he
may serve, and if he did not want, he does not have to serve. Therefore,
it says ‘The Levite shall serve.’” All of the above are commandments
that Maimonides enumerated. Now, I have, in my opinion, come upon a
commandment, which the earlier scholars did not mention. This is that
the kohanim in the time of their service must be complete in their good
looks, and they should have nothing in their physical form which is not
the usual way of the formation of a person. This is stated in Bechorot
(43a): “The verse (Lev. 21:21) ‘Any man from the seed of Aaron who has

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a blemish’ implies that he should be equal to the seed of Aaron,” i.e., it

is a positive commandment that the kohen should be equal in the shape
of his limbs to the children of Aaron. And if he is not equal, even though
this is not designated a blemish (mum), if he performs the priestly ser-
vice, he has transgressed a positive commandment. And they said there
(43b), “What is the difference between one who is not equal to the seed
of Aaron and one who is ineligible for service on account of a less serious
condition which was considered unsightly? It lies in whether or not he
is guilty of a positive commandment.” This says that one who is not equal
to the seed of Aaron is forbidden to serve by a positive commandment.
And if he is not so [i.e., equal], he transgresses this positive command-
ment, although his service is not rendered invalid, as is the case for one
with an actual blemish. So we have gained this commandment.

47. And so he shall teach to wave and sprinkle,

And the thigh and the breast are held as his portion.
And so those who teach (Duran implies here that the verb here is
“y’la’med,” not “yilmad”; the following two words can be read as im zeh
or am zeh, and I have left them out of the translation) the laws of taking
the fistful [of] flour and other tasks would take their wages from the
temple treasury, as mentioned at the end of Ketubot (106a). And for five
years [the new kohanim] had to study, since the laws of the service are
difficult, as mentioned in the first chapter of Chullin (24a). Therefore, he
[the poet] said that the kohen must learn about waving and sprinkling,
which are tasks assigned to the sons of Aaron, and I have explained this
above (Stanza 45).
And the thigh and the breast are held as his portion [i.e., they
belong to the kohen]. Maimonides did not count this as a command-
ment, and he criticized those who did count it, since it is part of the
commandment regarding peace offerings. Also Nachmanides agreed
with him, since no verse contains a commandment ordering us to give
these portions to kohanim. But they are God’s portion, which He took
from the sacrifice and gave them to the kohanim, as it is said (Lev. 7:34),
“For the breast of wave-offering and the thigh of heave-offering I have
taken from the children of Israel . . . and I gave them to Aaron, etc.”

48. And he shall dress for his work in priestly robes, and when

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Inside the curtain, his clothing is of twisted strands.

The Gaon [Halachot Gedolot] did not count the priestly garments
among the positive commandments. But he did count [a kohen] lack-
ing his garments as a prohibition punishable by death. His reasoning is
that there is no commandment to wear them except as a requirement
to do priestly service; for if he did serve without these garments, he
is punishable by death, just as if he were a lay person. But there is no
commandment to wear them at times when he is not doing service, and
so wearing the priestly garments is only a part of a commandment. And
Maimonides has explained (principle 12) that parts of a commandment
should not be separately enumerated. But Maimonides did enumerate
this commandment among the commandments, and Nachmanides
agreed with him to count it as a commandment. They said in the Sifre
(Acharei Mot 5), “Whence do we know that Aaron should not wear his
garments for their grandeur, but as one who is simply fulfilling the de-
cree of a king? It is from the verse (Lev. 16:34) ‘And he did it as the Lord
commanded Moses.’” This is his reasoning. However, he wondered about
Maimonides why he did not count the garments of the high priest as
a commandment and the garments of regular kohanim as another and
the white clothing for Yom Kippur as yet another. Likewise, it would
be proper to count that priestly service should be done while standing,
from the verse (Deut. 18:5) “To stand to minister” [which is explained
in Zevachim 23b to mean], “I chose them for standing, not for sitting.”
But in his actual counting, Nachmanides agrees with Maimonides. Also,
Maimonides counted the commandment of sanctifying the hands and
feet [by washing], from the statement (Exod. 18:19) “And Aaron and his
sons shall wash from it their hands and feet.”
The word m’lechet (work) we have found as a regular noun [not as
possessive, which this word usually denotes] in 2 Chronicles (13:10)
“Vhalviyim bim’lechet,” where it is equivalent to m’lachah [the usual
nominative form].
The rabbis explained (Yoma 72a) that the expression “clothing of
s’rad” (Exod. 31:10) means clothing of priestly service, and so did
Onkelos translate it. Rashi and ibn Ezra do not explain it thus, and the
poet relied on the rabbis’ interpretation.
Consider what he [the poet] wrote, “When he goes inside the cur-
tain (l’vet laparochet) his clothing is of twisted strands.” If he actu-
ally means inside the curtain [as the meaning of l’vet laparochet], then

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there is something missing in his poem, for “strand-twisted garments”

(mashzar) indicates that the thread is twisted from strands, as the rabbis
explained in Yoma (71b). But the white clothes [worn within the Holy of
Holies] do not have such twisted threads!47 Therefore, one must appar-
ently distinguish between the words beit laparochet [in the poem] and
mibeit laparochet [the expression in Lev. 16:2, having the prefix mem].
And the expression beit haparochet [without the mem, or even beit lapa-
rochet without the mem] would [mean the house containing the curtain,
and refer to] the heichal [the latter term including both the holy place as
well as the Holy of Holies]. There [in the holy place)] he [the high priest]
serves in golden garments, whose threads are twisted from strands. It
is also conceivable that the thread of the white clothing is made with six
strands, even though it is designated by Scripture simply as “linen” (bod
Lev. 16:4) [rather than shesh mashzar, which is the usual phrase attached
to six-stranded linen]. This would be indicated by what is said in chapter
1 of Yoma (12b) that the only difference between the white clothing of
the high priest on Yom Kippur and the general priestly garment is the
girdle. So did Maimonides write (Hilchot Klei Hamikdash 8:3), but the
intent of the poet is what I wrote.*
What he wrote, “He shall prepare for his work,” *We have so far used the
refers to the service on Yom Kippur, for we refer version for the beginning
of this stanza, “He shall
to the service on Yom Kippur as avodah (service) dress for his work.” There
without any adjective, and “work” (m’lachah) is is another version, “He
synonymous with “service.” The word s’rad [used shall prepare for his work,”
which is found in our
in Exod. 39:1 to describe priestly clothing] would manuscript version and
be associated with sarid ufalit (Josh. 8:22), mean- also in the manuscript
ing to be solitary, i.e., not stranded threads. On evidentused by Duran, as is
from what follows.
the other hand, if the threads are actually sixfold
stranded, it would mean [singular in the sense of] excellence. This is
indeed true, in accord with the verse (Joel 3:5) “Among the remnant
(s’ridim) whom the Lord will call” [the remnant are God’s elect, indicat-
ing that s’rad denotes excellence]. This then would be referring to the
clothes of the high priest. The commentator on the Azharot [however]
did not explain it thus.

47 Perlow in his gloss on the Zohar Harakia denies this assumption, quoting the Mishneh Lamelech
on Mishneh Torah, Hilchot Klei Hamikdash 8:3.

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49. And the forming of the Sanctuary, and the arrayed bread,
And the oil prepared, for anointing and light.
The rabbis have stated (Sanhedrin 20b) that Israel were enjoined
to perform three commandments when they would enter the land of
Israel, one of these being to build the temple. This is said in the verse
(Exod. 25:8) “They shall make Me a sanctuary.” Maimonides thinks that
the appurtenances of the temple should not be counted as independent
commandments, because they are parts of the temple. Now, Ravad in
his critique (on the enumeration of the positive commandments, No.
20) counts making the altar as a separate positive commandment,
whereas Maimonides considers it as part of the temple, like the ark and
other appurtenances that are not to be counted since they are parts of
a [single] commandment. But in his treatise (Hilchot Bet Hab’chirah
1:15), he wrote that if one built a defective altar, he transgresses a posi-
tive commandment, although he does not include it in his enumeration.
However, Nachmanides (Positive Commandment 33) considers that
this [reasoning of Maimonides] is irrelevant, since the [absence of] ap-
purtenances of the temple do not preclude its use, and the sacrifices can
be offered in the temple even if the appurtenances are absent. But the
reason for not counting this [not counting the appurtenances] is that
they [the appurtenances] are preliminary to another commandment,
the table to arrange the showbread on it, and the candelabrum to kindle
the lights. With this reasoning, Nachmanides does introduce into the
enumeration [the commandment of making the ark and its cover to
place therein the tablets of testimony]. This is considered a permanent
commandment [Maimonides’s principle 3 counts only commandments
that apply forever] even though they never made another one, since it is
incumbent on us forever; and if the [original] ark were broken, we would
have to make another one like it to place the tablets of testimony in it.
Now in the second temple, where there was no ark, it is not because the
commandment was absent that they did not make one, but because it
had been hidden (Yoma 53b), and it will be discovered in the days of the
Messiah, may it be soon in our times.
Nachmanides [Maimonides according to note 804 in Ziv Hazohar]
likewise counted carrying the ark on the shoulders [that is, in the future
times the ark will have to be carried to its proper place in the temple]. I
have found a proof that making an ark is a commandment for all genera-
tions in Menachot, chapter 3 (28b) where they said in disbelief, “But

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then you would have to hold that the verse (Deut. 10:11) ‘And you shall
make for you a wooden ark’ means only for you and excludes future
generations.” Just as the prohibition of not removing the staves from
the ark has been enumerated (No. 86 of Maimonides’s prohibitions), so
should we include making the ark in the enumeration.
And the arrayed bread. It is a positive commandment to set out
on the table the showbread, as it is said (Exod. 25:30), “And you shall
set the show-bread on the table to be before Me always.” It is because
they consist of two rows, six loaves per row, that he says “the arrayed
(ha’nitchan) bread, from the verse (Exod. 5:18) “You shall produce your
measure of bricks (ha’nitchan derived from tochen, i.e., measure).”
The oil prepared for anointing and light. It is a positive command-
ment to make oil with which to anoint the king and high priest [and
the tabernacle] and its appurtenances, as it is said (Exod. 30:25), “And
you shall make it a holy anointing oil.” And whatever is in the Torah
about preparing the bread and preparing the oil is all part of that com-
mandment, as Maimonides explained in the tenth principle; but what is
included as a commandment is to set out the loaves and to anoint with
the oil. We are not to make any other oil than what Moses made and
which Josiah hid away. So during the second temple period, the priests
were not anointed. This commandment is still considered effective for
all generations, since as long as the oil exists, it is incumbent upon us
to anoint high priests, and we trust in His exalted name that it will be
revealed to us in the days of the Messiah.
And what he said, “And the oil prepared,” means that there was much
expertness involved in it, as mentioned in Keritot (5a) and Horayot
And what he said, “And light,” does not mean that the substance of
this commandment is to make oil for lighting, but commandment enu-
merated here is kindling the light of the Menorah, as it is said (Exod.
27:21), “Aaron and his sons shall set it in order.” The oil for lighting is
not of the same kind used for anointing oil, since it had no spices in it,
but was pure. The meaning of “for anointing” (l’moshcha) is connoting
aggrandizing, as in (Num. 18:8), “To you I have given them as a special
portion (l’moshchah).” Also, (Ps. 105:15) “Do not touch my anointed
ones” [indicates that the Hebrew root of l’moshcha means excellent or
chosen rather than smeared with oil], since our forefathers were not
consecrated with oil. And it is a commandment to aggrandize kohanim

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and to treat them with honor, and this is an enumerated command-

ment from the verse (Lev. 21:8) “He shall be holy unto you.” The rabbis
(Gittin 59b) explained that this refers to anything of a sacred nature,
i.e., to open the Torah reading first, to be first in the blessing for food,
to have the first choice in a distribution. It is possible that there are two
commandments [regarding the kohen’s sanctity], the one being for the
Israelite, “You shall sanctify him” (Lev. 21:8), by giving him precedence
for reading the Torah and for reciting the blessing after meals; and the
second being for the kohen himself to be careful not to defile himself by
a corpse, as it is said (Lev. 21:6), “They shall be holy.” And in chapter 2 of
Bava Metzia (30a), they stated that if a kohen had to go into a cemetery
to recover a lost object, the positive commandment of returning a lost
object does not supersede the positive and negative commandments
regarding defilement, and the positive commandment is “they shall be
holy” in my view.

50. The dedication and the work of the grand incense;

And the rows of six, and the two loaves.
The dedication of the altar was written by the Gaon [as an enumer-
ated commandment], and Maimonides criticized him for this, while
Nachmanides sought to justify him. I will take up their argument soon
at length, as well as what my view is. Nevertheless, with regard to the
commandments, Nachmanides agrees with Maimonides not to count it.
The work of the grand incense. Maimonides has already explained
that one should not enumerate the preludes for a certain purpose as
commandments in themselves. Therefore, he did not count preparing
the incense as a commandment, but [he counted] burning the incense
on the altar, as it says (Exod. 30:7), “On it Aaron shall burn aromatic
incense.” He counts this as one commandment, while Nachmanides
counts it as two commandments, i.e., the morning burning and the eve-
ning burning, like reading the Shema [morning and evening], as I wrote
above (Stanza 12). The poet refers to this as “work,” since preparing it
involved considerable expertness, as stated in Yoma (38a).
He calls it “grand” (nisechet), which expresses princely status and
greatness, as in the statement (Prov. 8:23) “From everlasting I was es-
tablished (nisachti), from the beginning.” For it [the incense] is a splen-
did service, which leads to wealth (Yoma 26a). Therefore, when they cast
lots for performing the incense service, they announced for [only] new

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[kohanim to enter, i.e., only those who never had the privilege before]
for the incense, since it brings wealth. For it says (Deut. 33:10), “They
will place incense in Your nostril,” and directly thereafter, “Bless, O Lord
his substance.” That is why it is customary to read the Baraita of Pitum
Hak’toret after Shabbat, just after the section V’yiten L’cha.
And the rows of six is a part of the arrangement of the showbread
and is not to be counted, and this is what was previously written (Stanza
49) as “and the arrayed bread.”
And the two loaves are those two loaves that are a commandment to
bring on the day of the first fruits, and they are unleavened, as it is writ-
ten (Lev. 23:7), “And you shall bring from your settlements two loaves of
bread as a wave-offering,” and the sacrifice is part of the bread offering
and is not separately counted.
Shimon the son of Rabbi Zemach says the following. The Gaon,
author of Halachot, Rabbi Shimon Kayyara, included in his enumera-
tion of commandments that of inaugurating the altar. But Maimonides
criticized him in his work, as he considered this as a onetime command-
ment, not one applying throughout all generations, in accord with the
established principle that such things should not be enumerated. Now,
Nachmanides does not differ with him about this principle, yet he de-
fends the Gaon, saying that dedication of the altar does apply through
all generations. For it is written in Parshah Tetzaveh (Exod. 29:38),
“Now, this is what you shall offer upon the altar,” which is the command-
ment of inauguration; and regarding this, we learned in the Mishnah
(Menachot 4:4) that we may only inaugurate the altar with the morning
daily offering. The above is what Nachmanides said.
But in my humble opinion, I think that this was not the intention of
the Gaon, for this inauguration, which we find in chapter “Hat’chelet”
(i.e., Menachot 4:4 above) would not be included in the enumeration
of the commandments. It just concerns the continual offerings, which
are a duty every day, at a time when a new altar is being built, and they
are about to commence offering them, as they did in the wilderness ac-
cording to the divine command, as it is written (Exod. 29:38), “Now this
is what you shall offer upon the altar,” and such a commencement is
called “inauguration” (chinuch). Likewise is it when a new golden altar
or table or candelabrum is made and is to be used [for the first time]
for the commandment requiring it, such a commandment is called “chi-
nuch.” For such occasions, we learn (Menachot 4:4) that one inaugurates

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the golden altar only with the twilight incense offering, and the altar
of burnt offerings only with the morning continual offerings, and the
table only with the showbread on the Sabbath, and the candelabrum
only with lighting its seven lamps at twilight. Now this verse is in the
portion beginning with (v. 38) “Now this is what you shall offer upon
the altar,” which is in the Sedra Tetzaveh; and this section, which is the
section dealing with the inauguration, is not an additional command-
ment, for it is specified as “continual” (v. 58), and it is identical with
the section on continual offerings in Sedra Pinchas. It is thus taught in
the Sifre (Pinchas 29:4): “Since it is said regarding the inaugural of the
altar (Exod. 28:38), ‘Now this is what you shall offer,’ I might think that
there are four offerings on that day. But since I read (Num. 28:4) ‘One
lamb you shall offer in the morning and the second lamb, etc.,’ it shows
that two were to be offered, not four.” Therefore, the inauguration of the
altar has no additional content that would be fitting for its enumeration
among the commandments.
Furthermore, Nachmanides defended the Gaon by saying that it
is plausible that when the Tabernacle would be erected; and when the
temple would be built, they would always have to have an inauguration.
The donation of the princes (Num. 7:20ff) was a teaching for that partic-
ular time [not for the future as well] and the particular amounts [of the
gifts] were what they [the princes] thought fitting, but the inauguration
[in its general scope] was a commandment. Thus did Solomon make an
inauguration (1 Kings 8:63), and so did the men of the Great Assembly
(Ezra 3:1), and furthermore, it will be so in the days of the Messiah. As
they said (Menachot 45a), “They offered inaugural sacrifices (milu’im)
in the days of Ezra just as they offered them in the days of Moses.” It
is made plausible by what He said, exalted be He (Lev. 7:37), “This is
the law of the burnt-offering, the meal-offering, the sin-offering, the
guilt-offering, the inaugural-offering, and the peace-offering which God
commanded Moses, etc.,” [which implies] that the inaugural offering
should be counted as permanent sacrifices and were enacted as a law.
This is the end of Nachmanides’s words.
But this [the argument of Nachmanides presented above] does not
seem reasonable to me at all, since we have no indication in Scripture
that they must dedicate the temple with extra sacrifices, as they did in
the days of Moses. For if there was a permanent commandment to in-
augurate it, as they did in the days of Moses, why did not Solomon and

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the men of the Great Assembly do it in the same amounts? Why should
they have made a distinction between one inauguration and the other?
Also, it seems from the Talmud that the inauguration was not for all
generations in any way, neither in those amounts nor in other amounts.
For they discuss in the first chapter of Hagigah (6a) the saying of the
School of Hillel that the [minimum value of the] festival offering is a
silver ma’ah, and that the [minimum value of the] appearance sacrifice
is two silver ma’ahs. They derive this [that the value of the appearance
sacrifice, a burnt offering, exceeds that of the festival offering, which
is a peace offering] from the [offerings of the] princes, where Scripture
specifies more peace offerings than burnt offerings (Num. 7:15, 17).
But the School of Shammai [in whose view the relative minimal values
are reversed] did not want to model after the [princes’ offerings] for
inauguration. And they stated there that the reason why the School
of Shammai did not agree with the School of Hillel is that one should
derive laws that apply to all generations by analogy to other laws that
apply to all generations, and one should not derive laws applicable to all
generations from those that do not apply to all generations. This expres-
sion proves that the inaugural offering of the princes does not apply
to future generations, neither in the same amounts nor in different
amounts. For they did not say that one cannot derive amounts pertain-
ing to all generations from an amount not pertaining to all generations,
but from a law [actually davar, a thing] that does not apply to all genera-
tions. This shows that there is no commandment here.
For even if you would say that the [basic] law is applicable, though
not the amounts, nonetheless, in whatever way the amounts differ, it
would have to be that the peace offerings should exceed the burnt of-
ferings, as it was in the time of Moses. Thus, the School of Shammai
would have to derive from there [the law quoted in Hagigah 6a], for the
peace offering exceeding the burnt offering would be applicable forever.
Furthermore, [if the basic law is forever applicable], it would have to
have the same character, consisting of burnt offerings, peace offerings,
sin offerings, incense, and meal offerings. But in fact, this is not so. For
in the time of Ezra, there were burnt offerings and sin offerings, but no
peace offerings, for thus it is written (Ezra 6:17), “And they offered for
the dedication of this House of God a hundred bullocks, two hundred
rams, four hundred lambs, and twelve he-goats for a sin-offering for all
of Israel.” Certainly, all these [bullocks, lambs, and rams] were burnt of-

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ferings, for we have found that those who came back from the exile [i.e.,
the later returnees who came back with Ezra] offered burnt offerings,
and not peace offerings, as it is written (Ezra 8:35), “Twelve bullocks
for all Israel, ninety six rams, seventy seven lambs, twelve he-goats for a
sin-offering; all this was a burnt-offering unto the Lord”
[While the inaugural offering in Ezra’s time was dissimilar to that in
Moses’s time because it did not include peace offerings, the inaugural
offering for Solomon’s temple was dissimilar in another respect, as fol-
lows.] For Solomon offered peace offerings and burnt offerings, but he
did not offer sin offerings. [Indeed Solomon did follow Moses’s model
in that the number of] the peace offerings exceeded that of the burnt
offerings, for it is written (1 Kings 8:63), “And Solomon offered for the
sacrifice of peace-offerings which he offered unto the Lord twenty two
thousand oxen and twenty thousand sheep; and they dedicated the
house of the Lord” Now there is no mention of burnt offerings or sin
offerings, but there must have been some burnt offerings there. For it
is written (ibid., v. 64), “On the same day the king hallowed the middle
of the court that was before the house of the Lord, for there he offered
the burnt-offering and the meal-offering, and the fat of the peace-offer-
ings.” But Scripture does not mention the number of burnt offerings,
apparently because their number was small compared with the peace
offerings. If not for that, Scripture would have mentioned [the amount],
for Scripture seemingly wanted to inform us of the abundance of sacri-
fices that Solomon offered, and since the amount of burnt offering is
not mentioned, it must have been minimal. Furthermore, in another
place, it is written (ibid., 3:4), “A thousand burnt-offerings did Solomon
offer up on that altar” [thus indicating that Solomon customarily made
burnt offerings].
Also, in both cases, in the inauguration of Solomon and in that of
Ezra, there was no incense in the outside altar, as was the case in the in-
augural of the princes. So if the inaugural procedure was valid for future
generations, although not in the same amounts, they should then have
offered everything that was offered in the days of Moses either in the
same quantity or another comparable quantity. But they have already
stated in chapter “Hat’chelet” (Menachot 50b) that incense is never of-
fered on the outer altar either for an individual or for the community,
and the incense brought by the princes was an exceptional ordinance
for that particular time. And in chapter “Eizehu M’koman” (Zevachim

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48b) and in chapter “Kol Ham’nachot” (Menachot 56a), they discussed

the goat brought by Nachshon [the first prince to present his offering,
and thus representative of all the princes who brought offerings] as to
whether [the rules] of placing hands on the head of the sacrifice and
of slaughtering on the north side of the altar [which apply normally
to sin offerings] should include the goat offered by Nachshon. [And
they concluded that a case of] a onetime commandment cannot be de-
rived from that of a permanent commandment. And in chapter “Tevul
Yom” (Zevachim 101a), they stated concerning it [the sin offering of
Nachshon] was a holy sacrifice for that particular instance, and it could
be eaten even in a state of mourning, which is not the case for the sin
offering of the New Moon, which is a sacrifice applicable forever. They
said a similar thing in chapter “Hakometz Raba” (Menachot 19b), and
thus the goat offered by Nachshon, which was a sin offering, was only
for that time and not to indicate a law for all generations, and the same
thing applies to the burnt offerings and the peace offerings [offered by
the princes]. And in chapter 8 of Menachot (59a), they stated that laws
for onetime commandments cannot be derived from permanent laws.
So we should say that the inaugural offerings of Solomon and that
for the second temple were not brought as a commandment, but they
were a voluntary donation. Now, you might claim that only the burnt
offerings and peace offerings were voluntary, but the sin offerings of-
fered for the second temple could not be considered as a voluntary act,
but as a religious duty, and there could be no other duty than that of
inauguration. But one could not actually say this, for they said clearly in
the Gemara (Menachot 56a) that the goat offered by Nachshon was for
that time only and not for future generations, as I have written.
Also [there is another significant difference between the offering of
the princes and that at the inaugural of the second temple, since] the
goat brought by Nachshon was that of an individual. For in the discus-
sion of incense in chapter “Hat’chelet” (Menachot 50a), they said that the
[rare case of] an individual offering incense on the outer altar occurred
in the instance of the princes, and the entire offering of the princes was
that of an individual. [On the other hand], the sin offerings brought
at the dedication of the second temple were collective, for it is written
(Ezra 6:17), “And he-goats to atone for all Israel.” Thus, this obligation
of bringing sin offerings was not of the character of the obligation of the
inaugural sacrifices of the princes, but it was another sort of obligation.

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Also, the burnt offerings were not of the nature of that obligation [of
the princes’ inaugural], since this is evident from its context [i.e., they
are part of the same inaugural gifts].
Another point is that we found that those who came from the exile
[under Ezra] offered burnt offerings and sin offerings, as I wrote previ-
ously, and this was no inaugural [since the inauguration of the second
temple happened much earlier], but a voluntary offering. Indeed, it was
like the earlier offering, which was also voluntary, the only difference
being that the first one was called “inaugural,” and the latter was not
called “inaugural.” So all of this works out well, except that we have to
straighten out what was the requirement for the sin offerings. And I
found in chapter 1 of Horayot (6a) that the sin offerings brought by
those who returned from captivity were on account of their idolatrous
worship in the days of Zedekiah. They discussed this at length there that
those who had thus sinned had already died out, and furthermore, their
sinning was intentional [and sin offerings only apply to unintentional
sins]. They concluded that this law was only for that particular time.
A similar discussion is in chapter “Yesh B’korb’not Tzibur, Temurah”
(15b), and they brought proof from the fact that the rams and lambs
must have been onetime instructions that we should also presume that
the he-goats were a onetime instruction to atone for all Israel for the
above-mentioned sin or something similar. But in any event, they were
not brought as a requirement to be like the he-goat of Nachshon [as an
inaugural offering]. For they state in the Gemara that the he-goat offered
*There are two key biblical words by Nachshon was an individual offering,
in the discussion of the inaugural whereas these others [in Ezra’s time] were
ceremonies. The one is “hanukah,”
which refers to celebratory
communal offerings, as I have stated. So it
offerings brought by the princes follows from all this that we do not have a
and which we have translated commandment of inaugural included in the
as “inauguration” or “inaugural
offering.” This has been the enumeration of commandments.*
main subject of discussion up to Now Nachmanides wrote that [there is
this point. Now, the discussion
will switch to another word,
a permanent commandment to bring spe-
“millu’im,” which refers to the cial offerings of initial consecration, which
initial procedures specified in were applied at the time of the first and
the Torah for sanctifying the
sanctuary and also for ordaining second temples and will apply] even at the
Aaron and the other kohanim for time of the Messiah [for the third temple]
their priestly service. We will in
the following translate millu’im as
in accord with the statement (Menachot
“consecration.” 45b) that they offered consecration offer-

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ings [millu’im] in the days of Ezra. Nachmanides’s opinion is that the

millu’im that were used to consecrate the kohanim applied only to that
time, and that is what they meant by (Sukkah 43a) “The millu’im are
excluded [from comparing them to dwelling in the Sukkah], since they
do not apply throughout the generations.” But there was [another kind
of] millu’im, which concerned sanctification of the altar, as it is written
(Exod. 29:36), “And each day you shall prepare a bull as a sin-offering for
expiation; you shall purge the altar by your performing purification on
it.” It is also written (ibid., v. 37) “Seven days you shall perform purifica-
tion for the altar to consecrate it.” It is such millu’im that were offered in
the time of Ezra, for the new altar needed consecration (millu’im) offer-
ings to sanctify it, just as did the first one in the days of Moses. Likewise,
for the temple itself, millu’im were offered to sanctify it, as it is written
(Ezek. 45:18), “In the first month, on the first day of the month you shall
take a blemishless bullock and you shall purify the sanctuary.” This verse
was interpreted (Menachot 45a) as referring to millu’im offerings. They
said that [the verse does not make sense, since] the bullock normally
offered at the New Moon is a burnt offering [rather than as a sin offering
as suggested by the words and you shall purify]. Rav Ashi responded that
they brought millu’im offerings in the days of Ezra [just as in the days of
Moses; thus, this bullock brought as a sin offering was not the monthly
New Moon sacrifice], but a millu’im sacrifice for the sanctuary.
There is yet another explicit verse referring to millu’im brought for
the altar (Ezek. 43:25–26), “Seven days you shall prepare a goat for a
sin-offering every day, and a young bullock, and a ram from the flock . . .
Seven days shall they make atonement for the altar and cleanse it, and
they shall thus consecrate it” [the Hebrew umillay yado indicates millu’im
offerings]. All the above are the words of Nachmanides.
But this [statement of Nachmanides that the consecration of the altar
expressed in Ezekiel 43:25–26 is in the opinion of the rabbis a millu’im
ceremony required by the Torah] is actually not the opinion of the sages.
For they did not say that they offered millu’im in the days of Ezra with
reference to sacrifices, which are mentioned in the section of “telling
the house of Israel about the temple (Ezek. 43:10).” This consisted of a
bullock on the first day and of a goat, bullock, and ram for seven days
to cleanse the altar. This verse did not disturb the sages, for the content
proves that this was a onetime procedure in accordance with a special
revelation. For in the days of Moses, they cleansed the altar for seven

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days with a bullock for a sin offering; while in the time of Ezra, there was
a bullock sin offering on the first day; whereas on the second day, there
was a goat sin offering, and also a bullock and ram as a burnt offering.
However, they did find difficulty with the verse (Ezek. 45:18–19) “In
the first month, on the first day you shall take a blemishless young bull-
ock and you shall purify . . . and the kohen shall take of the blood of the
sin-offering . . .” because we do not find a bullock sin offering among the
additional New Moon offerings. It is concerning this that they raised the
question, “Is this a sin-offering? It should be a burnt-offering [which is a
New Moon sacrifice].” Then Rav Ashi came and explained that this is not
intended as a New Moon offering but as a millu’im offering. This would
be identified with the calf offered on the eighth day of the millu’im (in
the time of Moses, Lev. 9:2), which was on the New Moon, as mentioned
in Sabbath, chapter “Rabbi Akiva” (87b). There they said, “That day [the
first of Nissan] took ten crowns [i.e., was marked by ten important
events].” As they then offered the calf of the herd as a sin offering, so did
they offer a bull as a sin offering in the days of Ezra. Rashi explained the
Gemara thus, and we must assume that Rav Ashi was referring to the
calf of the eighth day and not to the bull with which they were purifying
the altar in the time of Moses all seven days of the millu’im, since the
altar was already purified for seven days with a bull as a sin offering
on the first day, and with a goat as a sin offering and bull and ram for a
burnt offering for the next six days, as I mentioned before. As to what is
written later (Ezek. 45:20), “And so shall you do on the seventh day of
the month for every one that has erred or was ignorant; and you shall
make atonement for the Temple,” they have already explained it there
(Menachot 45a). They said [giving a completely different meaning to the
passage] that “seven” refers to a case where seven of the tribes commit a
sin on the basis of a wrong decision of the court) and that chodesh refers
[not to the new month but] to the new [and erroneous proclamation
of the court], even though the seven tribes do not constitute a major-
ity of the population. An example would be if they [the court] declared
that it was permissible to eat the forbidden animal fat. The phrase “for
every one that has erred or was in ignorance” is understood to imply
that the requirement of bringing for such an error of the court depends
on people actually committing the sin in error.
So Rav Ashi, who said that they offered millu’im in the days of Ezra,
did not mean that it was for purification of the altar as Nachmanides

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had said, for it had been previously purified. And thus we have no proof
from the Talmud that the dedication of the altar was a commandment
for all generations. In addition, I think that what Rav Ashi said that
they offered millu’im sacrifices in the days of Ezra, he did not mean that
there was a commandment to bring the millu’im as was done in the time
of Moses. For they brought in the Gemara (Sukkah 43a) that millu’im
should be excluded, since they do not apply to future generations. He
just wanted to say that they brought these millu’im because of a divine
revelation [at the time]. So did Maimonides write in Hilchot Ma’aseh
Hakorbanot (2:15), for the opinion of the sages is that everything done
on the eighth day of the millu’im was only for that occasion. For they
said in chapter “Kol Hamenachot” (Menachot 59a), concerning the meal
offering of the eighth day, that one does not derive a law regarding a
onetime commandment from a permanent commandment. In this com-
mandment, one could not maintain that this refers to the amount of
the sacrifice [being not comparable] but to the meal offering altogether.
The same applies to all the sacrifices that were required for that day, i.e.,
they were not meant to be required for future times. If they were in fact
offered in the days of Ezra, in accordance with Rav Ashi, then it was
on account of a specific revelation [at that time] and not as a require-
ment of the Torah. And in chapter “Eizehu M’koman” (Zevachim 56a),
concerning the verse (Lev. 8:31) “Boil the flesh at the door of the tent of
meeting,” [they stated that the proper place of eating sacrifices generally
cannot be derived from this instance of a millu’im offering, since] one-
time offerings are different. And in chapter “T’vul Yom” (Zevachim 101a)
regarding the New Moon goat offering that was burnt (Lev. 10:16), it is
likewise [that they say that this verse regarding a millu’im sacrifice deals
with a onetime offering and is not applicable to permanent offerings].
In fact, Rashi explains in his commentary on Ezekiel (43:10 and
43:18) that the millu’im offered in the time of Ezra is identical with
the bull with which the altar was purified in the time of Moses (Exod.
29:12). This bull was the same that was sacrificed in the time of Ezra on
the New Moon (Ezek. 45:18). However, it seems [to Duran] from the
simple reading of the verses that the altar had been purified for seven
days preceding the New Moon. But Rashi wrote that this bull mentioned
on the New Moon is the same as that mentioned in the section of “tell-
ing about the Temple” (Ezek. 43:10 ff). And that which is written, “On
the seventh day of the month” (Ezek. 45:20), Rashi explains as meaning

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seven consecutive days, as mentioned in the “telling of the Temple” sec-

tion (Ezek. 45:25).
This is not according to the opinion of the sages. And according to
Rashi’s interpretation, how can he say that the verse, “And so shall you
do” (Ezek. 45:20), means that the bull should be offered as a sin offer-
ing for seven days, since (in the text of chapter 45), it was only on the
first day that there was a bull for a sin offering, as it is written in the
section of “telling about the Temple” [i.e., on the succeeding days the
sin offering was a goat, not a bull, see 45:25]. But the way Rashi explains
the Gemara (Menachot 45a) is in keeping with the opinion of the sages.
Rashi also explains in his commentary on Ezekiel that the goat that was
to be offered was according to a specific revelation at that time. From
the words of the rabbis, it seems that everything written in the book of
Ezekiel happened in the time of Ezra. However, the commentators were
doubtful about this, in that it might apply to the distant future.
Nachmanides also claims that this [that the millu’im apply for all
time] is made plausible by the verse (Lev. 7:37) “This is the law (torah)
of the burnt-offering, of the meal-offering, and of the sin-offering, and
of the guilt-offering, and of the consecration-offering (millu’im), and the
sacrifice of the peace-offerings.” [Nachmanides’s reasoning is that this
otherwise redundant summary verse implies that all of the sacrifices
here are of the same character, i.e., applicable for all time; and they are
all considered “law, i.e., torah”]. I, however, do not agree that this is the
opinion of the rabbis, for they interpreted this entire verse, which they
considered redundant, in chapter “Dam Chatat” (Zevachim 97b) and in
chapter “Hatodah” (Menachot 82b). [They take the juxtaposition of the
various sacrifices recapitulated here to mean that certain laws spelled
out for a particular sacrifice apply as well to the others, as follows.] They
said that just as the burnt offering requires the use of an instrument [a
knife], so do all of them require the use of such an instrument. Just as
the meal offerings may be eaten only by male kohanim, so all of them
may be eaten only by male kohanim. Just as for the sin offering, when
a piece of it becomes mixed into the peace offering meat, it causes the
entire mixture to be treated according to the [higher] sanctity [i.e., that
of the sin offering], so it is with all mixtures [taking on the higher sanc-
tity]. Just as for the guilt offering, a fetus or placenta does not have the
sanctity of the sacrifice, this also holds for fetus and placenta in other
sacrifices. Just as for millu’im, the excess remnant of the sacrifice must

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be burnt, although if the excess is alive [this can happen if an animal is

designated for an offering and is then lost, and another animal is offered
in its place; if the original animal is then found, it is not to be offered
and is considered excess, but] it is not to be burnt, so for all sacrifices,
their excess meat is burnt, but live excess is not burnt. Just as for the
peace offering, the components render each other piggul [when one has
an intention to eat from a sacrifice after it has become invalid, it is called
piggul, and it is forbidden to eat of it from that moment on, and the
sacrifice is invalid; if one component of a sacrifice, like its meal offering,
becomes piggul, then other components, like the accompanying drink
offering, also become piggul], so generally for all sacrifices, the com-
ponents render each other piggul. So in the opinion of the sages, this
verse is needed for [the above] interpretations [and not to imply that
all of these offerings are applicable for all time]. Also, just the simple
sense of the verse does not demonstrate that the millu’im are forever,
since at that time the millu’im had not been offered, so therefore their
rules were included with those of other sacrifices that applied to future
Now, he [Nachmanides] quoted from Yoma (5b) regarding the pro-
cedure of putting on the priestly clothing [at their induction into the
priesthood], and they said there that [the need to discuss this matter
is due to the fact that] in the time of the resurrection, the milllu’im sac-
rifices will again be brought, when the kohanim will be consecrated. For
after death, their original consecration becomes invalid, and therefore
the millu’im portion applies to future generations. But this is incorrect
to include this commandment among the 248 positive precepts on ac-
count of what will be renewed at the resurrection. This is also refuted by
what is said in (Sukkah 43a) that millu’im does not apply to all genera-
tions. Also, it is refuted by the source quoted by Nachmanides from the
Jerusalem Talmud (Shevi’it 1:1), which speaks of the sections concern-
ing the millu’im and the generation of the flood, which could be omitted,
since they will never happen again [thus the millu’im are here identified
as a commandment not applicable to future generations]. As far as the
renewed lives at the resurrection is concerned, the Torah will be given
anew for them, and commandments that are not applicable now should
not be part of the enumeration, even if they will become applicable at
that time [of resurrection].
There is something to investigate about this, namely, what is taught

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in the Mishnah in chapter “Hatodah” (Menachot 7:2) that with the

millu’im ram, they brought cakes like the unleavened cakes specified for
the thank offering, while the Nazir offering had twice as many cakes.
From this quotation, it looks like the millu’im offering was considered as
a commandment for all generations. Rashi (Menachot 78b) takes care
[to avoid this conclusion] by saying that this refers to the millu’im in
the time of Moses. But there is still a big problem about this, for in this
same chapter, the Mishnah says (7:3) that [just as when one slaughters
a thank offering for another purpose, the bread does not become holy],
so it is with the millu’im ram and the two lambs offered on Shavuot that
if they were slaughtered for another purpose, their bread does not be-
come holy. Now the question is raised in the Gemara (ibid., 79a) why
the teacher of the Mishnah does not mention the case of the Nazir ram,
which is commonplace, and does mention the case of the millu’im ram.
The answer is given that the teacher gave preference [to the case of
the millu’im ram], since it is the original instance [of a bread offering].
Now from this language, it looks like it (millu’im) is for all generations,
although not common like the ram of a Nazir. For if it were not at all ap-
plicable to the future at all, they should have said, “Why does the teacher
neglect the ram of a Nazir, which applies to all generations and speaks
instead about the millu’im ram, which was only for one time and then
was whatever it was.” That is how it should have read. And Rashi com-
mented there [on the Gemara’s answer] that it (millu’im) is the initial
offering for all offerings. It would seem from his words that this would
be a permanent commandment, whenever there would be [a new] be-
ginning of sacrifices, that there should be a millu’im ram. But we have
not found either for Solomon’s inaugural [of the first temple] or for the
second temple that they brought such a milllu’im ram, which was in the
form of a peace offering and which needed an accompanying bread of-
fering. Also, such a thing is not mentioned in the words of Ezekiel. Also,
we would have to harmonize this [the inference from Rashi that millu’im
applies to all generations] with what is stated in Sukkah that millu’im
does not apply to future generations. Now I found in Zevachim, chapter
1 (9b) that if one slaughtered a regular sin offering but designated it
for a millu’im sin offering, it is invalid. The question is raised why this
statement was not made about (designating as) a Nazir sin offering or a
leper’s sin offering. [The answer is given that the example of a millu’im
sin offering was chosen, since] it was the original instance of a sin of-

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fering. This shows that the sin offering of Nachshon and the millu’im
ram are alike, and [in both cases] the Talmud does not mention [the
objection] that the original instance of the offering was cited [which ac-
cording to the inference from Rashi would mean that it applied in the
future for a new resumption of the sacrificial service]. However this may
be resolved, it does not rectify the words of Halachot Gedolot at all, since
this (millu’im) ram is not a dedication for the altar [it is rather a dedica-
tion for the kohanim], and Nachmanides who is defending him [Halachot
Gedolot] did not alert himself to defend him [on this point].

51. Peace-offerings and meal-offerings, and burnt-offerings and

[other] offerings;
And three gifts specified for the holidays.
I have already explained (Stanza 45) how the rituals of the temple
should be enumerated, that they are five commandments, and here are
given the individual rituals.
Gifts (manot) indicates meal offerings.
Burnt offerings and [other] offerings are the other sacrifices,
like sin offerings and guilt offerings. The commentator on the Azharot
included here two other commandments. One is that every animal
sacrifice should be without blemish, and no one disputes this. But in
chapter “Oto V’et B’no” (Chullin 80b), it is said, “Leave out the case of
an animal that is not old enough (to be valid for sacrifice), for Scripture
attaches it to a positive statement (which makes it not comparable to
another commandment under consideration).” This is of the nature of a
prohibition derived from a positive statement. For it states there in the
Gemara that the verse (Lev. 22:27) “From the eighth day and thereafter
it is acceptable,” which implies that before that it is prohibited, and a
prohibition derived from a positive statement is counted as a positive
commandment. Another wording there states that “it is an attachment
to the positive statement,” but it all amounts to the same thing, that
during the first seven days, when it is not old enough, there is a prohibi-
tion of the nature of a positive commandment.
Now, I wonder why they did not count [as a prohibition derived from
a positive statement] the designation of an unblemished animal for
maintenance of the temple, for this transgresses a positive command-
ment. In the first chapter of Temurah (7b), they derive this from the
verse (Lev. 22:23) “You may present as a freewill offering that with an

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extended or contracted limb,” which implies that blemished animals

may be offered for maintenance of the temple, but not blemishless ani-
mals; and a prohibition derived from a positive statement is considered
a positive commandment. And in chapter “Yesh B’kodshei Mizbeach”
(Temurah 33b), it is stated that if one designated an unblemished ani-
mal for the temple maintenance and redeemed it, that animal does not
leave the status of being bound to the sacrificial altar. Now, I need to
examine and analyze this statement.48
Also, I wonder why one should not enumerate the commandment
regarding leaving fats of sacrifices on the floor for a whole night [rather
than burning them on the altar]. This is stated in the form of a posi-
tive commandment [implying a prohibition] aside from the explicit
negative commandment, as mentioned in the first chapter of Chagiga
(10b). There is also a commandment to offer blemishless animals for [a
sacrifice on] the altar, for in the Sifre, they stated that the verse (Lev.
22:21) “It shall be perfect to be accepted” is a positive commandment.
Also, Nachmanides adds a commandment here that all animals that
may be sacrificed are from the cattle, sheep, and goats. And in Tractate
Zevachim (34a), it is stated that if one offers the limbs of a wild animal as
a sacrifice, according to Rabbi Yochanan, he transgresses a positive com-
mandment. For when Scripture states “cattle,” it means to exclude a wild
animal, and a prohibition derived from a positive commandment is con-
sidered equivalent to a positive statement. Resh Lakish disagrees with
him [Rabbi Yochanan], but his words are refuted, and Rabbi Yochanan’s
opinion was upheld. This is what Nachmanides wrote; but he need not
have gone so far, since even Resh Lakish agrees that if one offers up the
limbs of an impure animal, [it is forbidden since Scripture specifies] a
pure animal, which implies no impure animal, and a prohibition derived
from a positive statement is considered as a positive commandment.
Maimonides wrote this commandment in his Yad Hachazakah (Issurei
Mizbe’ach 5:6), although he did not make of this an enumerated specific
And three gifts specified for the holidays. I have explained previ-
ously (Stanza 28) that these are [the burnt offerings of] appearing [at
the temple on the festival] the [peace offering of] rejoicing and the festi-

48 The problem presented by this citation and its relevance in our context is not evident, but it is
discussed in Perlow’s work on Sa’adya Gaon’s enumeration.

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val offering. Above (Stanza 28) two [the festival and rejoicing offerings]
are listed, and below (Stanza 55), the third one is listed, “To appear and
go up.”

52. To lead the omer, and the Sabbath lamp shall shine,
And the section of hakhel, and judges and officials.
The commandment of waving the omer sheaf is enumerated, and it is
mentioned in the verse (Lev. 2:14) “And if you bring a meal offering of
first fruits.” It is said in Menachot (72a) that harvesting the omer over-
rides the Sabbath, since it is a commandment. It is also written (Exod.
34:21), “At plowing and harvesting you shall cease from labor” [where
harvesting here refers to optional harvesting], since just as plowing is
an optional act, so harvesting [here] is optional, which excludes har-
vesting the omer, which is an obligation [and thus is not precluded by
Sabbath resting]. Nevertheless, we do not count separately harvesting
the omer as one commandment and waving it as another, as is known
from the principles (No. 10), for it is the final goal that is counted, not
the preparations leading to it.
To lead (l’nahel) means waving it, and this constitutes the command-
The Sabbath lamp shall shine is not to be enumerated according to
Maimonides, since it is a rabbinic law to make the house peaceful.
And the section of hakhel (assemble). It is a positive commandment
to assemble on the holiday of Sukkot following the shemitta [year of
release], as it is said (Deut. 31:12), “Gather the people.” And in the first
chapter of Kiddushin (34a), they said that, although hakhel is a time-
dependent positive commandment, women are bound by it; so it is clear
that this is a commandment that is enumerated.
And judges and officials means appointing the Sanhedrin; this be-
ing a commandment applicable to all generations, as they said (Vayikra
Rabba 2:2) concerning the verse (Num. 11:16) “Gather for me seventy
men,” that whenever the word li (for Me or to Me) is used, it is a perma-
nent institution, as in Exodus (40:15), “They shall minister to Me, etc.”
It also is stated (Deut. 16:18), “You shall appoint judges and officials in
all your gates.” It is also a positive commandment to obey them, as it
says (Deut. 17:10), “And you shall act according to the decision that they
give you, etc.”
Now Maimonides included in his enumeration that one must follow

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the opinion of the majority, and he cites as proof their statement (Bava
Batra 23b) that majority rule is from the Torah. If Maimonides had not
said this, I would have said that this is one detail of the rules of judges
that comprise judging rightly, and the rightful thing is to follow the
majority decision. The fact that they say that the majority rule is from
the Torah is indeed so, but this does not mean that it must be separately
enumerated. For it is stated in the first chapter of Sukkah (6a) that the
laws of intervening objects, which prevent proper rinsing, are from the
Torah. It also says in chapter “Hamadir” (Ketubot 72a) that the prohibi-
tion against a woman leaving her hair unbound is from the Torah. Still
these laws are not enumerated.
And in Nazir, chapter “Sheloshah Minnin” (42a), in connection with
what is said that if a recovered “leper” would shave but neglect to shave
two hairs, his shaving is invalid, as it is said (Lev. 14:9), “All his hair,”
they stated that this implies that the majority being tantamount to the
entirety is a Torah law. This means that, since the Torah had to specify
“all his hair” in order to say that one must not neglect even two hairs, it
follows that if not for that [verse], we would have said that the majority
is equivalent to the entirety [according to Torah law]. Nevertheless, it
would not have been considered an enumerated commandment, even
though they said that it is a Torah law. Similarly, when they said that the
law of majority [opinion being decisive] is a Torah law, it does not imply
that it should be included among the enumerated commandments.

53. To investigate quarrels, capital cases and monetary cases,

And the laws of the four main types of damage, about which
one must be heedful.
To investigate quarrels. It is a positive commandment to investi-
gate witnesses, as it is said (Deut. 13:15), “You shall investigate and in-
quire and interrogate thoroughly.” Also, the witnesses themselves must
testify in court, and this is a positive enumerated commandment, as it
is said (Lev. 5:1), “He being a witness,” [which implies] that he must be
a witness in a way that justice will be fulfilled by his testimony.49 And in
chapter “Shevuat Ha’edut” (Shevuot 30a), they interpret the verse (Deut.
19:17) “The two persons engaged in the dispute shall stand before the

49 Considering Lev. 5:1 as equivalent to a positive commandment to give testimony is not obvious.
This difficulty is discussed by Radbaz on Mishneh Torah, Hilchot Edut 1:1.

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Lord” as applying to the two witnesses. They further say there (30b) that
a scholar is not required to testify while standing, even though [gener-
ally] it is a positive commandment to testify while standing, because
there is a positive commandment [to testify standing], and another
positive commandment [to honor a scholar], and the honor toward the
Torah takes precedence. [The phrasing in this last citation suggests that
testifying is a positive commandment].
Capital cases and monetary cases. He includes here both capital
and monetary matters, the word ma’aravot meaning monetary matters,
as in the verse (Ezek. 27:23) “With the multitude of your riches and your
merchandise (ma’aravecha).” There are herein a number of laws enumer-
ated as separate commandments. One must administer whipping to the
guilty person, as it is said (Deut. 25:2), “The magistrate shall have him
lie down and be given lashes in his presence.” One must put the guilty
person to death when required, and Maimonides considered this as
four separate commandments, stoning, burning, slaying by sword, and
strangulation. He cites a proof (fourteenth principle) from the terminol-
ogy in Sanhedrin (49b, 52a), “The commandment regarding those to be
executed by burning” and “the commandment regarding those to be ex-
ecuted by stoning.” But this is no proof, for they are just describing the
manner of performing the commandment, and this does not imply that
each is a separate commandment. Maimonides himself wrote (Positive
Commandment 171) that it is not right to separately count numbering
days [of the Omer] and counting the weeks, even though it is stated
(Menachot 66a) that it is a commandment to count the days, and it
is a commandment to count the weeks. And Maimonides said [about
that] that regarding any part of a commandment having many parts, it
is a commandment to perform that part [although it is not a separate
commandment]. So why does Maimonides not say the same thing here?
Nevertheless [although there is no proof to number the various death
penalties separately], it is proof to contradict the words of the Gaon,
who does not list this commandment [altogether].
Nachmanides also agrees to number them as a commandment [col-
lectively]. He cites as proof what is said in Yevamot (7a) that [one might
think that] execution should supersede [resting on] the Sabbath by
arguing from minor to major [i.e., execution by the court is a positive
commandment, which supersedes the prohibition requiring resting on
the Sabbath. The quotation from the Gemara given here is confused].

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The opinion of Nachmanides is that all executions are combined into

a single commandment, from the verse (Deut. 17:7) “You shall remove
evil from your midst.” He cites as proof the statement in the last chapter
of Chullin (140a) that if a bird killed a person, it must be brought to the
court to fulfill the verse (Deut. 13:6 and several other places) “And you
shall remove the evil from your midst.” And Nachmanides said that this
does not mean that it is not [just] this bird [in particular] is condemned
to death by “and you shall remove the evil from your midst” as well as
by “the ox shall surely be stoned (Exod. 21:28)” [but all types of death
penalty are covered by that verse]. There is another case in Sanhedrin,
chapter “Elu Hen Hanisraphin” (78a), that a terefah [one whose disease
or injury will cause his death soon] who has committed an unnatural
sex act [although not punishable by death by normal judicial procedure]
is subject to capital punishment if [he committed the deed] in the pres-
ence of the court, on the basis of the verse, “And you shall remove the
evil from your midst.” And [again here] it is not [just] the person who did
this sexual act who is covered by the verse, “And you shall remove . . .”
but all who are subject to the death penalty are included in the verse,
“And you shall remove the evil from your midst.” The fact that some are
executed by stoning, some by burning, some by the sword, and some by
strangulation is a detail of the commandment.
Along with this, there is one [other] commandment, i.e., to exile
the [unintentional] murderer. Also to be enumerated is the command-
ment to hang [the body of the executed murderer] on a tree, when he
is subject to hanging. Nachmanides (Additional Commandment 13)
added the commandment that the blood-avenging kinsman must slay
the murderer, and if he [the murder victim] has no kinsman, the court
appoints another person selected by them to pursue the murderer and
kill him. This is from the statement (Num. 35:19) “The blood-avenging
kinsman shall slay the murderer.” And in the sixth chapter of Sanhedrin
(45b), they stated that the verse, “The blood-avenging kinsman shall
slay the murderer,” means that this is a commandment incumbent upon
the blood-avenging kinsman. And from where is it derived that if there
is no blood-avenging kinsman then the court appoints an avenger? It is
from the verse (Num. 35:21) “Upon encountering him” [these otherwise
superfluous words implying] whatever the origin [of the blood-avenger]
may be. And [Nachmanides continues] there is a commentator [Rashi
on Sanhedrin 45b] who applies this to an unintentional murderer

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who went outside his city of refuge. But according to this, it would not
constitute a commandment, since this case is disputed by Rabbi Yose
and Rabbi Akiva; Rabbi Yose saying that it is a commandment for the
blood-avenging kinsman [to kill the escapee] and permissible for any
other person, whereas Rabbi Akiva says that it is permissible for the
blood-avenging kinsman, and any other person [although not given
permission to kill the escapee] does not incur any punishment thereby;
and the law was decided according to Rabbi Akiva. And [in continua-
tion] Nachmanides wrote that this is how Maimonides reasoned [that
it involves the unintentional murderer who ventured outside his city
of refuge], and on account of this [and in agreement with Rabbi Akiva
who says that it is in no way a commandment to kill him], Maimonides
does not enumerate it. However, Nachmanides continues this assump-
tion is incorrect, for this verse, “the blood-avenging kinsman shall slay
the murderer,” actually applies to an intentional murderer, and the
argument of Rabbi Akiva and Rabbi Yose is about an unintentional mur-
derer. Therefore, what the rabbis derived from this verse is the law, and
there is no difference of opinion [and consequently it is appropriate to
consider this verse as a positive commandment, as Nachmanides said,
and this concludes the presentation of Nachmanides’s discussion in his
additional commandment No. 13].
But I would say [unlike Nachmanides] that Maimonides did not
include this commandment [not because he thought that our verse is
dealing with the case of an unintentional murderer, but] because it is
included in the commandment of those who are executed by the sword.
Also, according to Nachmanides’s opinion [who does not enumerate
a commandment for execution by sword], one should not introduce
this [the law of the blood-avenger] into the enumeration, since it also
is included in the commandment “and you shall remove the evil.” Now
Maimonides, in his Mishneh Torah, recorded this obligation [of the
blood avenger] in the beginning of Hilchot Rotze’ach (1:2), even though
he [Nachmanides] suspected him about this [i.e., he here theorized that
Maimonides held that this verse referred to an unintentional murderer],
while the [actual] reason why he does not enumerate it is [not because
there is no obligation, but] because it is included under the command-
ment of those to be executed by the sword, and the blood avenger is the
agent of the court in this case, just as are the witnesses in other capital
cases. And I am astounded by Nachmanides concerning this.

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Now, regarding the total number of ma’aravot, i.e., civil laws, I have
previously written (Stanza 15) that Nachmanides wrote (principle 14)
that it seemed right to him to include all of them in a single command-
ment, but I observed that he desired to count each particular part.
Maimonides listed them as follows: the first is to carry out the law of
an unpaid guardian; the second is the law of a paid guardian or renter;
the third is the law of the borrower, for the sages said that there are
four guardians, but three regulations [since the same regulation applies
to both the paid guardian and a renter]. The fourth law is about buying
and selling. The fifth law is about claims. And the sixth law is about
And the laws of the four main types of damage. These are
(Maimonides’s nos. 237, 238, 240, 241) four enumerated command-
ments: the case of the ox, the case of a pit, the case of a fire, and the case
of a crop-destroying beast. In the language of the Mishnah (Bava Kamma
1:1), “There are four main types of damage.” [Actually avot (main types)]
is masculine gender, but the poet treated it as feminine [by using the
feminine adjective arba], and this is not correct. But all these money-
related commandments, which add up to ten, in my view, are just one
commandment, which is to judge righteously, and the righteousness for
us is exactly what the Torah proclaims.

54. Defining and calculating the months of the year;

And the dues for the priesthood, which are twenty four.
This is the commandment of determining the New Moon, as it is
said (Exod. 12:2), “This month for you is the first of months.” Now this
commandment depends on a court of mumchin [experts having the
original semichah ordination] who would sanctify the New Moon [i.e.,
officially declare the first day of the new month] by observation, giving
the months a specific length (ketzev), either twenty-nine or thirty days,
as is mentioned in Rosh Hashanah (24a) and in Sanhedrin (11a) and
in Arachin (9a). But nowadays, since we have no experts ordained [in
the chain extending] till Moses our Master, we depend for the deter-
mination of the extra time length, whether that involved in declaring
the New Moon [thirty v. twenty-nine days], or that involved in the leap
year [intercalating an extra month in certain years], on the calculation
of Rabbi Hillel, son of Rabbi Judah Nesiah, the son of Rabbi Gamliel,
the son of Rabbi Judah Hanasi, i.e., our holy rabbi [a common designa-

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tion of Rabbi Judah Hanasi]. He [Rabbi Judah Nesiah] lived in the time
of Abbaye and Rava, and when he saw that [the chain of] semicha was
becoming extinct, and on account of the extinction of the semichah the
holidays might become extinct, as indeed the laws of fines had become
extinct [since these laws were also dependent on ordained sages], he
instituted this calculation, which we utilize in the Diaspora until Elijah
will come, when we will return to our determination [of months and
leap years] by observation.
And the dues for the priesthood, which are twenty four. These
are listed in Chullin, chapter “Haz’ro’a” (133b) and in chapter “Hagozel
Etzim” (Bava Kamma 110b). Ten of these [are permitted to be eaten
only] in the temple; ten of them within all the land of Israel; and four
only within Jerusalem. The ten [edible] in the temple are the sin offer-
ing, the fowl sin offering, the guilt offering for definite sins, the guilt
offering for possibly wrongful acts, the communal peace offering, the
log of oil with the “leper’s” offering, the excess for the omer offering,
the two loaves [on Shavuot], the showbread, and the remainder of meal
offerings. The ten [edible] in the whole land of Israel are terumah, the
Kohen’s portion of the Levites’ tithe, the challah portion, the redemp-
tion money of the firstborn son, the [lamb used as redemption for] a
firstborn donkey, the first of the wool shearing, the shoulders, cheeks,
and stomach portions of sacrifices, the [unredeemed dedicated] field
of one’s holding [which after the Jubilee is distributed to the kohanim],
a field contributed as a herem, and the restitution for robbing a con-
vert [who died without heirs]. The four in Jerusalem are the firstborn
animals, the first fruits, the kohen’s portion from thank offerings, from
peace offerings, and from the ram of a “leper,” and the skin of holy
Now Maimonides counts as a commandment to eat the leftover por-
tions of the meal offerings from the language of the Sifre (Tzav 30:9)
that the verse (Lev. 6:9) “And that which is left thereof shall Aaron
and his sons eat; it shall be eaten without leaven” constitutes a com-
mandment. [Maimonides explains further in Positive Commandment
88 that] a similar case is “her husband’s brother shall go in unto her”
(Deut. 25:5), which is a commandment; and as the levirate marriage is
a commandment, so should we include this eating in the enumeration.
He also counted (Positive Commandment No. 89) the commandment
for the kohen to eat the consecrated offerings. For they said in the Sifra

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(Shemini 54:4) that we derive that the [the kohen] eating consecrated
offerings provides atonement for the Israelite from the verse (Lev.
10:17) “And He has given it to you to bear the iniquity of the congrega-
tion, to make atonement.” “How is this?” [the Sifra asks, and it replies]
that when the kohanim have eaten, the owners [of the sacrifice] receive
atonement. They also said there (Sifrei Korach 14) that the verse (Num.
18:7) “I make your priesthood as a service of gift” implies that eating
consecrated offerings in the whole [land of] Israel should be similar
to the temple service in the sanctuary; just as one cleans one’s hands
before one performs the temple service in the sanctuary; so for eating
consecrated offerings in the whole of Israel, first one cleans one’s hands
and then he eats.50
Now, I have another commandment here, which is that when meat
from a sin offering is intermingled with ordinary meat or peace offering
meat [whose regulations are less restrictive], the latter is treated with
its greater sanctity [that of the sin offering]. I derive this from the say-
ing in chapter “Dam Chatat” (Zevachim 97b), which understands the
verse (Lev. 6:20) “Whatever touches its flesh shall be holy” as meaning
that it becomes like it [the sin offering meat], such that if it [the sin
offering] is invalid, it [the other intermingled meat] is also invalid. The
question is raised there as to why this is so [in a case where the mixed-in
meat is, say, from a peace offering, which in itself is valid, but the sin
offering is invalid, why does the mixing make the peace offering meat
invalid?], since the positive commandment [of eating the peace offer-
ing] should supersede the prohibition [against eating sacrificial meat].
The discussion concludes with Rav Ashi saying that the [prohibition
also involves] the positive commandment of “shall be holy” (Lev. 6:20),
and the positive commandment of [eating the peace offering] does not
override a positive commandment with a negative commandment [thus
showing that the expression “shall be holy” is construed as a positive
commandment]. So I wonder why they [previous scholars] did not take
note of this, and it needs investigation.
Now, Nachmanides added (Additional Commandment No. 2) re-
garding eating impure terumah, such that if one eats impure terumah,
he transgresses a positive commandment. He brings proof from what
is stated in Gemara, chapter “He’arel” (73b) that in the case of second

50 I do not see the relevance of the last quotation.

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tithe and first fruits, if one eats these when they are impure, he incurs
whipping; however, in the case of impure terumah, he is not whipped,
although this is prohibited. From where does it [this prohibition]
come? [The Gemara answers] that it is from the verse (Deut. 15:22) “In
your gates you shall eat it, etc.” [i.e., meat of a firstborn animal may be
eaten without regard to impurity, but this rule applies only] to it [i.e.,
firstborn meat] but not to another case [i.e., terumah]. And a prohibi-
tion derived from a positive statement has the force of a positive com-
mandment. Likewise, they brought this derivation in the Yeushalmi,
Tractate Bikkurim, chapter 2 (Halachah 2). Also, I found another proof
from what is stated in chapter “Kol Habasar” (Chullin 113b) that an
impure kohen who ate impure terumah does not incur the punishment
of [divinely ordained] death [as he would if he had eaten pure terumah].
They explain there the prohibition [of a kohen eating terumah] while his
body is impure is not applicable in addition to the prohibition of eating
terumah, which is itself impure, the prohibition being this positive com-
mandment (Deut. 15:22 mentioned above]; and thus did Rashi explain
[the Gemara] there.
It appears that eating pure terumah is a commandment, just as eat-
ing second tithe is. For it is taught in Torat Kohanim in the Parshah of
Acharei Mot (Sifra 72:3, which discusses the characteristics of various
classes of food that might affect the likelihood of their inclusion in the
prohibition of eating on Yom Kippur), “I would include ordinary food,
since there is not a commandment to eat it, but exclude terumah and
Second Tithe which we are commanded to eat.” This is quoted in the
Gemara in the last chapter of Yoma (74b). That is what I think. It is also
taught in the Sifrre [actually Yalkut Shimoni Korach 754] that it was
told about Rabbi Tarfon [who was a kohen] that when he ate terumah in
the morning, he would say, “I have offered the morning daily sacrifice”;
and when he ate it in the evening, he would say, “I have offered the
daily evening sacrifice.” And in Pesachim, chapter “Elu Devarim” (72b),
they ask where terumah is referred to as divine service. [They reply]
that it is taught that when Rabbi Tarfon once failed to come to the
house of study on the previous day, Rabban Gamliel asked him in the
morning why he had not come to the house of study. He replied, “I
was doing the temple service.” He said, “Your words are perplexing; is
there any temple service nowadays?” He [Rabbi Tarfon] then cited the
verse (Num. 18:7) “I give you the priesthood a service of gift, and an

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outsider who encroaches shall be put to death” as implying that eating

terumah [even] in the territories [outside of Jerusalem] is equated to
the temple service [from the expression a “service of gift,” that the gift
of terumah to the kohen is considered as a service]. Maimonides did not
neglect this commandment but included it with eating sacrificial meat
(Positive Commandment No. 89). Nevertheless, one would plausibly
make a separate commandment here [regarding terumah], which is a
prohibition derived from a positive statement [which has the force of
a positive commandment]. This is stated in chapter “Almanah L’kohen
Gadol” (Yevamot 68a) concerning the daughter of a kohen who had
been married to an Israelite and then (Lev. 22:13) “returns to her fa-
ther’s house as in her youth, she may eat of her father’s bread.” [Implied
is that] before this [while married to the non-kohen] she may not eat
[terumah], and a prohibition derived from a positive commandment
has the character of a positive commandment.
Now, with regard to all of the gifts due to the kohen, Maimonides
wrote in his twelfth principle that one of the earlier scholars had erred
by enumerating the twenty-four priestly commandments as twenty-
four distinct commandments, after having counted several of the com-
mandments of which these portions are a part. Examples are the skin
of the burnt offering and the breast and shoulder [of peace offerings].
On this account, he [Maimonides] counts the removal [of the priestly
portions, e.g., terumah] as the commandment rather than giving it [to
the kohen].
But Nachmanides thinks that one should make a distinction in this
matter that there are portions where the separation is a command-
ment, and the giving is a commandment. The reasoning according to
his opinion is that there are instances of the tevel type, i.e., that it is
forbidden to eat the produce until the priestly portions are removed;
and in such instances, we should count the separation as a command-
ment and the giving as a [separate] commandment. An example of this
is challah, since all of the dough is forbidden until challah is separated
from it; and there is also a commandment in the separation, as it is said
(Num. 15:20), “You shall set apart a cake for a gift.” Whether this is
given to the kohen or burned up, this commandment has been fulfilled,
and the dough becomes permissible for food. Therefore, a second com-
mandment enters into giving it to the kohen, and we should not rob it
from the kohen, as it is said (Num. 15:21), “Of the first of your dough

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you shall give unto the Lord a gift portion.”* *The following several
paragraphs continue
A similar case [continues Duran] is that of to paraphrase
terumah, as it is said in the Sifre in Sh’lach 24 [con- Nachmanides on
principle 12, with
cerning the verses], “You shall set aside a gift por- occasional insertions
tion (terumah) unto the Lord” (Num. 15:19), and by Duran.
“Of the first of your dough you shall set apart a cake
(challah) as a gift offering (terumah)” (ibid., v. 20). [The question is raised
whether in the first] verse “terumah” refers to the “great terumah” [which
is separated from the crops, and which is also known simply as terumah],
or does it refer to the terumah [gift portion] of challah. [The reply is that]
when Scripture says (v. 20), “You shall set apart a cake (challah) as a gift
offering,” the gift portion of challah has already been stated, and the
verse (19) “You shall separate a gift offering to the Lord” is used to refer
to the “great terumah.” This was the opinion of Rabbi Yoshiah. Rabbi
Yonatan said that the verse (Deut. 18:4) “The first of your grain, wine,
and oil (i.e., terumah) is a duty.” How does one know that it is a duty and
not just a permissive statement? It is from the verse, “You shall separate
a gift offering to the Lord,” which expresses duty, not permission.51
Since the setting aside of terumah constitutes a commandment, one
must recite a blessing upon its separation, as explained in Terumot (1:1)
and in the Tosefta Berachot (6:19). If the commandment was only in
the giving and not in its separation, there would be no blessing for the
separation, since they said (Menachot 42b) that one does not recite a
benediction for something whose performance does not constitute the
completion of that commandment. Also, kohanim separate terumah,
reciting a blessing for that, although it is for their own use, as stated
in the first chapter of Bechorot and in chapter “Yesh Bechor,” and so
did Rashi write there52. And in the case of impure challah, a blessing is
recited upon separating it, even though it is not given to the kohanim, as
is explained in the Gemara Bechorot (27a). So [in summary] the separa-
tion of terumah is a commandment, and giving it is another command-
ment from the verse (Deut. 18:4) “You shall give to him.” Likewise, the

51 The words attributed to Rabbi Yonatan are not readily understood, since the simple sense of
Deut. 18:4 is that this is definitely a duty. Also, there are textual variants of this quotation from
Sifre. In any event, Nachmanides sees from the Sifre that the setting aside of terumah is in itself a
52 These references are not found in Nachmanides, but were added by Duran and are questionable;
see note by Perlow on Zohar Harakia.

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separation or challah is from the verse (Num. 15:19) “You shall set aside
a gift portion to the Lord,” and giving it is a [separate] commandment
from the verse (Num. 15:2) “Of the first of your dough you shall give
unto the Lord a gift portion.”
Likewise, in the case of first tithe, we should count setting it aside as
a commandment from the verse (Deut. 24:22) “You shall surely tithe,” as
I wrote previously (Stanza 34). And giving it [to the Levite] is [another]
commandment, i.e. (Deut. 26:12), “And you shall give it to the Levite,
the stranger, to the orphan, and the widow.” This [latter verse] includes
two commandments, giving first tithe to the Levite, and the poor tithe
[and/or second tithe] to the stranger, orphan, and widow; however, ac-
cording to what I wrote in the principles (No. 9), they are counted only
as one commandment, since they were stated in a single statement.
But for those priestly portions that do not render the produce forbid-
den, like tevel [before separation], only giving them should be counted.
Therefore, one should count the first wool shearing as one command-
ment, and the shoulders, cheeks, and stomach as another command-
ment. This is in accord with the straightforward meaning of the verse
(Deut. 18:3) “And he shall give the kohen the shoulder, the cheeks, and
the stomach” and (ibid., v. 4) “The first shearing of your sheep you shall
give to him.” One does not recite a blessing upon setting these things
apart. However, the priestly portions [of sacrifices] in the temple, like
the breast and shoulder, as I explained previously (Stanza 47), are not to
be counted [separately], since there is no commandment to give them;
but they [kohanim] have the right to these things “from the table on
high,” and they constitute parts of the performance of the sacrifices. For
it is commanded as to who should eat them and to whom they belong,
and upon this, the atonement [of the donors of the sacrifices] depends,
as it is said (Pesachim 59b) that as long as the kohanim have not eaten
the [sin offering] meat, the donor has not received atonement, as it is
written (Exod. 29:33), “And they shall eat those things by which atone-
ment was made.” Thus, these [portions] actually are [constituents of]
the sacrifice.
With this understanding, we enumerate additionally separation of the
challah portion, separation of terumah, separation of the first tithe and
also second tithe and also the poor tithe. All of the above Nachmanides
wrote. He did not, however, make it clear whether he would delete from
the enumeration the commandments of eating leftovers of meal offer-

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ings and eating sacrifices; and I have already written about this in the
stanza (No. 35, which begins) “My sacred portions.”
Nachmanides added another commandment (Additional Positive
Commandment No. 9) that we should separate terumah of good qual-
ity, not from poor quality, leaving behind the good quality; likewise for
Levites when they separate their terumah from their tithe produce. For
the Sifre states (Korach 67:29) that the verse (Num. 18:29) “Of all that
is given you, you shall set apart all that which is due unto the Lord, of all
the best thereof, that which is to be consecrated” applies to the “great
terumah” [i.e., regular terumah]. And the verse (ibid., v. 30) “And you
shall say to them: ‘When you set apart the best thereof from it’” is a
prohibition for the Levites that they should only set aside [the priestly
portion] from the best produce (Sifre Korach, 69). Nachmanides says
that this commandment is separate from the commandment of separa-
tion (of terumah), for if one sets apart bad (grain as terumah) for high
quality (remaining grain), the terumah is still valid, as stated in chapter
1 of Temurah (5a); but the person is guilty of neglecting this positive
commandment, in that he did not set aside high-quality grain. However,
with regard to the actual enumeration of the priestly portions, he agreed
with Maimonides’s enumeration, and I did not see that he mentioned
them [as separate commandments to set aside priestly portions, as well
as giving them to the kohen] among his addenda [to Maimonides’s] enu-

55. And to calculate [the supplements of] the cycles, and to light
the Chanukah lamp,
And to appear and go up with both tithes.
The Gaon counted computations of [astronomical] cycles as a com-
mandment, but Maimonides criticized him in his second principle. He
said that it was meant as a midrashic interpretation when they dis-
cussed (Sabbath 75a) the verse (Deut. 4:6) “For it is your wisdom and
understanding in the eyes of the nations.” [They asked as to] what is
the meaning of “wisdom in the eyes of the nations,” [and they replied
that] it is computation of [astronomical] cycles and planetary motions.
But this is not what the Gaon meant, for the rabbinic statement was
meant to urge those who know astronomy to make calculations in order
to be aware of coming events. This is similar to what they said (Sabbath
75a) that if one knows how to make the calculations about [astronomi-

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cal] cycles and planets, but does not do so, Scripture says of him, “They
do not look at the work of the Lord” (Isa. 5:12). Also, concerning this,
they said (Avot 3:23) that [astronomical] cycles and geometry are ancil-
lary wisdom. But the Gaon does not specify “[astronomical] cycles and
planetary motions” [he just says “cycles”], but he meant to include in
the enumeration of positive commandments the computation of cycles
regarding leap years. This is a commandment based on the verse (Deut.
16:1) “Observe the month of Abib.” It is a positive commandment, in ac-
cordance with the statement (Eruvin 96a) that “observe” (Heb. shamor)
is a positive commandment when used regarding a positive action.
Concerning this, it is stated in the Gemara Rosh Hashanah that when
one sees the Tevet period [of the solar year] extending to the sixteenth
of Nissan, it should be made into a leap year without hesitation. Now,
Maimonides included this [determination of the leap year] together
with the sanctification of the New Moon. But the Gaon made this into
two commandments [fixing the day of the New Moon and declaring a
leap year]. And Nachmanides found a proof that they are two separated
commandments from what is stated in Sifre (Ha’azinu 1) that the verse
(Deut. 32:1) “Listen, you heavens,” [means to bear witness against Israel
when] they do not obey those commandments, which are determined
by the heavens. And these are commandments given to them, which
are determined by the heavens: determining leap years and sanctifying
the New Moon, as it is said (Gen. 1:14) “And they shall be for signs and
seasons, etc.” [The Sifre continues] that the verse (Deut. 32:1) “And let
the earth hear,” [means to bear witness against Israel when] they do not
perform those commandments given to them, which are connected with
the earth. And these are the ones given to them that are connected with
the earth: the dropped sheaf, the forgotten sheaf, the edge of the field,
terumah portions, tithes, sabbatical years, and jubilee years. Therefore,
[on the basis of the Sifre citation] he counted them as two [command-
And to light the Chanukah lamp is a rabbinical commandment,
and I wrote above (first principle) about the argument about counting
And to appear and go up. This is the third commandment, which we
were commanded for the pilgrim festivals, i.e., the burnt offering of ap-
pearing (olat re’iyah), the joyful offering, and the festival offering. These
were explained above (Stanza 28).

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With both tithes, i.e., second tithe and cattle tithe; and the com-
mandment is to eat them in Jerusalem. I have already recorded these
commandments (Stanza 34).

56. To make the chomoshim pleasant, and also to be holy,

And to immerse those set apart at specified times.
To make the chomoshim pleasant. Some explain this as referring
to writing a Torah scroll, which I have recorded above (Stanza 30). The
meaning of chomoshim would be the five books of the Torah, and [the
meaning would be] that they should be written pleasantly. But the
Gaon wrote, “Returning lost articles, making restitution for robbery,
and the five additional fifth surcharges,” these five cases being found
in the Mishnah, chapter “Hazahav” (Bava Metzia 4:8). So the meaning
would be to pay these five surcharges of one fifth, as they are listed
there. The first is if [an Israelite mistakenly] ate terumah, terumah of
the Levite tithe, terumah of doubtful Levite tithe, the challah dough
portion, and first fruits [all of which are priestly portions forbidden
to a non-kohen], he must add a surcharge of a fifth [when he replaces
it]. Maimonides counts this in his enumeration of the commandments
(No. 118). The second case is that one who redeems fruits of the fourth
year [after planting] or second tithe [which must be eaten in Jerusalem;
but if it is burdensome to transport it to Jerusalem, one may redeem
them for money and, upon arrival in Jerusalem, purchase food to eat
in Jerusalem] must add a surcharge of a fifth. The third case is if one
wants to redeem [a field], which he had dedicated [as temple property],
he must add a fifth. The fourth case is when one makes [unintentional]
use of dedicated property, he must add a fifth [to his restitution]. And
that case is recorded by Maimonides together with terumah. The fifth
case is if one robs from his fellow a perutah [or more in value] and had
made an oath [denying the robbery], he adds a fifth [in restitution after
subsequently confessing his guilt]. These latter cases [of adding a fifth]
should not be separately added, since they are details and portions of
other commandments, and the totality of a commandment should be
listed, not its parts, as is known from the principles (twelfth principle).
And also to be holy. Maimonides criticized (principle 4) the Gaon
for counting (Lev. 19:2) “You shall be holy,” for he said that this is one
of the commandments encompassing the whole Torah, and these are
not eligible for enumeration. And thus they said in the Sifre (Kedoshim

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1:2) that “you shall be holy” means “you shall be separated [from sin].”
But Nachmanides defended him [Halachot Gedolot] in that he did not
mean to enumerate “you shall be holy,” but the verse (Lev. 11:44) “and
you shall sanctify yourselves.” He explained that this latter verse is not a
generalized commandment, but a particular admonition to abstain from
eating swarming and crawling things, for it is written thus (ibid.), “You
shall sanctify yourselves and not defile yourselves with every swarming
thing that crawls on the earth.” According to this, one who keeps away
from eating them fulfills a particular commandment about them, and
that is the commandment of holiness. But in his actual enumeration,
Nachmanides agreed with Maimonides.
But I think that the Gaon meant to include washing one’s hands in
the enumeration of the commandments, similar to [his enumeration
of] reading the Megillah, and [lighting] the Chanukah lamp, since we
recite upon performing] them [the benediction] “who has sanctified us
with his commandments and commanded us.” Now Maimonides raised
an objection against him [the Gaon] as to why he did not also enumer-
ate washing the hands and the [law of eruv] for which we [also] recite
such a blessing. Nachmanides defended him in that, since he [the Gaon
in Halachot Gedolot] had enumerated the law forbidding eating terumah
while impure, he did not have to count washing the hands, which is a
preventive enactment attached to the law of terumah. And he gave the
same explanation for the law of eruv, that it is included in the law of
Sabbath, so that we should not come to [the prohibited action on the
Sabbath of] carrying things from one domain to another.
Concerning the law of eruv, it is possible that his words are plausible;
but in the case of washing hands, since this [the enactment of washing]
applies to regular food, while that [law forbidding eating in a state of im-
purity] applies to terumah, I [would rather] say that the verse “and you
shall sanctify yourselves,” which he wrote, refers to washing the hands.
For it is from here that the sages interpreted that the rule of washing
before eating is from “and you shall sanctify yourselves,” while the rule
of washing after meals is from “and you shall be holy (Lev. 11:44),” [as
stated] in chapter 8 of Berachot (53b). I wrote previously that there is a
commandment for kohanim to be holy, which can be counted, and per-
haps the Gaon had this in mind.
And to immerse those set apart [as impure] at specified times. When
the impure person immerses himself at the time specified for him, i.e.,

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either on that day [when he became defiled] or on the seventh day,

whatever is specified in the Torah, he has fulfilled a commandment.
Therefore, one recites the blessing “concerning immersion.” There is an
authority in the Talmud (Niddah 30a) who says that immersion at the
proper time is a commandment; and according to his words, it is proper
to count this commandment, similar to other commandments pertinent
to this time. But according to the [other authority], who says that im-
mersion in its proper time is not a commandment, nevertheless, since
one cannot eat holy food or enter the Temple BEFORE the immersion,
this law still constitutes a commandment, and Maimonides has written
so (Commandment 109).

57. And the resting of animals, and of male slaves and female
And first fruits of the earth, and the recitation for first fruits.
And the resting of animals, and of male slaves and female
slaves; these are partial commandments included in “And the Sabbath
you shall keep,” which was already enumerated (Stanza 19).
And the first fruits of the earth is an enumerated positive com-
mandment, which is to bring first fruits to the temple, as it is said (Exod.
23:19), “The first fruits of your ground you shall bring to the house of
the Lord your God”
And the recitation for first fruits. It is a positive commandment
to tell the kindnesses that the Holy One, blessed is He, has done for us,
at the time of bringing the first fruits; as it is said (Deut. 26:5), “Then
you shall recite as follows before the Lord your God: ‘My father was a
wandering Aramean, etc.’” And one must investigate if we should count
separation of the first fruits as a commandment, just as we count separa-
tion of terumah, since Scripture terms it [i.e., first fruits] terumah, as it
is said (Deut. 12:17), “And the contribution (terumah) of your hands,”
[the Sifre explaining that ] this means the first fruits. Also it is like
terumah in that [if one wrongfully eats it], he incurs death [by the heav-
enly tribunal, if he sinned intentionally], or a surcharge of a fifth [when
replacing it, if he sinned unintentionally]. But it is possible that if he did
not separate the first fruits, the [other] fruit would not be forbidden,
and consequently we would not enumerate the separation. And it ap-
pears that one should recite a blessing upon separating them [the first
fruits]. As to [actually] giving them to the kohen, it is apparently not to

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be enumerated, for [the kohanim] have their rights [to the first fruit]
from the “divine table” [rather than from the owner], for they need to be
brought near [to the altar, hagashah].53 The correct [conclusion] is that
the separation should not also be enumerated, for there is no specific
verse regarding its separation or giving it.

58. And strengthening motnayim, and honesty of scales;

And the double portion to first-born sons.
The meaning of strengthening motnayim is very obscure; its content
is not clear to me. The commentator on the Azharot suggested some
opinions. He says that it refers to the commandment about the bar of a
balance scale and its strings [i.e., the commandment of true weights and
measures], since matna in Aramaic means a string. But this is remote
from the style of the poet. He [the commentator] also explained that
it could be related to the expression “your loins (motneichem) girded”
(Exod. 12:11), i.e., one should diligently prepare his body for the Passover
to wait expectant for the Messiah. This ideal is upheld by the Yerushalmi
(Pesachim 10:1). [This citation relates the four cups of wine to the ulti-
mate Messianic time.] But it also seems implausible that this should be
the intention of the poet. The Gaon [Halachot Gedolot] wrote the phrase
“the commandment of the body,” which is also obscure. Perhaps he is
urging people to be diligent regarding commandments, according to the
saying (Avodah Zarah 20b), “Caution leads to diligence, etc.,” which is
not at all part of the enumeration.
And honesty of scales is from the verse (Lev. 19:36) “honest scales.”
Maimonides wrote (Positive Commandment 208) that fluid measure
and dry measure and everything related to the commandment of mea-
surement is enumerated altogether as a single commandment. The Sifra
(Kedoshim 87:10) states, “On this condition did I bring you out of the
Land of Egypt, on the condition that you will accept the commandment
of [honest] measures [noting the proximity of the law of measures with
the exodus in verse 36]; for anyone who acknowledges the law of mea-
sures [note play of words between modeh (acknowledges) and middah
(measure)] acknowledges the exodus.”
And the double portion to first-born sons [as inheritance].
Maimonides wrote (Positive Commandment 248) that this should not

53 The note of Zophnat Pane’ach here says that the latter argument is completely wrong.

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be enumerated separately, but it is one of the laws of inheritance. But

Nachmanides said (Additional Commandment No. 12) that since the
firstborn has a special law in excess of the other brothers, this should be
counted separately. And if the father took away the firstborn privilege
from the firstborn son, he transgresses a positive commandment; and
he also must make known who his firstborn is and must order that he
receive his birthright. The Gaon also enumerated this [commandment].

59. And the law of two ephahs, and also two measures,
And that which comes from your lips, and the redemption of
those who are sold.
The dual plural is used in ephotayim (ephahs) and middotayim (mea-
sures) to forbid either an oversize [measure] or an undersize [measure],
that one should only have a correct measure. I have already written
(Stanza 58) that all types of measures are included in a single command-
And that which comes out from your lips. I have written previ-
ously (Stanza 38) that Nachmanides made a separate commandment of
[fulfilling] ordinary vows, while Maimonides has included this together
with holy vows. I have written this above in the clause “And fulfill your
donations and vows lest you be caught.” Now even when there is no vow,
it seems to me that there is [another] positive commandment, which is
(Exod. 23:7) “Be far from false words.” Many rabbinic interpretations
were derived from this in Tractate Shevuot (30b) in chapter “Shevuot
Ha’edut” and also in the Mechilta (Mishpatim 20:210). So how can this
not be included in the enumeration of the commandments? In addition,
how can true speech not be a commandment for us, when it was taught
in Tractate Derech Eretz (chap. 6) and in chapter 2 of Ketubot (17a) that
the School of Shammai said to the School of Hillel, “According to your
opinion should [the attendees at a wedding] say even to a lame or blind
bride ‘Oh, comely and charming bride,’ when the Torah has said ‘Be far
from false words’?” Indeed I have found some of those who enumerated
the commandments have included this in the enumeration.
This commandment is repeated in the verse (Lev. 19:36) “an honest
hin,” since they said in chapter “Hazahav” (Bava Metzia 49a), the hin is
in the same category as ephah [and is redundant]. But [by vocalizing hen,
which means “yes” instead of hin, which is a measure, the meaning can
be taken as] your saying “yes” and “no” should be honest. And Abaye

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said that this means that one should not speak one way with his mouth
when his heart is otherwise. Now Rashi explains in Ketubot (86a) that
when it is stated in chapter “Get Pashut” (Bava Batra 174a) that paying
one’s debt is a commandment, it refers to this positive commandment
(i.e., Lev. 19:36). But [various scholars] have objected to this, saying that
this positive commandment was explained as implying that one should
not speak one way, while meaning otherwise in his heart. But the ex-
plicit positive statement regarding payment of a debt is the verse (Deut.
24:11) “The man to whom you made the loan shall bring the pledge out
to you,” which is a positive commandment. This is not merely an as-
machta, since, in the Gemara, it is equated to a Torah commandment.
This is what they stated in chapter “Hakotev” (Ketubot ibid.), “According
to you [Rav Papa], who said that payment of a debt is a commandment,
what happens if [the debtor] is unwilling to do his duty?” [Rav Papa
replied] “We have learned this (Arachin 22a) [where it says that punish-
ment with thirty-nine lashes] applies [to one who has transgressed] a
prohibition, but in the case of a positive commandment, e.g., a person
refusing to build a sukkah, or refusing to take a lulav, he is whipped [until
he agrees, or] until he expires.” So I am adding two commandments, “Be
far from false words” and “the man to whom you made the loan shall
bring the pledge out to you.” And the verse “an honest hin” is included
together with “Be far from false words.”
[Going back now to fulfilling vows], the law of the Nazirite vow is
included in fulfilling vows, but there is a specific commandment that the
poet forgot, which is letting the hair of his head grow. In the Mechilta,
it states that “leaving it grow untrimmed” (Num. 6:5) is a positive com-
mandment, and this is counted by Maimonides (Positive Commandment
92). There is another specific commandment here, which is that the
Nazirite must shave his head and bring his sacrifices when he completes
his Nazirite period. Maimonides wrote that bringing the sacrifices and
shaving are a single process, which is counted as a single commandment.
This is different from the case of a metzora (“leper”), where shaving is a
commandment, and bringing his sacrifice is a separate commandment.
He gives the reason (Positive Commandment 111) that the Nazirite
may not drink wine until he both shaves and brings his sacrifices, all of
which is a single procedure to allow him to drink wine [so it is a single
commandment]. But the metzora, as soon as he shaves, is considered
pure and will not defile anything, but he has not received atonement

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until he brings his offerings. Therefore, the shaving is one matter, and
bringing offerings is a separate matter; thus, they are enumerated as
two commandments. In fact, Maimonides decided that the shaving of a
Nazirite upon defiling himself (Num. 6:9) and his shaving in purity [at
the end of his undefiled Nazirite period] are only one commandment,
since shaving upon defilement is a detail of the Nazirite vow, and one
should not count parts of a commandment as a [separate] command-
ment. He [Maimonides] also counts the two shavings of a metzora as a
single commandment.
Nachmanides (Additional Commandment No. 6) added on another
commandment, which is to hallow the [shorn] hair of a Nazirite. Thus,
it is forbidden to derive benefit from it, as it is said (Num. 6:5), “It shall
remain consecrated, the hair of his head growing untrimmed,” i.e., [the
hair] which he grew is consecrated. He cites a proof that this prohibition
is a Torah law, in that one is forbidden even with the smallest amount,
as is mentioned in the last chapter of Avodah Zarah (74a); but rabbinic
enactments do not apply to such smallest amounts, except for those
relating to idolatry, as is mentioned in the first chapter of Betzah (3b).
Perhaps Maimonides thinks that this positive commandment is part of
the commandment to let the hair grow.
But it would be plausible to add here another commandment, i.e.,
that the Nazirite keep his body holy, being careful about that which is
forbidden to him. For so it is stated in the Sifre (Naso 107:8), that the
verse (Num. 6:8) “He is consecrated” refers to the holiness of his body.
It might have meant [only] the sanctity of his hair; but the sanctity of
his hair is [already] stated in (Num. 6:5) “it shall remain consecrated,”
so when Scripture stated (ibid., 6:8), “He is consecrated to the Lord,” it
must mean holiness of his body. I am surprised that [earlier authors] did
not take note of this positive commandment.
[Regarding the general topic here of keeping promises], Maimonides
(Positive Commandment No. 95) counted the law of annulment of vows.
But Nachmanides (in his criticism of Commandment No. 96) wrote that
this is just a part of the laws of vows, i.e., that we are commanded to
keep [the promise] coming from our mouths, and we should not des-
ecrate our words, except through [annulment by] the court, the father,
or the husband.
And redemption of those who were sold. A Hebrew slave or a
Hebrew maidservant may be freed by [redemption] at his reduced

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value [the prorated value of his remaining service time], as explained

in Kiddushin (14b). And Maimonides counted (Positive Commandment
234) redemption of the Hebrew maidservant, as it is said (Exod. 21:8),
“And he shall redeem her.” They have already stated (Bechorot 13a) that
the commandment of ye’ud [the owner of a Hebrew maidservant mar-
rying her or having his son marry her] takes precedence over the com-
mandment of redeeming her; so redeeming must be counted. It appears
that the poet has included this with the redemption of a Hebrew slave
who was sold to a gentile, since the Gaon wrote thus. [This command-
ment] is evident from what is said in the first chapter of Kiddushin (21b)
that everyone agrees that [redeeming a Hebrew slave sold to a gentile]
is a duty, not merely a permission, even according to Rabbi Joshua [who
held that the statement in the Torah about redeeming a relative’s house
expresses permission, not duty].
The poet did not mention the commandment of ye’ud [marrying the
Hebrew maidservant], but Maimonides does list it (No. 233), in accord
with the expression (Bechorot 13a) “The commandment of ye’ud takes
precedence over that of redemption.” Maimonides considers the law
about the Hebrew slave with all its ramifications as a single command-
ment (No. 232) and the law of the Hebrew maidservant as two com-
mandments, i.e., ye’ud and redemption.

60. And freeing the maidservant with the sign of staining;

And the law of walled cities and village houses.
The word nichtamah (stained) is derived from ketem (a stain), in the
sense of (Jer. 2:22) “your iniquity is stained.” It is common in rabbinic
language for blood stains (Niddah 56b). Here it is adapted to the idea
of [staining as a] sign of na’arut [maturing from childhood into “ado-
lescence”], for a Hebrew maidservant is freed [at this juncture], as is
interpreted in Kiddushin (4a) from the verse (Exod. 21:11) “And she
shall go free without payment.”
And the law of walled cities and village houses. It is a command-
ment to deal with them according to the law stated in the Torah (Lev.
25:29ff) that a house in a walled city is subject to redemption only for
one year, while the village houses are forever redeemable.

61. And a man should not rule [a slave] sold for his misdeed;
At the Jubilee year or death of the master he is set free.

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There is no commandment here that is in the enumeration, but there

are detailed parts of the law of the Hebrew slave. It says that a Hebrew
slave who was sold because of stealing, this being the meaning of “for
his misdeed,” will go free at the Jubilee year or when the owner dies.
This is true, although there are other ways of becoming free, and there
are other [types of slave] other than one sold because of stealing who go
free in these ways. But the poet took this [case] for poetic purposes and
did not intend to cover all cases.
One need not insist, as the commentator on the Azharot did, to
interpret that lo yadon means “should not rule” on the basis of [yadon
meaning “judge”] that a judge exercises rule; [thus] it is not from the
expression (Gen. 6:3) “my spirit shall not contend (yadon) with man”
[where Duran sees yadon as not intrinsically meaning “rule”]. But it is
possible [says Duran] that in the expression “my spirit shall not contend
(yadon) with man,” [the verb yadon] could have a meaning like [a theo-
retical verb] yod-aleph-dalet-vav-nun [related to the noun aleph-dalet-
vav-nun, a ruler], which would be similar to what the poet intended [i.e.,
rule or exercise lordship].

62. And a Hebrew maidservant going free at the Jubilee or on

completing six years;
And hides, and a fifth, and setting apart six cities.
Here also the commentator on the Azharot gave a forced explanation.
The proper explanation is to say that the Hebrew maidservant also is set
free by the Jubilee year or after six years of service, just like the Hebrew
manservant, since Scripture equates the law of the Hebrew manservant
and maidservant by juxtaposition (Kiddushin 14b), and this is the truth.
And hides and a fifth. On this text, the commentator on the
Azharot based himself on Halachot Gedolot and other enumerations, all
of whom wrote that the hides of sacrifices are included in the twenty-
four priestly portions. This is a correct rendition of the text, for this poet
[ibn Gabirol] followed the path of the early authorities [like Halachot
Gedolot]. I have previously recorded above (Stanza 54) concerning the
words and the 24 priestly portions, what Maimonides’s opinion was, and
also Nachmanides’s opinion on this.54
And a fifth refers to the commandment for one who [wrongly, but

54 At this point, there is a slight omission in the Ziv Hazohar edition, which we correct in translation.

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unintentionally] ate terumah must add a fifth on his restitution, as it

is written (Lev. 22:14), “And he shall add a fifth of its value.” I have
previously written this concerning the content of “l’hanim chumashim”
(Stanza 56).
And setting aside six cities. It is a positive commandment to set aside
six cities [of refuge) and to prepare the road for the unintentional killer,
as it is said (Deut. 19:3), “And you shall prepare the road, etc.” There
is likewise another commandment to be enumerated here, which is to
remove the killer from his city and to lead him to one of these cities, that
he should stay there until the death of the high priest or his own death,
as is explained in the Sifre (Re’eh 75). We have recorded this previously
(Stanza 53, Commandment 142 of Duran) on the expression “investi-
gating arguments, and capital cases.” These cities belong to the Levites
along with their forty-two cities. The latter [giving cities to the Levites]
is another commandment which is enumerated.

63. And the law of the betrothed maidservant, and the mystery
of the heifer whose neck is broken;
And the paschal sacrifice which is a remedy for those who are
The verse (Lev. 19:21) concerning the betrothed maidservant is
considered a commandment only with regard to [one who violates her]
bringing a guilt offering. But this has already been included among
other sacrificial laws, so it should not be an enumerated commandment
separately from its mention among other guilt offerings, according
to Maimonides’s opinion. But I say that it counts as a separate com-
mandment, and I will write about this later (Stanza 66). Now the sages
explained [that this law is about] a gentile slave woman who has become
half free, but she is still half slave, and she is married to a Hebrew slave,
the latter being permitted to take a gentile slave woman. So if she had
not been redeemed to any extent [and a Jewish free man had a sexual
relation with her], she would only be [considered in the category of]
an unattached woman; this relationship would not be punishable by
bringing a sacrifice, [since this relation was only forbidden] on the basis
of (Deut. 23:18) “There shall not be a sodomite,” according to Onkelos
[who translates this verse as “a Jewish man should not take a gentile
slave”]. [On the other hand] if she had been totally redeemed [from
slavery and thus achieved the status of a Jewish convert], she would be

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actually a married woman [i.e., married to the Hebrew slave], and the
misdeed would be punishable by strangulation [if the relation with the
Jewish free person were intentional], and if unintentional [it would be
punishable by bringing] a sin offering. Now, [since the actual case here is
that of a woman who is] half slave and half free, and who was married to
a Hebrew slave, who is permitted to marry a gentile slave, she is thereby,
to some extent, like a married Jewish woman. The death penalty [for
adultery] would not be applicable, since she is not completely a Jewish
woman, but there is a need for [atoning by bringing] a guilt offering,
whether the act was done intentionally or not.
The mystery of the heifer whose neck is broken. It is a positive
commandment to break the heifer’s neck in a valley, as it is said (Deut.
21:4), “And there they shall break the neck.” There is no rationale for
this commandment that is known to us, so the sages have combined
it with the red heifer and the he-goat who is sent away (Lev. 16:10) as
[commandments] whose reasons are unknown; that is why it is termed
the mystery of the heifer whose neck is broken.
The paschal sacrifice which is a remedy for those who are impure.
This is the commandment of the second paschal offering for one
who was impure for the first paschal offering. Maimonides (Positive
Commandment 57) decided to count this as a separate commandment
and not to include it with the commandment of the first paschal offer-
ing. It would have been proper on the basis of his principle (No. 7) not to
count this separately, since it is one part of the laws of the first paschal
sacrifice, i.e., one is obligated to perform the first one if he is pure, and
if impure to make it up with the second. But Maimonides resolved this
by saying that it is debated in the Gemara Pesachim (93a) whether the
second paschal offering is a holiday in itself or is to be construed as a
completion of the first paschal offering. According to the opinion that
it is a holiday in its own right, it should be counted as a separate com-
mandment. Maimonides decided thus [i.e., a holiday in its own right],
since this is the opinion of rabbi [Judah the Prince], and the law follows
rabbi when he differs with a colleague.
But there is a problem with this decision, since in Pesachim, chap-
ter “Mi Shehayah Tameh” (93b), it is stated that if one unintentionally
missed the first paschal offering and consciously abstained from the
second one, he is guilty according to rabbi [Judah the Prince], and in-
nocent according to Rabbi Nathan and Rabbi Hanina ben Yaakov. This

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implies that the latter two hold that [the second Passover offering] is
not a holiday on its own. So the law does not follow Rabbi, since the
rule is that the law follows Rabbi when another colleague disagrees, but
not when [a number of] colleagues disagree. This objection was made by
Ravad (Hilchot Korban Pesach 5:2), and thus this [law of the second pas-
chal offering] should not be a separate commandment, since it should
be included with that of the first paschal offering.
I observe, however, that Nachmanides does not object to Maimonides
[on this matter] and relies on them [Maimonides and Halachot Gedolot]
for the enumeration [of this] among the commandments, and their
knowledge was more extensive than ours. It seems that there is a
Talmudic discussion that implies that it is a separate commandment.55
For it is stated in the first chapter of Chagigah (9a and 9b) that Rav
Papa asked, “[The statement of Rabbi Yochanan] is compatible with the
opinion that the second paschal offering is a completion of the first, but
what can be said [to make it compatible] with the opinion that it is a
separate holiday?” So Rav Papa, who was a late authority, was intent on
making Rabbi Yochanan’s words compatible with the opinion that it is a
separate holiday; so it seems that this is the accepted law, as mentioned
When it says “a remedy,” it seems to mean that this [second] paschal
offering makes it easier for a person [who is far from Jerusalem so that
he cannot return until evening, and thus could not be present for the
slaughter of the paschal lamb and the sprinkling of the blood]. If he
wishes to do the first paschal offering, he can still do it by designating an
agent [to act on his behalf]. However, the Torah is sensitive to his situ-
ation [and allows him to postpone it to the second paschal celebration].
And so is it stated in the Gemara. There are [actually] two command-
ments here, one the “doing” [slaughtering and sprinkling of blood] and
the other the commandment of eating [the paschal lamb].

64. Purification of those who are ill, in the mikvah waters;

And the bullock that comes for commandments, and the
bullock of atonement.
He has previously written (Stanza 56) “And to immerse those set

55 In the Ziv Hazohar edition, there are a couple of lines missing. Our translation does, however,
include this material.

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apart [by impurity], at specified times.” And his mention here of “purifi-
cation of those who are ill,” i.e., menstrually unclean women, is one part
of the several parts of that whole group [impurities]. Such parts should
never be enumerated, as is known from the principles (No. 12).
When it says “in the mikvah waters,” it means that a niddah does not
need to immerse in running water, as [is required for the purification
of] a zav, but the waters of a mikvah are valid for her, as is explained
in the first chapter of Megillah [actually Tosefta Megillah 1:11] and in
Tractate Mikvaot (1:8). Now the Sefer Mitzvot Katan [an enumeration
of the commandments by Isaac of Corbeil in the thirteenth century] has
another commandment here concerning a niddah. This is if a man were
having intercourse with a woman who was menstrually pure, and [in the
midst of it] she experienced a flow of blood, he should separate after his
member’s detumescence [thus avoiding stimulation during withdrawal].
[This author] claims that this is a positive commandment regarding nid-
dah, as mentioned in the second chapter of Shevuot (18b). The verse
cited for this is (Lev. 15:24) “and her impurity be upon him,” [taken to
mean that there is an occasion when a woman] although being niddah
should remain with her husband.
And the bullock that comes for commandments, i.e., if the Sanhedrin
had declared permissible something, which, if done intentionally, would
be punishable by “cutting off,” and they made an erroneous decision, so
that the public acted wrongly on the basis of this decision, they must
bring a sin offering. This is called “a bullock that comes for command-
ments [rather than for transgression],” since it is stated (Lev. 4:13),
“And they do one of all the commandments of the Lord which should
not be done.” This counts as a commandment.
And the bullock of atonement. This bullock along with all other ser-
vices performed on Yom Kippur are counted as only one commandment.
Maimonides brought a proof for this from the saying in Tractate Yoma
(60a) that for any action of Yom Kippur, which is stated in the orderly
sequence, if one did any action prior to the previous ones, he has not
accomplished anything at all.

65. And the purification from uncleanness, with appropriate

And the sin-offering, and twenty additional- offerings.
There are various kinds of impure people whose purification is not

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completed by immersion and the arrival of sunset, unless they bring

atonement offerings. These four whose atonement is incomplete are,
as mentioned in Keritot (8b), the zav, the zavah, the woman who has
given birth, and the person with tzora’at (“leprosy”); and they constitute
four commandments. The zav and zavah are not counted as a single com-
mandment, like the male and female “leper,” since it would not be right
to count an additional commandment just because of the difference
between one being a man and the other being a woman. But in the case
of the zav and the zavah, there is something substantial requiring them
to be counted as two commandments. The thing that makes it necessary
for a male “leper” to bring a sacrifice is the same thing that makes it
necessary for a female “leper,” so that is counted as one commandment.
But for the zav and the zavah, it is not so, since the zav becomes impure
with a white discharge, not with red, while a zavah becomes impure with
red discharge, not with white. Thus, the thing requiring a sacrifice for
the zav is not the same thing that requires it for the zavah; so it is proper
that they are counted as two commandments. Maimonides brings as
a proof the statement (Mishnah Keritot 2:1) that there are four cases
requiring atonement [with a sacrifice], and they are not counted as three
The meaning of korban nirah is “an appropriate sacrifice,” nirah be-
ing [passive] masculine present [literally “is seen,” i.e., fitting, similar
to ra’ui, which means “proper”], as in the verse (Lev. 9:4) “Today God is
seen to you.”56 The Gaon (Halachot Gedolot) wrote “a sacrifice as is proper
(ra’ui),” and our poet learned from his example.
And the sin-offering. Maimonides counted [as a commandment]
that an individual must bring a sin offering for certain sins. And I have
written previously (Stanza 45) how performing the sacrifices should be
properly enumerated.
And twenty additional offerings. Maimonides (Principle No. 13)
found fault with those who would count all additional offerings as a
single commandment. It would seem that any additional offering, which
belongs to a certain day and no other days, should be counted as one
commandment. This is like resting on the Festival of Matzot is one com-
mandment, and that on the Festival of Shavuot is another, and similarly
for other days. Therefore, he decided to count the Sabbath additional

56 I don’t think that this quotation supports Duran’s explanation.

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offering, that of the New Moon as another, that of the seven days of
Passover as another, that of Shavuot as another, that of Rosh Hashanah
as another, that of Yom Kippur as another, that of the seven days of
Sukkot as another, and that of Shemini Atzeret another.

66. The low with the high, the definite and the conditional,
The clearly expressed cherem, and the evaluation of vowing.
Maimonides also listed bringing an offering of higher or lower value
for certain sins. It is called thus, since it is higher for a rich person and
lower for person with little means.
The definite and the conditional [guilt-offerings]. These are
two commandments. The one is to bring a guilt offering for some sins,
namely robbery, secular use of sacred property, and the betrothed maid-
servant. It is called the definite guilt offering, since it does not involve
any doubtful aspect. The other commandment for bringing a guilt offer-
ing concerns a person who committed a sin of doubtful nature, which, if
it were certain, would incur “cutting off” if done intentionally, and a sin
offering if done unintentionally. For a doubtful case [as to whether the
sin was actually committed or not], he must bring a guilt offering, and
this is called a dependent (talui, which is another form of nitlah, which is
used by ibn Gabirol) guilt offering.
I am doubtful regarding the guilt offering as to why we should count
all of them as one commandment. Why should we not rather count the
betrothed slave girl as one, the guilt offering for improper use of sacred
property as another, and the guilt offering for robbery as yet another?
For this is unlike the dependent guilt offering and the sin offering, which
apply to a particular type of transgression. However, the guilt offering
of a Nazirite and of one afflicted with “leprosy” [would not constitute
additional enumerated instances of guilt offering], as they are included
among their other offerings [at the conclusion of the Nazirite period
and the “leprosy” period]. Thus, I would here be adding two additional
commandments.57 [This is so] despite the fact that all guilt offerings are
counted as a single priestly portion, as mentioned in chapter “Haz’roa
V’halechayayim” (Chullin 133b) and in chapter “Hagozel Etzim” (Bava
Kamma 110b). Since each one [i.e., guilt offering] is distinct from the

57 In Perlow’s book on Saadya Gaon, he quotes the words of Zohar Harakia here, but he notes that
Duran does not in fact include them in his enumeration.

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other, it is possible to count each one as a separate commandment.

[Whether these things are counted as a single priestly portion is clearly
not significant], since Maimonides [himself] counted the fixed sin of-
fering and the offering of higher or lower value as two commandments,
although they are counted as one of the priestly portions. It does not
bother me why the offering of higher or lower value is not counted ac-
cording to the number of transgressions [to which they apply], since
they are all expressed in a single statement, as is written in the prin-
ciples (No. 9). By contrast, the guilt offerings, each of which concerns a
particular transgression and which is separately expressed, are properly
counted separately, even though they all termed a guilt-offering. This is
similar to counting each additional offering assigned to a particular day
as a separate commandment, even though they are all termed additional
The clearly expressed cherem. It is an enumerated commandment
to administer the laws of cherem [dedication of property], so if one
declares his possessions cherem, they should be given to the kohanim
for use in the temple, according to the terms in each case, as expressed
in the Talmud (Arachin 28b). The term cherem hamufla is based on the
scriptural expression, “When a man or woman expresses (yaflee) a vow.”
The sages (Temurah 2b) explained [the unusual terminology yaflee] as
including a person close to adulthood [as being eligible to make such
vows], i.e., if he vowed while still a minor, yet within his thirteenth year,
if he can competently express himself, his vow is valid.
And the evaluation of vowing. There are many commandments enu-
merated among the laws of evaluations (Lev. 27). The first is the law
of personal evaluation; i.e., if one says, “I obligate myself to give away
my value” or “I obligate myself to give the value of another person,”
he must give the value prescribed in the Torah. The second is the law
of evaluation pertaining to an animal unfit [for service], which needs
to be brought [before the kohen] and to be evaluated. The third is the
law of evaluation of houses, which is that a person who dedicates his
house must contribute its value as determined by the kohen. The fourth
is the law of evaluation of fields, whether it is one’s inherited property
or purchased property, the same law applies, and it is all one command-
ment. This is the way Maimonides divided them and did not count all
four of them as a single commandment, since each of the four parts has
a distinct law. Even though the noun “evaluation” is common to all of

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them, and even though they are all vows, there is nevertheless a com-
mandment to deal with each one according to its regulation. Since this
is what Maimonides says [about subdividing the evaluations], why does
he not [similarly] enumerate each type of guilt offering separately, as I
have written [earlier in this stanza]?
The poet has forgotten or included under other commandments [the
following two commandments]. The first is to redeem offerings, which
happened to become blemished [and thus ineligible for offerings], as
is said (Deut. 12:15), “Nevertheless you may slaughter and eat meat,
as you desire,” which they explained (Sifre 25:15) as applying to offer-
ings, which happened to become blemished. The second one is that a
substitute donated offering becomes holy (Lev. 27:10, “Both it and its
substitute shall be holy”). Now this is an enumerated positive command-
ment, for they have said (Temurah 4b) that one who attempts to make
a substitution [in his desire to reclaim the original sacrificial animal] is
punished by whipping, although this is a prohibition attached to a cor-
rective positive commandment [a prohibition is usually punishable, but
if the Torah prescribes a positive act, which corrects the situation, there
is no whipping]; for a positive commandment cannot prevent [whipping
for a prohibition expressed by] two negative statements [ibid., “He shall
not change it” and “He shall not substitute for it”].

67. And a place and a tool to dig, and counting the omer,
And to send away the mother in the bird’s nest in the woods.
These are two enumerated commandments. One is to have a des-
ignated place outside the encampment to go and relieve oneself. The
second is to have in addition to weapons, a tool to cover excrement.
Maimonides wrote that these are separate commandments regarding
the encampment. But I say that, if these are two separate command-
ments regarding the encampment, there is then, in the view of the
sages, yet a third commandment.
This is not to engage in holy speech in a filthy place, which is from
the statement (Deut. 23:15) “Your camp shall be holy.” This is stated in
chapter 3 of Berachot (25a) concerning excrement, which is being car-
ried by, that it is forbidden to recite the Shema in its vicinity, for it is
necessary that “your camp shall be holy” [in order to recite the Shema],
and it is not. However, the latter clause would not be counted as a sepa-
rate commandment if this legislation is not specific for an army camp,

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but requires that any place where the Ark and the Shechinah are present,
or where the divine name is uttered, should be clear from any filth. In
this manner, it says there (Berachot ibid.) that the passage (Deut. 23:13)
“You shall have a place outside the camp” refers to urination, for it is
sufficient to have a place to go out [without covering it afterward], since
one may not recite the Shema in the presence of a stream of urination,
but after it has fallen to the ground, it does not require covering. That
is why they said that the Torah only forbids [reciting the Shema] while
the streaming urine is visible. But the law (Deut. 23:14) “And you shall
have a tool” applies to excrement, which requires covering, according to
the Torah. According to this [explanation that these laws are not just
specific for the army], the words and your camp shall be holy is the reason
for these two commandments, rather than a separate commandment.
And counting the omer. It is a single commandment to count days
and weeks [of the omer], and they are not counted as two command-
ments, although they said (Menachot 66a) that it is a commandment to
count days and a commandment to count weeks. Maimonides brought
a proof from the custom that we do not recite two blessings, one for the
days and another for the weeks. [This proof is valid] even though we
do not pay attention in enumerating the commandments as to whether
they involve blessings. There are commandments, which are enumer-
ated and for which we do not recite blessings, like the commandments
of charity and of divorce. Then there are commandments for which we
do recite blessings, and they are not enumerated commandments, like
commandments, which are rabbinic, according to Maimonides, and
like the commandment of kosher slaughtering, according to the Gaon
[Halachot Gedolot]. Nevertheless, since counting [the omer] is with a
single blessing, not two blessings, it is a valid proof that it is a single
And to send away the mother in the bird’s nest in the woods.
The motivation for “in the woods” is that they said (Chullin 139a) that
(this law does not apply) to domestically raised birds. They have already
stated (Makkot 16a) that (the prohibition [Deut. 22:6] “You shall not
take the mother bird with its children”) is attached to the positive com-
mandment, “You shall certainly send away the mother bird (ibid., 22:7).”

68. And separate from any impurity, crawling creatures and


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People and containers and flowing drinks.

Maimonides counts each one of the types of impurity as a command-
ment. He explained that he did not mean to say that it is a commandment
that we are obligated to be unclean for them [the source of uncleanness],
nor that we are forbidden to become impure. But the statement of the
Torah that a certain thing [or person)] becomes unclean in a certain
way, this law is a commandment. Nachmanides disagrees about this,
since there is not in the laws of uncleanness any commandment, and it
is completely optional. The language of the Sifre (Shemini 2:74) proves
this, since it is taught there concerning the verse (Lev. 11:8) “You shall
not touch their carcass” that one might infer that if someone touched a
carcass, then it would be punishable by forty lashes. However, the Torah
says (ibid., v. 24), “By these you will become unclean.” [The Sifre con-
tinues] that one might think that if a person sees a carcass, he should
go and make himself unclean. Therefore, the Torah says, “You shall not
touch their carcass.” How is this [to be reconciled]? [The Sifre concludes]
that one must say that it is optional. Since the Almighty forbade us to
enter the sanctuary while unclean, he explains to us what makes a per-
son unclean and what the nature of the uncleanness is. Nachmanides
[furthermore] draws an analogy with the subject of blemished animals,
in which we do not enumerate each typed of blemish as a separate com-
mandment; but since we are forbidden to sacrifice blemished animals, it
is explained for us what constitutes a blemish, as Maimonides wrote on
the seventh principle.
As a result [Nachmanides], removed thirteen commandments from
[Maimonides’s] enumeration: (1) uncleanness of a carcass; (2) unclean-
ness of creeping things; (3) uncleanness of food and drink; (4) menstrual
uncleanness; (5) uncleanness after childbirth; (6) uncleanness of human
“leprosy”; (7) clothing afflicted with “leprosy”; (8) houses afflicted with
“leprosy”; (9) uncleanness of a zav; (10) uncleanness of seminal emis-
sion; (11) uncleanness of a zavah; (12) uncleanness due to contact with
a corpse and its purification, but regarding the purification after contact
with a corpse, I wonder why he [Nachmanides] discarded this, since, just
as we count the purification of a “leper,” so it is proper to count [that
of] the person who is unclean due to a corpse; (13) uncleanness [engen-
dered by preparation] of the waters of sprinkling (Num. 19).
The meaning of the poet’s expression l’haflot is “to separate.” It is
similar to (Exod. 9:4) “The Lord will make a distinction (yafleh) between

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the cattle of Israel.” He [the poet] lists [in particular] uncleanness of a

creeping thing and that due to a carcass from the [various] uncleanness
[as representing all of them].
People and containers. If they received uncleanness from a “fa-
ther” of uncleanness, they render food and drink unclean. So one should
keep away from them in order that they should not defile one’s clean
things. [The word] michlot (containers) is the same as kelim, usual word
for containers]; both have the same root, kaph la’med heh. It is from the
verse (2 Chron. 4:21) michlot zahav [the first part of the citation given as
u’michlot shteim esreh seems to be erroneous].
And flowing drinks. Also drinks contract uncleanness, and they
are likely to become unclean, since they do not require pretreatment to
becoming susceptible to contracting uncleanness [as in the case of food,
which requires wetting]. This is why a rabbinic ordinance was made that,
if even a second-degree unclean thing touched them, it renders them
[rabbinically] unclean in the first degree. Also, a rabbinic decree makes
them capable of rendering containers unclean [although in Torah law
containers become unclean only by contact with primary sources of un-
cleanness]. This is a rabbinic extension of the fact that liquids from a zav
or zavah, which are primary sources of uncleanness, can defile persons
or containers.
He says “flowing,” since, if the drinks congealed, they are not legally
drinks, as it is stated (Tosefta Toharot 2:2) that oil that congeals is con-
sidered neither food nor drink.

69. Causing movement, and [a woman] lying, and emission due

to thoughts;
And the levirate marriage for the bereaved [woman], and the
Purim scroll.
Causing [uncleanness] by moving is [for example] when a Zav is on
a pan of a balance scale, and there are utensils on the other pan, and he
caused them to move [although he did not touch them], they become
[A woman] lying means that a woman with whom a man had inter-
course become unclean by the law of the Torah (Lev. 15:18), even though
uncleanness internal to the body is not considered an uncleanness; it is
an exception that she becomes thus unclean, even though she does not
discharge any semen.

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And emission due to thoughts. Also, a man who experiences an

emission becomes unclean. He says “due to thoughts,” since by sexual
thoughts a man may become defiled. This is like the statement (Avodah
Zarah 20b) that the verse (Deut. 23:10) “Be on your guard against any-
thing untoward” implies that one should not have lustful thoughts by
day and thereby become unclean at night. The semen itself is a source of
The levirate marriage for the bereaved [woman]. It is a positive
commandment to perform the levirate marriage with the wife of one’s
brother who died without children, as it is said (Deut. 25:6), “Her broth-
er-in-law shall come to her.” They have indeed stated (Yevamot 39b) that
the verse “her brother-in-law shall come to her” is a commandment.
I have an additional positive commandment, which is recorded in
chapter 1 of Yevamot (11a) that if one had intercourse with his brother’s
wife, he is forbidden to have her sister on the basis of a positive command-
ment. This positive commandment constitutes a prohibition based on a
positive statement; i.e., “her brother-in-law shall come to her,” which
implies to her alone and not to her and her sister. Maimonides recorded
this in his great work (Mishneh Torah, Laws of Levirate Marriage, 1:12).
This is similar to the law prohibiting eating the roasted paschal lamb
while it is yet daytime [on the basis of a positive statement, which was
enumerated by Nachmanides’s Additional Commandment No. 12].
Others explain that this positive commandment [prohibiting the sister]
is derived from what is written (Deut. 25:9), “Who would not build the
household of his brother,” i.e., he should build one household, not two
households. Therefore, it is clear that this should be counted among the
commandments, just as other prohibitions derived from positive state-
ments are.
He says “bereaved [woman],” having neither children nor husband,
for she would not be called “bereaved” otherwise.
And the Purim scroll is a rabbinic law, and it is listed in Halachot
Gedolot, but Maimonides disagrees with him, and I recorded this previ-
ously (principle 1).

70. And removal and spitting for the woman cut off;
And cutting off the hand that seized the male genitals.
They have already said (Yevamot 39a) that the commandment of
levirate marriage takes precedence over the commandment of chalitzah

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[the procedure of avoiding the levirate marriage]. So just as the law of

the levirate marriage is an enumerated commandment, so is the com-
mandment of chalitzah.
Removal and spitting (Heb. v’chalotz v’reket; removal of the shoe
and spitting in chalitzah) are both infinitives. Chalotz is the same form
as zachor (remembering) and shamor (keeping), and the vav [in v’chalotz]
is voweled with a sh’va. The root of v’reket is yarok (to spit) from (Deut.
25:9) “and she shall spit in his face.” This form is similar to redet from
yarod (to go down).
When it says “cut off” (niteket), this is the same idea as “bereaved” (in
Stanza 69), in that she has no bond with her husband by children.
And cutting off the hand that seized the male genitals. This
commandment is explained in the Sifre, that one should save the per-
son attacked from the attacker. Thus, it is taught there that (Sifre, Tetze
160:11) that just as the word mevushav, i.e., his genitals (Deut. 25:11),
is a particular case of mortal danger and is punishable by “and you shall
cut off her hand” (ibid., 25:12), so every case where there is mortal dan-
ger is punishable by “and you shall cut off her hand.” It also states there
(Sifre, Tetze 161:12) that “and you shall cut off her hand” means that
you must save him at the expense of her hand. How is it known that if
one cannot save him by cutting off her hand, that you must save him at
the expense of her life? It is from the words your eye shall not have pity.
V’kotz (translated here as “and cutting off”) is imperative [i.e., “cut
off” instead of “cutting off”], like [the form sov] in (Song of Songs 2:17)
“return, my beloved and be like . . .”; or it could be infinitive like [the
form sov] in (Deut. 2:3) “you have been long enough going around this
mountain” [which corresponds to the translation “cutting off”].

71. And the law of the captured woman, and the law of being
fruitful and increasing;
And clothing for nakedness, and pouring waters of cold.
It is a single commandment to do to the good-looking woman [cap-
tured in war] whatever is indicated in that section [of the Torah], and
one does not enumerate every action as a separate commandment, as is
known from the principles (No. 7).
And the law of being fruitful and increasing. It is a positive com-
mandment to be fruitful and to increase, as it is said (Gen. 9:7), “And you,
be fruitful and increase.” This is part of the enumeration, for in Sanhedrin

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(59b), they inquire why this is not counted as one of the [seven] laws of
the descendants of Noah. They stated that any commandment, which
was spoken to the descendents of Noah and was not repeated to Israel
at Sinai, applies just to Israel and not to the descendents of Noah. It is
evident from this that for Israel, it is counted as a commandment. Also,
they said (Berachot 16b) that a bridegroom is exempt from reciting the
Shema, since he is occupied with a commandment [of reproducing]. And
they said (Yevamot 65) that men are commanded regarding being fruit-
ful and increasing, but women are not.
I saw in the Jerusalem Talmud, Gittin, chapter “Hashole’ach” (4:5)
and in “Mo’ed Katan” (1:7), that if one is half slave and half free [in this
intermediate state not being allowed to marry either a free woman or a
slave woman], the master is compelled to set him free [allowing him to
marry a free woman], because of (the verse, Isa. 45:18) “He created it
not a waste; He formed it to be inhabited.” Even though slaves are only
supposed to do commandments that are incumbent on a woman, they
are responsible for this commandment [of procreation, though it is not
incumbent on women] because of “He created it not a waste.”
But there is a commandment from the Torah that precedes this,
which is the commandment of marrying (kiddushin). In the Jerusalem
Talmud (Berachot 9:3) that for all commandments one recites a blessing
prior to doing them, except kiddushin by intercourse. Certainly, the com-
mandment of kiddushin is from the Torah, since they state (Sanhedrin
66b) that a woman who has undergone kiddushin is to be stoned [if she
commits adultery]. Now, if kiddushin were not a Torah law, she would
not be stoned.58 Maimonides wrote that kiddushin by money is rab-
binic, while kiddushin by document or by intercourse is from the Torah.
Difficult objections have been raised against this. But I have humbly
defended him in a responsum, which I have written in the principles
(No. 2). Now, just as a woman is acquired by her husband through kid-
dushin, so she regains her independence through divorce, as it is said
(Deut. 24:1), “And he shall write her a writ of separation.” This is also an
enumerated commandment.
And clothing for nakedness, which is to give clothes to those who
are naked. This is part of the general commandment of charity, “. . . suf-
ficient for his need in which he is lacking” (Deut. 15:18). However, the

58 The latter argument is weak, since being a Torah law does not guarantee that it is to be enumerated.

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Halachot Gedolot counts this [separately], and Maimonides criticizes

him. Nachmanides defends Halachot Gedolot, in that he meant to derive
this [law of clothing the naked, not from the law of giving charity, but]
from what is stated (Sotah 14a) that the verse “After the Lord your God
you shall walk” (Deut. 13:5) means that just as He clothes the naked, so
shall you clothe the naked. This is the meaning of Halachot Gedolot, and
he did not mean to derive it from the verse (Isa. 58:7) “When you see the
naked, that you shall cover him,” as Maimonides had thought [was the
intention of Halachot Gedolot]. Even so, this still would not be an extra
counted commandment, because the commandment of “walking in His
ways” was previously counted (Stanza 13).
V’tilboshet (and clothing) has a chirik under the tav, in accord with
the verse (Isa. 59:17) “Garments of vengeance for clothing (tilboshet).”
Eryah (nakedness), with a resh (meaning uncertain), meaning “un-
covered,” from “in nakedness (eryah) and shame” (Mic. 1:11), and “na-
ked and bare (eryah)” (Ezek. 16:7).
And pouring waters of cold. This is the water libation that was
poured all the seven days of the Sukkot festival. It is a law [orally] given
to Moses at Sinai, and it forms part of the holiday sacrifice. So it is not
an additional enumerated commandment, even though everything that
is a law given [orally] to Moses at Sinai is considered a Torah law. This,
however, is not Maimonides’s opinion, since he considers a law [orally]
given to Moses at Sinai as equivalent to the “words of the scribes”
[rather than being a Torah law]. And so it is in Tractate Kiddushin.59
Nachmanides brings other proofs [that orally given laws are equivalent
to Torah law].
In the phrase “waters of cold,” the attached noun [i.e., there should
be an object following “waters of”] is missing. This is like (Ps. 73:10)
“waters of full are drained out by them,” meaning waters of a full cup.
Thus, here it is saying “waters of cold springs,” that they should be in
their pristine state in the container. For just as spring water is warm
in Nisan, as they said (Pesachim 45a) that a woman should not knead
unless the water stayed overnight, so it is cold in Tishrei, which is the
opposite season.

59 The citation Kiddushin 9b is given in Ziv Hazohar ; however, it seems to me that this reference
bears on the status of laws derived by rabbinic exegesis, rather than laws given orally to Moses
at Sinai.

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72. Orlah [fruit] and hillulim [fruit], and the king’s copy;
And to pay on the [same] day, the wages of hired workers.
Orlah [fruit from a tree that is three years old or less] is not a posi-
tive commandment, but a prohibition, and it is written here only to lead
up to hillulim [fruit of the fourth year], for it is a positive command-
ment that [fruit of] a four-year tree should be sanctified for bringing it
up from Jerusalem and eating it there in the same way as second tithe
(Lev. 19:23–25).
And the king’s copy. It is a positive commandment to make for the
king two Torahs, one to take in and out with him, and one to have in
his archives. For it says (Deut. 17:18), “And he shall write for himself a
second copy (Heb. mishneh) of this law in a book.” I previously recorded
a commandment for each Israelite to write a Torah scroll, as it is said
(Deut. 31:19), “Now write you this song for yourselves.” This command-
ment is preceded by another commandment applicable to all Israel,
which is to appoint a king over themselves. They have said (Sanhedrin
20b) that three commandments were commanded to Israel [to be ef-
fective] upon their entry into the land, and one of them is to appoint a
king over themselves. They also said in the Sifre (Shoftim 30) that the
verse (Deut. 17:15) “You shall set him over you as a king” is a positive
Now Nachmanides (at end of the negative commandments) is in
doubt regarding a certain commandment, namely, the commandment
that the king should call out the people to the army, and to inquire of
the urim and tumim. For it says (Num. 27:21), “And he shall stand before
Elazar the priest, who shall inquire for him by the judgment of the urim
before the L; at his word shall they go out, and at his word shall they
come in, etc.” Concerning this, they said (Yoma 73b) that [the urim] are
not asked except by the king or the court or by someone on whom the
congregation depends. From here, it appears that this commandment
applies for all generations, and so it seems from chapter 1 of Sanhedrin
(16a) where they say that the Torah bade the Sanhedrin to ask of the
urim and tumim.
And to pay on the [same] day the wages of hired workers. It is
a positive commandment to pay the wage of a hired man on the same
day, as it is said (Deut. 24:15), “On the same day you shall give him his
hire.” Maimonides put together with this commandment another one
(Positive Commandment 201), which is that a worker can eat from what

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he is working on. For it says (Deut. 23:25–26), “When you come into
your neighbor’s vineyard, you may eat grapes, etc.; when you come into
your neighbor’s standing corn, etc.” Even though they are two verses,
they count as a single commandment. For from the both of them we
learn (Bava Metzia 87b) that a person may eat unharvested crops at
the time of their final tending, and neither verse is adequate without
the other. It is stated in Bava Metzia (87), “The following may eat [of
the produce] according to Torah law.” Thus, Maimonides wrote, and we
could accept this, the commandment here being that the owner should
not prevent him [the worker from eating]; and if he did restrain him,
he would be violating a positive commandment, just like what is said
(Deut. 25:4), “You shall not muzzle an ox while he is threshing.” And so
Maimonides wrote in his major work (Laws of Hiring 12:1).
But this is a difficult thing, for Scripture is only speaking about the
worker, that it [i.e., eating the crops] is permissible and is not considered
like robbing the owner. This is seen from what they say in Gemara Bava
Metzia chapter “Hasocher et Hapo’alim” (87b) about the expression
“your neighbor” [in Deut. 23:25 the word re’acha is understood as mean-
ing a fellow Jew] that it implies [that the law forbidding the worker to
put the food in his vessel] does not apply to a gentile owner [but only
to a Jewish owner]. [The Gemara continues that] this is according to the
opinion that robbing a gentile is forbidden [and consequently one would
need this interpretation that the worker may fill his vessel with the
crops]. But according to the conflicting opinion that robbing a gentile is
permissible, what can be said? [Why do we need this interpretation that
the worker may fill his vessel with the gentile owner’s crops, since he is
even allowed to outright rob him?]
In cases of this sort [where permission is expressed, rather than ob-
ligation], they are not counted among the commandments. For in three
such commandments that were counted in Gemara Sotah (3a), “For he
may/must defile himself” (Lev. 21:3), “You may/should take bondmen
forever” (Lev. 25:46), and “He is/should be jealous of his wife” (Num.
5:14), the Gemara had to say that they did not just come to permit some-
thing that [was normally] forbidden, but they had to say that they were
obligations, otherwise being unnecessary. And in [our case of] permit-
ting the worker to eat, how could we construe this to be an obligation,
otherwise being unnecessary? When they say in the Gemara that “they
may eat according to Torah law,” it is true that they are permitted, but

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they are not included among the enumerated commandments, as I have

written (Stanza 52) concerning their statement (Bava Batra 23b) that
majority rule is a Torah law.

73. Blessings and curses, and levy and inheritance;

And the plastered great stones, and the jubilee of freedom.
The Halachot Gedolot counted blessings and curses pronounced at
Mt. Gerizim [as commandments]. Maimonides criticized him, since
these commandments were not applicable to future generations, and
one of the principles is that a commandment that is for [only] a par-
ticular time should not be enumerated, and this is certainly true, as I
wrote in the principles. But Nachmanides defended the Gaon in that,
although it is a onetime commandment, its significance is eternal, since
it is the acceptance by which our ancestors took upon themselves and
their descendants the entire Torah in its details and in its totality, with
sanctions and with an oath. The words of Maimonides are correct in not
bringing this commandment into the enumeration, and Nachmanides
also agreed in his enumeration of the commandments.
And levy. Maimonides criticized the Gaon in this case also in that he
counted the section concerning the contribution of levy (Num. 31:25ff),
because it was just a onetime commandment in the war with Midian.
Nachmanides defended him (principle 3), saying that the contribution
of levy applies throughout the generations, that in any optional war,
a contribution should be offered from whatever falls into their hand.
This is like what was said concerning David (1 Chron. 18:8), “And from
Tibhath and Cun, cities of Hadarezer, David took much brass, with
which Solomon made the brazen sea.” It is further written (ibid., v. 11),
“Thus also did King David dedicate unto the Lord with the silver and the
gold that he carried away from all the nations.” And he [Nachamanides]
strengthened [his argument] from what is stated in the Torah (Num.
31:54), “So Moses and Elazar the priest accepted gold from the officers
of thousands and the officers of hundreds and brought it to the Tent of
Meeting as a reminder on behalf of the Israelites before the Lord” And
if this was a voluntary contribution at that time from these individuals,
it would not have been “a reminder on behalf of the children of Israel.”
But in my humble opinion, I would say that this is not true, for they
said expressly (Menachot 77b) that the contribution of levy does not
apply for future generations. For in Menachot, chapter “Hatodah” (77b),

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we read in the Mishnah that from each of them [thank offerings and
Nazir loaves], they would take one part in ten [as a terumah offering), as
it is said (Lev. 7:14), “And he shall offer one from each offering as a gift
(terumah) to the Lord” Now in the baraita in the Gemara, this law [that
it is actually one part in ten] is derived from the terumah of tithe (the
one-tenth of the Levite tithe that goes to the kohen). Then the question
is raised as to [why the ratio of one-tenth is derived from the expression
terumah being used both for the terumah of tithe and for the portion
of the thank offering]; one might derive it from the portion (terumah)
of Midian [i.e., the contribution of levy]), and that was in the ratio of
one part in five hundred. But this [latter possibility] was rejected, since
one should learn about a case applying throughout the generations from
another applying throughout the generations, rather than utilizing the
terumah of Midian, which is not applicable throughout the generations.
And you cannot argue about this proof [that the Talmud meant] that
its measure [i.e., 1/500] does not apply throughout the generations, but
the thing itself [setting apart some of the booty for holy purposes] does
apply. This would be like Nachmanides’s argument about the inaugural
offering of the altar about which I wrote previously (Stanza 50) [where he
said that it was plausible that this inaugural practice might be construed
as a permanent commandment, and the Talmud’s use of the expression
“not for all generations” referred to the particular amounts specified in
the desert]. If this were the case, it would be proper to learn from it the
aspect that does apply at later times, which is that it has no specific mea-
sure. This is similar to what the Baraita wanted to [possibly] learn from
the case of the First Fruits [which is also described as a terumah] that
there is no specific proportion [for the thank offering terumah]. For it
is stated in the Baraita that here [concerning the thank offering loaves],
the word terumah is used, and terumah is also used for first fruits; so just
as the latter has no specified amount, similarly the former would have
had no specified amount. So since they rejected learning from the case
of the terumah of Midian, neither the indicated ratio nor that there is no
specific amount, on account of its not being a commandment applying
throughout the generations, we may conclude that the contribution of
levy does not constitute a positive commandment at all, and it is not
part of the enumeration.
I am also surprised that Nachmanides brings a proof that the contri-
bution of levy is for all generations from what is written (Num. 31:54),

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“So Moses and Elazar the priest accepted the gold from, etc.” But this
was not stated about the gift of levy, but about the offering brought by
the officers of the army from the gold objects, which they each found.
The gold was the “memorial,” and the offering was to atone for sinful
thoughts, as mentioned in Tractate Shabbat, chapter “Bameh Ishah
Yotz’ah” (64a), and in Tractate Kallah (chap. 1). But the gift of levy was
for Elazar [not for the sanctuary], similar to other priestly portions.
From this point, we are led to an objection against the Gaon, who
enumerated the gift of levy. For the sages did not count the gift of levy
among the priestly portions. If they had, there would have been twenty-
five priestly portions [rather than twenty-four]. And they should have
counted it, being so much greater than the log of oil of the “leper” [which
was counted]. Since they did not count it, [it is proved that] it is not at
all an ongoing practice, and it does not belong in the enumeration. And
Nachmanides also decided not to enumerate it.
And inheritances. It is a single commandment to administer the
laws of inheritances, aside from the law of the firstborn. But Maimonides
made the two of them into one. Nachmanides (in his twelfth additional
prohibition) supported the Gaon who makes them two, and I wrote
about this previously (Stanza 58).
And the plastered great stones. These are the great stones, which
were erected to write the Torah on them (Deut. 27:1–8). The Gaon
counted this, but Maimonides criticized this, since this was a onetime
commandment. I humbly state that I found a proof for him in chapter
“Hakometz Rabba” (Menachot 34a), where they state that writing on the
stones does not extend to future generations. Nachmanides (principle
3) exerted himself to support the words of the Gaon, since the content
[of the commandment] is everlasting, for we were commanded to write
upon them the Torah most distinctly, to be a memorial through the
generations. But the words of Maimonides not to count this are more
correct, and Nachmanides in his enumeration agreed.
And the jubilee of freedom. It is a positive commandment to
sanctify the jubilee, as it is said (Lev. 25:10), “And you shall hallow the
fiftieth year.” There is also another commandment to be counted here,
which is to sound the shofar on the tenth of Tishrei and to proclaim
freedom throughout the land, as it is said (ibid., v. 9), “And you shall
make proclamation with the blast of the shofar on the tenth day of the
seventh month, etc.” There is also another commandment here, which

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is to return land to the original owners in this year, as it is said (ibid., v.

24), “And in all the land of your possession you shall grant a redemption
for the land.”
In my view, another commandment should be added, i.e., that if one
sells his field to someone, he must leave it in the possession of the pur-
chaser for two years. Thus is it stated in Arachin, chapter “Hamocher
et Sadehu” (29b), that while the jubilee is in force, it is not permissible
[for the original owner] to redeem [his field] before two years. In the
Gemara, they said that since the Mishnah says that “it is not possible to
redeem” [rather than “it is not redeemable”], it shows that this is actu-
ally a prohibition, and that [the original owner] is forbidden to display
money [to induce the buyer to sell back]. Not only is the seller [forbid-
den with a prohibition derived from] a positive statement that is writ-
ten (ibid., v. 15), “According to the number of years [plural indicating
a minimum of two years] of the crops he shall sell to you,” but also the
purchaser is subject [to a prohibition implied by] a positive statement
that it is required that (ibid.) “years . . . you shall buy,” and this would
not be so [if it were to revert in less than two years].60 Now, Maimonides
wrote this prohibition in his work (Hilchot Shemitta V’yovel 11:9), but
he does not have it enumerated, and this needs investigation.
There is yet another commandment here, which is to count (Lev.
25L8) “seven sabbatical years, seven times seven years.” And it is ex-
pressed in the Sifra (Behar 2:13) that one might think that it suffices
to count off the seven consecutive sabbatical years and then have the
jubilee year. Therefore, Scripture says (Lev. 25:8), “Seven times seven
years.” So [we only understand the law] by referring to both expressions
[“seven sabbatical years” and “seven times seven years”], and without
that, we would not understand this [this concludes the Sifra citation].
This means that performance of this commandment requires two scrip-
tural expressions as to how it is done. We must count the seven years,
and we must count the seven sabbatical years. Maimonides derived from
this citation that both [expressions] constitute only one commandment
in the enumeration, not two commandments, counting each year as one
commandment and counting each sabbatical year as another. For if they
were two separate commandments, the teacher [in the Sifre] would not

60 In his final counting at the end of the book, the author does not enumerate an injunction for the

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have said, “If it were not for both scriptural expressions, we would not
have understood properly; since it would be normal for every specific
commandment to have a specific scriptural expression.” But since it is
just one commandment emerging from two scriptural expressions, the
language [of the Sifre] is appropriately stated. [Maimonides cites an
analogous case regarding firstlings, but our author brings another case,
as follows]. So it is that a worker eating in the vineyard or in the grain
field is counted as only a single commandment, for the two verses are
necessary to clarify the commandment, as I have written (Stanza 72)
concerning his opinion, and I previously wrote about this in the prin-
ciples (No. 9).

74. The trumpets of the congregation, and the portion sepa-

rated from a thank-offering;
And the immersion from childbirth, and from menstrual
It is a commandment to blow the trumpets with the sacrifices, as it
is written (Num. 10:10), “And on the day of your rejoicing and at your
fixed festivals and new moon days, you shall sound the trumpets over
your burnt-offerings and your sacrifices of well-being.” And similarly in
war time, as it is said (ibid., v. 9), “When you are at war in your land
against an aggressor who is attacking you, then you shall sound short
blasts on the trumpets.” The same applies to any misfortune [may it not
happen!] for the community. They have already stated (Rosh Hashanah
26b) concerning fast days that the commandment for such a day is
blowing trumpets [not a shofar]. This statement shows that this is actu-
ally a commandment. Rabbi Levi ben Gershon in his Torah commentary
makes these into two commandments, sounding [trumpets] over the
sacrifices and blowing short blasts for the enemy. But it seems that all
regulations about the trumpets should be counted as only a single com-
mandment, as is apparent in the Sifre.61
The portion separated from a thank-offering means the chest,
shoulder, and that which is taken from the loaves. This was previously
counted among the priestly portions (Stanza 54), so there is no addi-
tion to the enumeration. There I explained how priestly portions should
properly enter into the enumeration of the commandments, but the

61 It is not clear to me which statement in the Sifre is meant here.

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poet made the removal [of the portion] a commandment, and giving it
[to the kohen] another commandment.
Likewise, the immersion of a mother after childbirth was already
mentioned above (stanzas 65 and 68) among other immersions.

75. The heifer for burning, and the chest for waving
And the tenth of an ephah, and to set apart terumah.
The entire procedure of the [red] heifer is a single commandment,
as it is said (Num. 19:9), “It shall be kept for the congregation of the
children of Israel for water of sprinkling; it is a cleansing from sin.”
I have already explained in the previous stanza the matter of the
“chest for waving,” that it belongs to the kohanim. I have already written
above (Stanza 54) about the waving, as to whether it comes into the
enumeration or not.
And the tenth of an ephah refers to the griddle cakes, which the high
priest must sacrifice every day, half in the morning and half in the eve-
ning (Lev. 6:12–16).
And to set apart terumah is an enumerated commandment. No one
contests this, for we recite a blessing upon separating it. The only argu-
ment is whether we count the giving as well as the separation as two
separate commandments. I have already written this above (Stanza 54).

76. A city which stretches out its hand, to spare from the grave,
And to destroy and lay waste the apostate city.
In either an obligatory war or an optional war, we must call to the
enemy to make peace. If they respond with peace, it is forbidden to kill
them, but they would become a tributary. This is so, with no difference
between an obligatory and an optional war. There is a difference if they
do not make peace, where for an optional war, we should kill males only;
while for an obligatory war, it is written (Deut. 20:16), “You shall not let
any soul remain alive.”
Now Nachmanides wrote (Additional Positive Commandment No.
4) that that it is a positive commandment, which should be among the
enumerated commandments, to take possession of the land, and we
must not let it remain in the hands of the nations. He brings proof for
this from the statement (Deut. 1:21) “Go up, take possession of the land
which I have given you.” And when they did not accede, it is written
(ibid.), “Then you rebelled against the commandment of the Lord your

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God, and you did not trust Him, and you did not hearken to His voice.”
And it is said in Tractate Sotah (44b) concerning Joshua’s war of con-
quest that everyone agrees that this was obligatory, while all agree that
David’s war of expansion was optional. The Sifre (Shofetim 27:14) says
that the verse (Deut. 17:14) “And you shall possess it and dwell in it”
means that as a result of your taking possession, you shall merit dwell-
ing there. Nachmanides said that the commandment is not destroying
the seven nations [of Canaan], but that it is taking possession of the
land even after they are destroyed or after they abandon the land; as
they said (Devarim Rabba, Shofetim 5:13) that the Girgashites evacu-
ated [from Canaan]. The Sifre (Ekev 24) also says that the verse (Deut.
11:24) “Everywhere where the sole of your foot treads will be yours”
is saying to them that all places that you conquer outside from these
places [in Canaan] will be yours. Or [continues the Sifre, does it mean]
that they are permitted to conquer outside the land before conquering
the land of Israel? [To negate the latter] the Torah states (ibid., v. 23)
“You shall dispossess the nations [of Canaan] greater and stronger than
you,” and only then “Everywhere, etc. (v. 24).
Since this is a commandment, the sages emphasize it, saying (Ketubot
110b) that one who dwells outside the land is like an idol worshipper.
And it is said in the Sifre (Re’eh 53:29) that the verse (Deut. 11:29) “And
you shall possess it and dwell therein” (followed by v. 31 “and you shall
observe all the statutes, etc.”) means that dwelling in the land of Israel
is equivalent to all the commandments.
The meaning of “A city which stretches out its hand” is that it ex-
tends its hand to pay taxes. In that case, we must spare their lives from
the grave. But killing the seven nations [of Canaan, of whom] it is said
(Deut. 20:17), “You shall utterly destroy them,” is a positive command-
ment for all generations, and it is included in the enumeration. For one
should not imagine that, since they have perished, this should not be in-
cluded as a commandment in the enumeration; since even if there would
remain only one of them at the end of the earth, we would be obligated
to destroy him. Maimonides explained this, i.e., that any commandment
that is not connected with a specific time constitutes a commandment
for the generations, even though that thing [i.e., the object of the com-
mandment] is absent; for if it were in existence, we would be obligated
concerning it. He says this also concerning destroying the descendants
of Amalek, as I wrote in the principles (No. 3).

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And to destroy and lay waste the apostate city is a positive command-
ment, which is an exception from the general law of capital punishment
exercised by the courts; for those executions are enumerated in a general
way, while this is enumerated as a special ordinance. That is to burn the
city and to leave it destroyed, according to the statement (Deut. 13:17)
“You shall burn with fire the town and all its spoil totally unto the Lord
your God, and it shall be a mound, etc.”

77. And a city which is closed in, you shall pour down its stones;
And give carrion to the ger, or sell it to gentiles.
In an optional war, if it [the city] does not make peace but closes itself
before us to come under siege, we are commanded to slay the males and
allow the women and children to live, as it is said (Deut. 20:13), “And
you shall strike down all its males with the edge of the sword.”
And he says that you shall pour down its stones, similar to the mean-
ing of (Mic. 1:6) “And I will pour down the stones into the valley.” The
poet does not express “into the valley” nor into any other place, so as
not to squeeze [too many syllables into] his poem.
Now Nachmanides has in this context two more commandments
that are included in his enumeration of the commandments. One com-
mandment is that we are commanded that when we lay siege on a city,
we should allow one direction so that if the inhabitants wish to flee they
will find a route to escape. He derives this from what is written (Num.
31:7), “They took the field against Midian as the Lord commanded
Moses.” [And the Sifre states that this means that] they surrounded it
on three sides [in other versions, four sides], and Rabbi Nathan states
that he gave them [another version has the imperative, give them!] the
fourth side [for escape]. Maimonides acknowledges this commandment
in his great work in Hilchot M’lachim Umilchamoteihem (6:7), but he
did not write it in his Sefer Hamitzvot. Also there (Hilchot M’lachim),
he did not make it [optional wars] into a separate commandment, nor
does he include it under a more general commandment of war.
The second [additional commandment proposed by Nachmanides] is
that we are commanded that, while besieging a city, we may eat from
the trees in its territory during all the days of the siege. And if we cut
them down needlessly in a destructive manner, we transgress a positive
commandment in addition to the explicit prohibition for this. Thus did
they say in the Sifre (Shofetim 127) that the words (Deut. 20:19) for you

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will eat from it is a positive commandment, and you shall not cut it down
(ibid.) is a prohibition. But Maimonides did not enumerate this either.
And give carrion to the ger, or sell it to the gentile (Deut. 14:21).
There is no commandment here at all; it just gives precedence to giving
to the ger (resident gentile) over selling to a [nonresident] gentile.

78. Collect the money of atonement, and you shall stone the
Since he raised his voice to worship other (deities).
It is a positive commandment throughout the generations to con-
tribute a half shekel every year, as it is said (Exod. 20:12), “And each
shall pay the Lord a ransom for himself.” That this commandment ap-
plies throughout the generations is clearly stated in 2 Chronicles (24:6)
concerning Joash, King of Judah. There it is written, “Why did you not
require of the Levites to bring in from Judah and Jerusalem the tax of
Moses, the servant of the L?” It is also stated (ibid., v. 9), “They made a
proclamation throughout Judah and Jerusalem to bring for the Lord
the tax that Moses, the servant of God had set upon Israel in the wilder-
ness.” That which it says in Ezra (Neh. 10:33), “Also, we made ordinances
for us to charge ourselves yearly a third of a shekel,” has already been
explained in the Jerusalem Talmud (Shekalim 2:3), that the shekel in
Ezra’s time was worth thirty gerahs; so a third of that is ten gerahs, which
is half the shekel value in Moses’s time. And in the final chapter of Bava
Batra (9a), they said that in the time of the temple, a person could pay
his annual shekel dues and obtain atonement. [That this is a command-
ment for all time] is also explicit in the Jerusalem Talmud (Shekalim
As to the poet’s mentioning “you shall stone the beguiler [to idol
worship],” the commentator on the Azharot has already labored to give
a reason why he singled out this case [of the beguiler] over the others ex-
ecuted by the court, and he could not find a cogent reason. Maimonides
[in fact] did not include it in the enumeration. But from the expression
(Deut. 13:7) “If your brother, the son of your mother entices you,” it
is interpreted in the last chapter of Kiddushin (80b) as a hint that one
may not be alone with a relative [with whom sexual relationship is] in-
cestuous [although this interpretation appears farfetched]. It is further
said in chapter 2 of Avodah Zarah (36b) that this prohibition [based on
the above verse] is a Torah law. If so, this is a positive commandment

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[stoning] together with a prohibition [against being alone with female

relatives] derived from a positive statement.
And the beguiler (hamasit). The samech has a dagesh as is written
(Jer. 43:3), “Baruch son of Neriya who is beguiling (hamasit) you.” [This
would mean that the common vocalization hamesit is wrong.]
To worship (Heb. l’ovdah) is an infinitive as in the verse (Exod. 36:2)
“To come unto (l’korvah) the work.”

79. A dreamer and a false witness you shall equally destroy,

That he should not haughtily prophesy lies.
Also the reason for [specifically listing the execution of] the prophet
who dreams (Deut. 13:2) is unknown, as was the reason for [listing] the
And the false witness. It is a positive commandment to do to him as
he had intended [to do to his brother, Deut. 19:19], whether it involves
monetary guilt or being subject to whipping or being subject to the death
penalty. If he testified in a case that the intended punishment is impos-
sible to do to him, like testifying that someone is the son of a divorcee
or a mamzer, he would be just whipped., for it is stated (Deut. 25:25), “If
the guilty one is to be flogged.” [The Gemara in Makkot 2b applies this
verse to our particular case, explaining that] he has transgressed (Exod.
20:13), “You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.” Since a
false witness may be executed, it is joined with a false prophet, stating,
“You shall equally destroy.” The end of the stanza, which says, “That he
not haughtily prophesy lies,” is connected to the beginning concerning
the one who dreams, even though the “false witness” intervenes.62

80. And you shall punish with vengeance the defamer,

And one who is a zav or a metzora is purified by sprinkling.
The defamer has to keep his wife. Since he was trying to divorce her
without payment, the poet employs an expression of vengeance, doing
to him as he intended to do, so he himself should paid back. Thus, he
cannot divorce her, and he must pay her double the dowry due to virgins
of fifty shekels (as in Deut. 22:29), and he must give her a hundred.
[Our translation of p’raot as vengeance] is based on the Targum. This

62 Perlow notes that the verse “who dreams” is not part of the section dealing with false prophesy in
Deut. 18:20.

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is like bifroa p’ra’ot [understood as “when vengeance was being wreaked”

in Judges (5:2)]. In the Gemara Makkot (15a), they state that this pro-
hibition concerning the defamer [not to divorce her] can be rectified by
a positive action [taking her back]. Also, one who rapes a woman [not
married] is subject to a positive enumerated commandment (Deut.
22:24), “She shall become his wife.” They likewise stated in Gemara
Makkot (ibid.) that the prohibition concerning the rapist is attached to
a positive commandment [which rectifies the prohibited action]. There
is also a positive commandment that is enumerated, i.e., to administer
the law of a seducer properly, and the poet was too brief regarding these
And one who is a zav or a metzora is purified by sprinkling.
I have written previously (Stanza 68) about the argument concerning
enumeration of impurities. The purification for the zav does not have
a special content to be counted as a [separate] commandment. For his
immersion is included in the immersion for other cases of impurity. I
have written previously (Stanza 65) that this is one of the four instances
of those whose atonement is incomplete [without a sacrifice], each of
which constitutes a commandment. When he says “is purified by sprin-
kling,” it refers to sprinkling with blood. [This comment is true for the
metzora, but not the zav.]
Concerning the purification of the metzora, there are special com-
mandments, which are enumerated. One is to shave all his hair, and I
have already written (Stanza 59) why this is separate from bringing his
sacrifice, while for the Nazir it is counted together with the sacrifice. The
second one is that his purification requires cedar wood and ezov herb
and two birds and running water.
There is also a particular commandment during his [the metzora’s]
time of impurity, i.e., that his head should be left disheveled, and
his clothes should be rent, and he should cover over his upper lip.
Maimonides brings a proof that this is a commandment from what
they said in the Sifra (Tazria 152:5) that from the verse (Lev. 21:10)
“He shall not let his hair be disheveled, nor rend his clothes,” one
might think that this applies when he [the high priest] is afflicted with
tzora’at, and that the verse (Lev. 13:45) “His clothes shall be rent, and
the hair of his head should be left disheveled” applies only to every
person other than the high priest. But Scripture states (ibid.), “Asher
lo hanega, (who has the affliction)” [this seemingly unnecessary phrase

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implying] that this even includes the high priest. This shows [according
to Maimonides] that it is a positive commandment, for if it were not
a positive commandment for the afflicted person [to have his hair di-
sheveled], it could not [have been thought to] override the prohibition
of the high priest that (Lev. 21:10) “he shall not let the hair of his head
be disheveled, etc.”
Now he [Maimonides] did not really need all this (reasoning), for
undoubtedly there is an enumerated positive commandment concern-
ing the metzora, i.e. (Lev. 13:46), “He shall dwell apart; his dwelling
shall be outside the camp.”* Indeed, they said in Pesachim, chapter “Elu
*Maimonides, in his
Devarim” (67a) that Rav Hisda stated that a
commandment no. 112, metzora who had entered within his forbidden
includes everything to the boundary is not punishable, for Scripture said
metzora’s isolation; i.e., his
clothes being rent, his hair (ibid.), “He shall dwell apart; his dwelling shall
disheveled, his dwelling being be outside the camp,” and thus, Scripture has
away from the camp, and
proclaiming his impurity. Thus
joined [the prohibition against entering the
this would still be eligible for camp] to a [corrective] positive command-
enumeration, even if the parts ment [in such a situation the violator is not
about the clothing and the
hair were not substantiated by punished with whipping]. [On the other hand]
the Sifra citation. it is possible that this [dwelling apart] is a sepa-
rate enumerable positive commandment [not
combined with disheveled hair and rent clothing], although I have not
seen any of the enumerators of the commandments who have included
this separately. And in chapter “R. Eliezer d’Milah” (Sabbath 132b), Rava
said that if one cuts away his bright white spot [an indicator of tzora’at],
he has transgressed a specific positive commandment besides the prohi-
bition of (Devarim 24:8) “Be heedful concerning the plague of tzora’at.”
This is “to carefully observe to do” (ibid).63 Now, I have not seen anyone
who has taken heed of this positive commandment, so it would seem
that everything [i.e., all the positive ramifications concerning tzora’at]
are included in this positive commandment that the metzora must do all
that is required of him during his illness.

81. And with this will be healed one who is unclean because of a
corpse or an exterminated person,

63 See Rashi, Sabbath 132b, on the words hai aseh v’lo ta’aseh hu, which identifies this scriptural
phrase as being the positive commandment.

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And you shall destroy the one who leads astray, and those
who remain will fear.
[The meaning of this is that] by the aforementioned sprinkling, there
is remedy for one who is unclean by [contact with] a [regular] corpse or
one who is slain by sword, i.e., exterminated without judicial process
[the two cases reflecting Num. 19:16, “One slain by a sword or who died
naturally”]. One who is unclean due to a corpse does not have sprin-
kling with blood like a zav or metzora, but he does need sprinkling [with
water containing] ashes of the red heifer. There is here an enumerated
commandment, which is to sprinkle those who are unclean with corpse
impurity, and this is one of the impurity laws that Maimonides counted
(Positive Commandment 108, which includes the ability of the waters of
the red heifer to purify as well as to defile). Nachmanides disagreed with
him, and I am perplexed by this, for the purification should be counted,
as I wrote above (Stanza 68).
The reason for what he wrote “you shall destroy the one who leads
astray” (see Deut. 13:14) is hidden, just as is the reason for the enticer
(Deut. 13:8) and the false prophet (see Stanza 78). Tispeh (you shall de-
stroy) is transitive as in ha’af tispeh (Gen. 18:24).
And those who remain will fear. The one who leads astray is not
one of the four crimes requiring public announcement, as it is said
(Deut. 19:20), “And those who remain shall hear and fear.” These are
[the rebellious son who is] a glutton and drunkard, the rebellious elder,
false witnesses, and one who beguiles [family or friends to idolatry]. So
the poet was incorrect about this.64

82. And one who injures fivefold, shame will cover him;
And blood on the earth you shall cover with dust.
One who injures his fellow has to pay for five things: damage [decrease
in his value], pain, medical expense, unemployment, and shame [if disfig-
ured]. This is an enumerated commandment. I have already written (Stanza
15) that Nachmanides includes all civil laws under one commandment, i.e.
(Deut. 1:16), “And you shall judge righteously.” But in his enumeration, he
agrees with Maimonides to count it as a separate commandment, as I have
written, though I include it in the law of righteous judgment.

64 The Tzofnat Pane’ach notes that according to the Tosefta, the one who leads astray also requires
announcement, so it was the author of Zohar Harakia who was incorrect.

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He says that “shame will cover him” concerning the one who has
caused the injury, since he is guilty for these five things, and there is no
greater shame than this.
And blood on the earth you shall cover with dust. The poet
follows in the footsteps of the Gaon, who counts covering [an animal’s
blood] as a commandment and does not count slaughtering as a com-
mandment. The reasoning of the Gaon about this is that shechitah (ritual
slaughter) is not a commandment like other commandments. For even
though we pronounce a blessing [“He has commanded us”] concerning
shechitah, [it is not a normal commandment], since if one stays his whole
life without slaughtering, he has not deprived himself of any merit. And
if one slaughters all the sheep of Kedar, he does not gain any merit, for
the purpose of shechita is only that a person should not eat a limb from
a live animal. And so do we say in the Gemara Pesachim (7b) [that one
recites the blessing that “He commanded us concerning shechitah”] and
does not phrase it “to perform shechitah,” since one is not obligated to
[Now, I will explain the fact the Halachot Gedolot] includes among the
tasks for kohanim, pouring [oil], mixing the flour, etc.; and among these
things, he wrote “slaughtering.” He wrote this with reference to slaugh-
tering of sacrifices, which are fixed obligatory commandments. They are
included in the duties of the sacrifice, because part of the obligation of
bringing a sacrifice is that it must be slaughtered, as it is said (Lev. 1:5),
“And he shall slaughter the bullock,” and (Exod. 12:21) “Slaughter the
paschal lamb.” In his [Halachot Gedolot] opinion in which he enumer-
ates the tasks assigned to the descendants of Aaron, and I agree with
him on this (see Stanza 45), shechitah would properly be included in the
enumeration of the commandments.
Now in my humble opinion, I have found a proof that shechitah is not
among the [enumerated] commandments, from what they said in the
Yelamdenu (Tanchuma, Sh’lach 15) that there is nothing in the world
that was not the subject of a commandment to Israel. So if one goes
out to plow, [he must observe] “you shall not plow with an ox and ass
together” (Deut. 22:10). For sowing, there is (ibid., v. 9) “you shall not

65 This proof, however, does not hold up for the version in the Gemara that says the he, i.e., the
owner, does not have to do the slaughtering, implying that someone else can do the slaughtering
for him.

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sow your vineyard with diverse kinds.” For harvesting, there is (Deut.
24:19) “When you gather your harvest in your field and you forget a
sheaf in the field.” For [baking] loaves [you shall set apart] “the first of
your dough” (Num. 15:20). When one slaughters, there is (Deut. 18:3)
“he must give the kohen the shoulder, the cheeks, and the stomach.”
Concerning wild animals and birds, there is (Lev. 17:13) “he shall pour
out its blood and cover it with earth.” When one plants, there is (Lev.
19:23) “you shall consider its fruit forbidden.” So this Midrash reviews
all the commandments, but it does not find any general command-
ment covering domestic animals, wild animals, and fowl, except the
priestly portions and covering the blood for wild animals and fowl. So
if shechitah were a commandment, it would have listed that for eating
meat, there is (Deut. 12:21) “and you shall slaughter your cattle and
And there is certainly here another prohibition, which is derived from
a positive statement. This is to forbid slaughter of ordinary [nonsacrifi-
cial] animals in the courtyard [of the temple], as they stated in Kiddushin
(57b) that the verse (Deut. 12:21) “If the place [of the temple] is too far
from you, then you shall slaughter (. . . and you shall eat).” [This implies
that] at a distance, you may slaughter [and eat at the same place], but
you may not slaughter [and then eat] at the site [of the temple]. This is a
prohibition derived from a positive statement, as Rashi wrote in chapter
“Oto V’et B’no” (Chullin 78a).
Similarly, there is disagreement among the early scholars about
other prohibitions inferred from positive statements, as to whether
they should be enumerated among the positive commandments or not.
An example is (Deut. 14:4) “These are the animals that you may eat,”
which is interpreted (Sifra Sh’mini 69) as a positive commandment. And
he [Maimonides] made (Deut. 14:11) “You may eat any clean bird” a
positive commandment (No. 150), and likewise (Deut. 14:9) “These you
may eat of all that live in the water.” The meaning of all these as positive
commandments is to say that if one eats any unclean animal, he trans-
gresses a prohibition derived from a positive statement in addition to
the explicitly written prohibition. Maimonides counted them as positive
commandments (No. 149 ff), saying that it is a positive commandment
to examine the characteristic features of an animal, and similarly for the
others. The Gaon, however, did not count them.
Nachmanides added to the number of prohibitions the slaughtered

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bird brought by a metzora [for purification]. He brought proof from

what they said in the last chapter of Chullin (140a) that the verse (Deut.
14:11) “You may eat every clean bird” implies that there is a clean bird,
which is forbidden to eat, and this is the slaughtered bird of the metzora.
[The Hebrew tzippor (bird) is said to refer only to clean fowl. Thus, the
limiting word clean in the above verse is redundant, and it is interpreted
as forbidding the eating of the slaughtered bird of the metzora, even
though it is intrinsically a clean bird.] The objection is raised that this
law [prohibiting eating the metzora’s bird] is already extracted from
the following passage (ibid., v. 12): “And these which are among them
you shall not eat” [the word asher, “which are,” being unnecessary, is
interpreted as a specific inclusion]. They replied that indeed Scripture
indicates that [one who eats the metzora’s slaughtered bird] transgresses
both a positive and a negative statement. This is what Nachmanides
wrote. Now, according to his view [that the metzora’s bird is a separate
commandment], I wonder why he did not add the positive form to his
list of positive commandments. But this would not be a question for
Maimonides who includes both the negative and positive formulations
as part of the commandment regarding unclean fowl.
And according to his [Maimonides’s] view (in Prohibition No. 73)[
that drunkenness of officiating kohanim or of judges in court are cov-
ered in this single commandment], Nachmanides wrote (in his critique
on No. 73) that the law of judging while drunk is a prohibition arising
from a positive statement [and thus is not properly counted among the
negative commandments]. For after the verse that states (Lev. 10:9),
“You shall not drink wine or strong drink,” it says (ibid., v. 11), “And to
instruct the children of Israel all the statutes,” which implies that this
should not be done when they are drunk; and a prohibition implied
by a positive statement is considered a positive commandment. This is
the meaning of the statement in the Sifra (Shemini 38) that “you and
your sons” (Lev. 10:9) incur the punishment of death [“that you die
not”]; but sages in their judging do not incur death [if drunk]. Since the
Sifra did not state “the sages in their judging do not incur death, but
are guilty of violating a prohibition,” it would seem that
*This concludes this is not a negative commandment, but a positive one
discussion of
[with negative implication].*
the law of the I have already written above (Stanza 37) that (Deut.
drunken judge. 23:21) “you may/shall take interest from the foreigner”

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and (Deut. 15:3) “you may/shall demand [an unpaid loan in the sh’mittah
year] from a foreigner” are of this type [i.e., positive statements implying
prohibitions]. But Maimonides counts them as active commandments,
that one must take interest from the foreigner and that one must collect
the unpaid loan.
Nachmanides wrote that the Midrash validates the words of the
Gaon that a prohibition implied by a positive statement should not be
counted. This is what they said (Tanchuma, Tetze 2) that every limb in
a person is saying to him, “Perform a commandment with me [thus ac-
counting for the number of commandments being equal to the number
of limbs].” From this expression, it is seen that one should only enumer-
ate those commandments whose performance is obligatory, not those
expressing passively refraining from an action. For in the latter type of
commandment, the [actual] prohibition would be enumerated among
the prohibitions, and the prohibitions implied by the positive state-
ments are not [counted at all].
But in the Yerushalmi Pesachim (1:4), I found support for the words
of Maimonides. For there they said concerning the eating of chametz [on
Passover] that it has a prohibition and a positive commandment, and
concerning its destruction, there is a prohibition and a positive com-
mandment. Concerning eating it, there is (Deut. 16:3) “You shall not
eat chametz during it” [as well as] “You shall eat matzot during it for
seven days,” [implying] however that [you may] not eat chametz, and a
prohibition implied by a positive statement is [considered] a positive
commandment. Regarding its destruction, there is (Exod. 12:15) “You
shall eliminate leaven,” which is positive, [as well as] “[leaven] shall not
be seen nor be found.” (Exod. 13:7) So in the Yerushalmi, they equate
the prohibition derived from a positive statement of “you shall eat mat-
zot during it for seven days” and the positive obligatory statement of
“you shall eliminate.”* *Thus, according
The words of Nachmanides on this matter are to the Yerushalmi,
when we speak
perplexing in view of what has been said, for I do
of a prohibition
not see consistency in his words. For Nachmanides, derived from a
in one instance, has decided to enumerate all except positive statement
being a positive
a few, claiming about them that Maimonides had commandment, it
neglected them. These are eating unclean terumah means exactly that,
and we should include
(Nachmanides’s Additional Positive Commandment
it among the positive
No. 2), doing business with fruits of the Sabbatical commandments.

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year (No. 3), eating the paschal lamb while it is yet daytime (No. 12),
destroying fruits during a siege (No. 6), sacrificing limbs of a wild ani-
mal (No. 10), and rendering a legal decision while drunk (Nachmanides’s
critique to Prohibition No. 73). Then there are certain ones [of this type]
that I [Duran] added on that Nachmanides had neglected, although he
did enumerate other prohibitions derived from positive statements. So
he counts some of them and omits others. For he counts the aforemen-
tioned commandments that Maimonides had neglected, but he agrees
with Maimonides in enumerating [the sacrificing of a newborn animal]
that is too young (Positive Commandment No. 60), [a nazirite] letting
his hair grow long (No. 92), as well as the law of proper slaughtering.
But he disagreed with Maimonides on certain ones that he
[Maimonides] counts, such as swearing in His name (Positive
Commandment No. 7), demanding payment for a loan to a gentile (No.
142), and charging interest on his [the gentile’s] debt. Nachmanides did
not agree to enumerate the above instances even as prohibitions derived
from positive statements.
Also he differed with him regarding the positive commandments
(nos. 149ff) of examining domestic and wild animals, fowl, fish, and lo-
custs [to ascertain whether they are kosher], which Maimonides count-
ed as prohibitions derived from positive statements, but Nachmanides
did not count them. Likewise, following his viewpoint, he should have
enumerated [the prohibition of eating] the slaughtered bird of a met-
zora, but he did not do so. And it cannot be claimed that some of these
he did not enumerate because they have been expressly prohibited;
and as a result of their being thus prohibited, a positive expression in
addition would not be included in the enumeration. For he does [in
fact] count the destruction of fruits during a siege, even though it has a
[direct] prohibition, and he counted the [direct] prohibition among the
prohibitions, and the positive [expression] among the positive com-
As to the poet saying “dusts” [plural], it is because it is required to
have dust beneath and above [the blood]; indeed the word afarim [dusts]
occurs many times.

83. You shall have the sotah drink, that she may be cleared;
And you shall make a fence, to remove dangers.
It is a positive commandment to do to the sotah [suspected adulter-

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ess] in accord with the law written in the Torah. This comes into the
enumeration as a single commandment. But I wonder why they did not
count as a separate commandment being jealous of one’s wife, as it is
said (Num. 5:14), “And he shall become jealous of his wife.” Indeed, the
sages of Israel were divided (Sotah 3a) as to whether it [being jealous]
expresses permission or obligation. This is similar to their arguing about
the verses (Lev. 21:3) “For he may/shall become impure” and (Lev. 25:46)
“You may/shall hold them as slaves forever.” Now, just as they counted
“for her he shall become impure” as a commandment (Maimonides’s
Positive Commandment No. 37), it would be right to count “and he shall
be jealous of his wife” as a commandment, for these three cases were
treated in the same manner in the Gemara. I saw that Maimonides in his
great Code (Hilchot Sotah 4:18) wrote that it [the law of being jealous] is
from the words of the scribes [rather than Torah law], but this does not
seem so from the Talmud.
And you shall make a fence. Making the fence is in order to remove
blood and traps [accidents], as it is said (Deut. 22:8), “You shall make a
fence on your roof, so that you do not cause blood, etc.”

84. And a bridegroom during his whole [first] year, shall be

free for his household;
He shall be exempt from going out [to war], and should not
be enlisted for any thing.
A bridegroom has to be together with his wife for one year, not leav-
ing the city, as it is said (Deut. 24:5), “He shall be exempt for the sake of
his household.” For poetic completeness, he says, “And he should not be
enlisted for any thing,” although [this part of the law] should be counted
among the prohibitions.

85. And the kohen anointed for war should wave his hand aloft,
So that fear should not fall upon the heart of the girded
It is a positive commandment to appoint a kohen and to anoint him
that he should be ready to go out to the war front to strengthen the
hands and hearts of those going to war. That entire matter comes into
the counting of the commandments as a single commandment, and all
of them [who enumerated the commandments] wrote it as such. At this
point, the poet has finished the counting of the [positive] command-

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ments, and he concludes his poem in praise of those who fulfill them,
and the reward due them.
Now, just as we do not find in the enumeration of the command-
ments those that were enacted by the prophets, since they were not
spoken expressly to Moses at Sinai, it is also not right to count what
was said before the giving of the Torah, since it was not spoken at Sinai.
Therefore, we do not include in the enumeration of the commandments
what they said in the first chapter of Berachot (13a) that anyone who
calls Abraham by [his original name] Abram transgresses a positive
commandment, as it is said (Gen. 17:5), “Your name shall be Abraham,”
for He was speaking to Abraham, and undoubtedly this was not uttered
at Sinai. It is not like the commandment to be fruitful and increase,
which was stated to the sons of Noah and which was not repeated at
Sinai; it was nevertheless directed to Israel and not to the sons of Noah
*The cases of Abraham’s name
(cf. Sanhedrin 59a). For the manner of ex-
and of dwelling in Babylonia pression [about Abraham’s name] indicates
are similar in that neither is that He was addressing Abraham [and not
enumerated, since neither is part
of the Sinaitic legislation, the the people of Israel as a whole]. Likewise in
former being pre-Sinaitic and the chapter “Mi Shemeto” (Berachot 24b), [it
latter being post-Sinaitic. The
fact that both are referred to as
says] that anyone emigrating from Babylon
positive commandments is thus to the land of Israel transgresses a positive
irrelevant. It is also noteworthy commandment, as it is said (Jer. 27:10),
that the portion about dwelling
in Babylonia is absent in our “They shall come to Babylonia and they shall
manuscript version. be there,” and this is a prophetic law.*

86. These are My commandments, and these are My statutes,

And these are My laws, perfect and righteous.
Commandments (mitzvot) are matters that would have to be said
[naturally] even if they were not stated [in the Torah], like love of neigh-
bor, charity to the poor, and the like.
Statutes (chukkim) are matters whose reason is unknown, like the
red heifer, the goat who is sent away [on Yom Kippur], and the calf
whose neck is broken [when a murderer cannot be found].
Laws (torot, from a verb meaning to guide or direct) that guide one
directly to these things, like making a fence [presumably directed toward
being concerned with the welfare of fellow human beings] and similar
things. [Torot can also be understood as] leading a man straight, i.e.,
teaching him to imitate God’s ways, exalted be He. Also included in this

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[the plural form torot] are both Torahs, the written Torah and the oral
Torah, and the teaching regarding all the sacrifices.66
Perfect and righteous (temimim vi’ sharim) is not grammatical; it
should read “temimot vishharot,” for masculine form adjectives should
not modify feminine nouns, but this was done carelessly.67

87. They enliven the swift, but they destroy the haughty;
And he who instructs will shine like the brightness of the
The commandments are a life-giving potion to one who is swift and
careful about them, as the wise one said (Prov. 4:22), “They are life to
those that find them,” on which the comment is made (Eruvin 54a)
[that instead of] “those that find them (l’motz’eihem),” [one should read]
“those who bring them out (l’motzi’eihem)” [which implies that verbal
repetition of studies makes them last a long time]. But to a person who
is haughty and arrogant and does not do these commandments, they are
a poison which will destroy him.68
But they destroy (tispenah) is an active transitive verb, as in (Gen.
18:24) “will you indeed destroy (tispeh)?”
And he who instructs (hamazhir) the people to go in the way of the
Torah will shine like the brightness (yazhir k’zohar) of the sky. There is
a poetic use of the word mazhir, which has the meaning of instruction
and commandment, along with yazhir, which is about shining and light.

88. And to the one who is instructed and observes them, a good
reward will come,
And with the foreordained light the righteous will be
Just as the one who instructs has good reward for his effort, so as
good result comes to the one who follows the instruction, and he is re-

66 The ideas and expressions in this paragraph seem to me somewhat awkward and disjointed. But
the sequence of “My commandments, My statues, and My laws” is found in Gen. 26:5.
67 The author of Tzofnat Pane’ach points out that this criticism assumes that “perfect and righteous”
describes the commandments. In fact. it should be read as “O you perfect and righteous people.”
68 The section that refers to Eruvin [54a] is absent in our MS. Indeed, this reference does not seem
apt to the thought of this stanza. It seems that a better scriptural reference for this stanza would
be the verse, [Mic. 6:10] “The righteous will walk in them [the ways of the Lord], but transgressors
stumble in them.”

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warded for observing it (Ps. 19:12).69 And with the foreordained light of
the Shechina, the righteous will be crowned, and this is the ultimate vic-
tory for which man can strive, the crown on the heads of the righteous.70
The positive commandments are thus completed due to the strength
of the Rock and Shelter.


69 Note: This explanation understands mazhir as a teacher/preacher, and nizhar as a disciple. Because
of the multiple shades of meaning for zohar, I believe that other renderings are possible. One is
that the mazhir is the Lord, who gives teaching and light to the world, and the nizhar would be a
person who carefully practices the teaching. With this version, the subject of yikrav would not be
ekev but the Lord, i.e., “He will be near to the one who carefully practices.” A second variation is
based on the fact that this poetic rendition of the 613 commandments is known as Azharot. The
meaning would then be a petition that the work of the poet will be a source of enlightenment and
also that the reader will reap the rewards of observing this teaching. It is also noteworthy that in
the Shabbat song “D’ror Yikra,” we also have the simultaneous usage of mazhir with nizhar. This
poem is attributed to Dunash, who is earlier than ibn Gabirol. Is it possible that there exists an
even earlier source?
70 It would be good to compare these closing stanzas with the content and style of the introductory
stanzas at the beginning of the positive commandments.

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The Negative Commandments

1. I will take refuge in the shadow of the Almighty, and I will

not cover up His righteousness,
With the negative commandments, and I will tell His righ-
teous (ways).
The poet alludes to the scriptural expression (Ps. 91:1) “He dwells in
the shadow of the Almighty.” He means that he takes refuge in the name
“Almighty,” who overthrows the order of nature [from the verb shadad,
to destroy or overthrow]. For he intends to list the prohibitory com-
mandments, which suggests the quality of divine justice, and he does
not cover up the justice of the Almighty, as was stated, for (Hosea 14:10)
“the ways of the Lord are righteous” [divine retribution for transgres-
sion is just].

2. They are written with trustworthiness, with reliable testimony,

And according to the days of the year their number is sought.
He says that the aforementioned commandments are written with
trustworthiness, that there is nothing twisted or perverse in them.
With reliable testimony, by Moses, who was the reliable [servant]
in his house, as it is said (Ps. 19:8), “The testimony of the Lord is trust-
worthy.” He then says that there are 365 prohibitions corresponding to
the days of the solar year, as was explained in the introduction.

3. They are more precious than rubies, they were destined and
For the daughter of the mighty ones, like decorations to be
The poet takes the expression in Scripture (Prov. 3:15), “It is more
precious than rubies,” and he continues that the Torah was hidden, des-

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tined to be given to the daughter of the mighty ones, i.e., the congrega-
tion of Israel, which is the daughter of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. The
Torah was secreted with Him for two thousand years before the world
was created, as it is said (Prov. 8:30), “Then I was with Him as a nurseling,
and I was day by day a delight,” and a day for the Holy One is a thousand
years. [The repeated word yom yom thus indicates two thousand years.]
These commandments are magnificent like the ornaments of bridal at-
tire. It is possible that the poet is alluding to the rabbinic saying [see
note at the end of this paragraph] that the verse (Num. 7:1) “And it was
on the day that Moses completed (kallot)” implies that [the people of]
Israel were like a bride entering the wedding canopy (kallot also means
brides). Just as a bride adorns herself with twenty-four ornaments, so
did Israel, etc.71

4. Come out toward Me, My sister My beloved,

And obey My Torah, and take My instruction.
Concerning [Israel’s] standing at Mt. Sinai, it is written (Exod. 19:17),
“Moses led the people toward God” He calls the congregation of Israel
sister and beloved, as was expressed by King Solomon (Song of Songs
5:2). He tells her that she should obey His Torah, and this is worthwhile,
for “from it are the issues of life” (Prov. 4:23).72 And from the words
of Torah, ethical behaviors are truthfully given. In the initial letters of
these four stanzas, the poet has sealed his name in the aleph <> tav, bet
<> shin code [i.e., bet kaph yod tzadi transforms to shin lamed mem he].

5. I desired you and loved you, I redeemed you from rahav,

With chains of gold, fine and pure.
When He sent Moses, His prophet, to bring them toward God, He let
them know that He chose them from all the nations, as it is said (Exod.
19:5), “And you shall be My treasured possession among all the nations,”
and (Deut. 7:7) “The Lord desired (chashak) you.” When it says, “I desired
you and loved you,” it means that I loved you while you were in Egypt,

71 This precise reading of the midrashic text was not found by the author of Ziv Hazohar. Partial
texts are found in Shemot Rabba, Bamidbar Rabba, and Tanchuma, as well as in Rashi on Num.
7:1. This entire section of Zohar Harakia on the midrashic interpretation of Num. 7:1 is absent in
our manuscript version of Zohar Harakia.
72 I am at a loss to explain the aptness of this quotation here. These past few lines are not in our
manuscript text.

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and now I have additional love for you, which is chashak (desired). So
the meaning is that I desired you, having already loved you, for desiring
(cheshek) exceeds love.
And I redeemed you from rahav [a designation of Egypt or of the
Red Sea], for thus He said to them (Exod. 19:6) “You have seen what I
have done to Egypt,” for I gave you spoils in Egypt and at the Red Sea,
and this is what is meant by with73 chains of gold (torei zahav), which
were fine and pure.74

6. Then I came out and stood, in my thousands and myriads,

As the sound of my beloved approached, leaping over the hills.
The congregation of Israel [in turn] says, “And I indeed came out and
stood,” as it is said (Exod. 19:17), “And they stood at the foot of the
mountain.” In my thousands and myriads, when Israel came out in its
thousands and myriads, then there came the sound of her beloved over
the mountains, as mentioned in the positive commandment section
(Stanza 8).

7. I am the Lord, I called out to you at Sinai;

And there shall not be before Me other gods.
This is the expression of the beloved whose voice we heard. It is
consistent with the approach of the sages who said (Makkot 23b) that
the verses (Exod. 20:2) “I am the Lord” and (ibid., v. 3) “You shall have
no——” we heard from His powerful mouth. The poet follows the opin-
ion of the Gaon, who does not count “I am——” in the list of positive
commandments, but regards it as a proclamation leading to “You shall
not have——” and I have already noted this in the section on the posi-
tive commandments. The enumerated commandment is thus “You shall
not have other gods before me.”

73 Note: The words torei zahav are from Song of Songs 1:11. The Midrash (Shir Hashirim Rabba on
this verse) explains this term as symbolizing the spoils washed up from the Red Sea after the
Egyptians were overthrown into the sea. In accordance with this meaning, the Zohar Harakia
takes the meaning of this stanza as God showing special love by the spoils at the sea. The Midrash,
however, gives alternate meanings to torei zahav, which allude to the Torah (the word torei being
suggestive) or to the ark (the word zahav being suggestive). So the stanza could be construed as
meaning that God showed his love by taking Israel out of Egypt and giving them the Torah. In this
meaning, the words fine and pure would be descriptive not so much of the gold but of the words of
Torah, as in Ps. 18:31, where “the word of the Lord is refined” (ts’rufah). This interpretation of our
stanza makes it fit better between stanzas 4 and 6.
74 The translation of this verse is based on the MS reading of b’mo instead of k’mo.

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The content of this prohibition is that one must not affirm any other
deity than Him, blessed is He, i.e., you should not accept anyone as a
divinity other than God This is similar to (Jer. 11:4) “And I will be your
God” and (Deut. 26:7) “You have affirmed this day that the Lord is your
God” There is a dispute about this among the sages, for some claim that
this is a prohibition against making idols. This is like what is taught in
the Sifra (K’doshim 9:12), where they say that the verse (Lev. 19:4) “You
shall not make for yourselves molten gods” might be taken to imply
that other persons might make them for you, so the verse specifies [the
otherwise unnecessary word] “for yourselves.” One might also think
that one is permitted to make [idols] for other people, so the verse says,
“You shall not make” [rather than just saying that these idols shall not
be for you]. From this verse, they concluded that if one makes an idol
for himself, he transgresses two prohibitions, one of not making, and
another of not being for you. Rabbi Yose says that he transgresses three
prohibitions, not making, not [having one made] for yourself, and also
“you should not have.” So Rabbi Yose’s opinion is that the prohibition
“you shall not have” concerns the making of idols.
The opinion of the Halachot Gedolot is similar, as I have written in
the section on the positive commandments. And the asmachta proof of
(Deut. 33:4) “Moses gave us the Torah,” indicating 613 commandments
by its gematria value, would apply to the view of Rabbi Yose just as it
applies to the view of the Gaon, who holds that the statement “I am the
Lord etc.” is not one of the 613 commandments [and the two command-
ments give to Israel without intermediary are the prohibitions against
images and against worshipping them].
But in the opinion of Maimonides (Sefer Hamitzvot Prohibitions No.
2ff) and that of Nachmanides (critique on Maimonides’s Prohibition
No. 5) who agrees with him, the law follows the first teacher [in the
Sifra], that the expression “you shall not have, etc.” does not contain
any prohibition against making idols, but it is about accepting them as
divinities. Also, the translation of Onkelos also agrees, for he translates
this verse as “you shall have no other gods except me.” The language of
Scripture indicates this, since it says “other gods” that [people] serve in
the same way as Him, exalted is He, and serving or accepting as divinity
applies equally to Him and to others. However, the idea of making is
inapplicable to Him, although it is to “others.”
And from the agada [telling the story of the martyrdom of the seven

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sons] in chapter “Hanizakin” (Gittin 57b), it appears to me that the

prohibition of “you shall not have” is not a prohibition against making
idols. It says that they brought another son in front [of the emperor],
and he told him to worship the idol. He replied that it is written in the
Torah, “You shall not have other gods” [the context of this story is ac-
cepting and worshipping idols, not making them]. Likewise, it says in
Horayot (8b) where [the question is raised as to] which commandment
is mentioned first in the Torah, and it is identified as idol worship [being
mentioned at the beginning of the Decalogue]. Now it is [also] a proof
for this matter that the prohibition of “you shall not have, etc.” is not a
prohibition against making idols, for making idols is not punishable by
cutting off [if done intentionally] and for which a sin offering would be
brought [if done in error], [the latter type] being mentioned there.75

8. And you shall make no idol, wickedly or foolishly;

And you shall put no trust (in them) to make Him jealous
with strange deities.
Making an idol that is worshipped is forbidden by the Torah, and
this prohibition is punishable by whipping. Maimonides wrote that the
prohibition [in the Torah] is (Exod. 20:4) “You shall not make an idol
or any image,” and this is the opinion of the Gaon [Halachot Gedolot],
as I wrote in the positive commandments (Stanza 11). Nachmanides
objected to this from what is stated in the Gemara Avodah Zarah (43b)
and in Gemara Rosh Hashanah (24b) [concerning what types of objects
are forbidden to imitate in images]. Is it permissible [asks the Gemara,
to make images of things] in the lower regions [i.e., the heavenly bodies,
since the original impression was that the prohibition only encompassed
angelic beings, whose abode is in the upper region)? [This cannot be so]
since it was taught in a baraita that the expression (Exod. 20:4) “in the
heavens above” includes sun, moon, stars, and planets. [Duran explains]
that the teacher who raised this difficulty thought that this prohibition
(Exod. 20:4) was about making images. But [in the Talmud] they reject-
ed this opinion of his and asserted that the verse is about worshipping
images [not making them], which applies even to a small snail in the

75 The Talmudic discussion here concerns only sins, which are punishable by cutting off; and since
it includes specifically the case of the first prohibition, it must be thus punishable, and thus it
excludes identifying it with making idols, which is not punishable by cutting off.

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sea. That is derived from the latter part of the verse (Exod. 20:4) “which
is in the earth beneath,” which includes oceans, mountains, and hills,
the word beneath including the small snail in the sea. And [when the
Talmud says that the verse is about] worshipping them, it means that
Scripture is forbidding the worshipping [of the images] and accepting
their divinity, since they did not answer the difficulty by saying that the
baraita dealt with the situation where one made images for the purpose
of worshipping them.
So the meaning of Scripture according to this is that you shall not
have any other gods from the host of the heaven to accept them as di-
vine and saying to any of them “you are my god.” And attached to this
prohibition is (v. 4) “you shall not make an idol or any image, etc.” and
(v. 5) “you shall not bow to them or worship them,” all of this being a
single prohibition against idolatrous worship. For Scripture uses all over
this expression [of making] about idolatrous worship, e.g. (Deut. 4:16),
“Lest you become corrupt and make for you a graven image, the likeness
of any figure,” and (ibid., v. 25) “and you become corrupt and you make,
etc.” And the intent in all these is the worship, not the making.
One is perplexed by Maimonides, who decided to enumerate (Exod.
20:2) “I am . . .” as a separate commandment, since, if in the paragraph
of “You shall not have . . .” there is more than a single commandment
[Maimonides actually counts four], we would have then heard directly
from the powerful mouth more than two commandments. However, it
comes out from the Talmud at the end of Makkot (23b) that we only
heard two commandments from the powerful mouth, and from Moses
[we heard] 611, according to the numerical value of (Deut. 33:4) “Moses
commanded us Torah” (gematria value 611).
But the prohibition against making an image, which is worshipped,
and having it is from the verse (Lev. 19:4) “Do not turn to idols or make
molten gods for yourselves,” as they noted in the Sifra (Kedoshim 9:12),
which I noted above (Stanza 7). It is also from the verse (Lev. 26:1) “You
shall not set up for yourselves carved images or pillars,” where the Sifra
states (Behar 105:5) concerning “carved images or pillars” that just as
when you make a carved image, you have caused it to be forbidden for
any user, so when you make a pillar [for idolatrous purposes], you have
rendered it forbidden. And just as you are forbidden to keep [the verb ta-
kimu translated above as “set up” can also be rendered as “keep,” t’kaimu]
a pillar, so you are forbidden to keep idols, i.e., one transgresses keeping

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it, even if someone else made it. So there are two prohibitions about
worshipped images. One is making them, even for others, and the other
is to have them, even if others made them, as is mentioned in the Sifra
that I quoted above. And if one made them for himself, he is guilty on
two counts, i.e., on account of “you shall not make” and on account of
“for yourselves”; and he is punished with two whippings. And so did they
say there (ibid.) that if one made an idol for himself, he transgresses two
prohibitions. And if the image is not one that is worshipped, but is for
decoration, there is a specific prohibition from the verse (Exod. 20:20)
“With Me, therefore, you shall not make any gods of silver, nor shall you
make for yourselves any gods of gold.” [This means that] you should not
say, “I am making it as a decoration as they do in society,” since Scripture
says (ibid.), “You shall not make for yourselves.”
It seems that the poet uses here the general phrase “And you shall
make no idol” followed by “wickedly or foolishly” to indicate its two
aspects. The one is for the purpose of worship, which is wickedly, and
the other is for decoration, which is foolishly. For the one who does thus
[the latter] is foolish, not wicked, like the one who does so for worship.
And the phrase “And you shall put no trust” includes keeping it [an idol]
made by others, since if he did not have faith in them, he would not keep
And the meaning of “And you shall put no trust [in them] to make
[your creator] jealous with strange gods” is reminiscent of (Deut. 32:21)
“They provoked me with non-gods.”76 The word kesel means trust, as in
(Job 31:24) “If I have made gold my trust (kisli),” where [its meaning] is
told by the parallel77 phrase “I called fine gold my trust (mivtachi).”

9. And be fearful of the flame, for one who brings in an

Or builds a pillar [for idolatry], or plants an asherah.
The verse (Deut. 7:26) “You shall not bring an abomination into your
house” is a prohibition against having benefit from idolatrous things,
and one who does benefit from that is punished by whipping. And so it
says at the end of Makkot (22a) that if one uses asherah wood for cook-
ing, he is punished twice, once for transgressing “You shall not bring an

76 A more apt reference would be verse 16, “They provoked Him with strange things.”
77 The phrase “v’yaged alav re’o” is adapted from Job 36:33.

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abomination,” and second for (Deut. 13:18) “And nothing of the con-
demned thing shall stick to your hand.” Later the poet will mention this
[latter] prohibition (No. 220).
What he says, “And be fearful of the flame,” reflects the content of
the verse that says, “And you will be condemned like it.” It warns that
one should fear and dread from the flame that burns the wicked, both
idols and idolaters.
Also, “You shall not set up a pillar” (Deut. 16:22) is a prohibition
against making a pillar as a demonstration of honor, even for the pur-
pose of worshipping God, exalted be He, upon it, for this is the way of
the idolaters. And the scriptural expression is “You shall not set up a
pillar.” [This seems redundant.]
Also, “You shall not plant for you an asherah, any kind of tree” (ibid.,
v. 21) is a prohibition against planting any tree near the altar, as is the
practice of idolaters. According to what Rashi wrote in his Torah com-
mentary, there are two prohibitions involved. One is about planting an
asherah for idol worship, making the perpetrator guilty from the time of
planting. The other is planting a tree near the altar. And this is taught in
the Sifre that “you shall not plant for you an asherah (ibid.) [means that
the perpetrator] transgresses a prohibition. And [continues the Sifre]
how is it known that if one plants a tree or builds a house on the temple
mount, he transgresses a prohibition? It is from the expression (ibid.)
“any kind of tree near the altar of the Lord your God” So the meaning of
the verse would be “You shall not plant for you an asherah or any kind of
tree near the altar of the Lord your God” This is like the interpretation
that “you shall not make” (Lev. 19:4) and (ibid.) “not for you” are two
prohibitions contained in one negative statement, as we wrote above
(Stanza 7). But the later scholars (e.g. Maimonides’s Prohibition No.
13) considered it a single commandment, since it is a lav shebichlalut
[a single prohibitive statement encompassing more than one action.]78
This is counted as a single commandment unless there is another verse,
which applies specifically [to one of the several actions encompassed in
the lav shebichlalut verse). [An example is] the prohibition of (Lev. 26:1)
“And you shall not keep [takimu being understood as t’kaimu, keep] an
idol or pillar for you,” which is specific to keeping [idols] made by others,

78 This is taken up in depth in Maimonides’s ninth principle, and it is treated in The Puzzle of the 613
Commandments and Why Bother, chap. 27.

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so that the other prohibition [“you shall not make molten gods for you”
(Lev. 19:4)], which is interpreted as being a lav shebichlalut prohibiting
both having idols made by others and making idols that others will
have] can remain as another [enumerated] commandment pertaining
to making [idols] for others.79 [This theory] is according to what was
made known in the principles and follows Maimonides. However, in
Nachmanides’s opinion, they would be counted as two commandments
[since he counts separately things that differ in nature, even if expressed
in as a single negative statement].

10. Turn away from a false report, or *The source for v’ha’amen
believing nonsense*; bashav in this stanza is Job
15:31, which reads “al ya’amen
And do not take in vain His precious bashav,” and this is translated
names. as “let him not trust in vanity.”
In line with this meaning, I
“You shall not carry a false report” (Exod. have translated our stanza
23:1) is explained in the Mechilta (Mishpatim v’ha’amen bashav as “or
20:196) as being a prohibition that a judge believing nonsense.” However,
Duran understands these
should not hear one of the litigants until his words in a positive sense, by
opponent is present. It is also a prohibition taking ha’amen as imperative
rather than infinitive. He
that the litigant should not tell his words to also gives the word shav the
the judge unless his opponent is present. This meaning of equality or fairness,
is so that they should not present false claims rather than meaning nonsense.
In fact, the normal spelling
to the judges. And in chapter 4 of Shevuot of shav is with an aleph at the
(31a), this is derived from (Exod. 23:7) “Keep end, whereas the passage in
Job spells it without the aleph,
far from a false charge.” Therefore, I wrote this and Duran understands this as
among the positive commandments (Stanza meaning equality or justice.
59) that this verse is an enumerated positive
commandment, and this is enjoined by both negative and positive state-
ments. Also included in this negative commandment is a prohibition
against telling malicious gossip and against receiving malicious gossip
and against testifying falsely, as is explained in Makkot (23a).
To this idea [expressed in the first paragraph], he attaches the words
v’haa’men bashav, i.e., when you turn away from a false report, you will
become trustworthy (ha’amen) and strong in fairness [taking shav to
mean equality, like shaveh] and in truthfulness. Because of this, he states

79 It seems that Perlow, in his notes, wants to say that the last sentence belongs in stanza 8. But I
believe that it makes sense right here as I have translated.

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this in the imperative form (ha’amen), although there is a negative about

keeping far from lying, since it gives a reason for the prohibition. The
poet follows the intent of the Torah, which emphasizes this prohibition
by the positive commandment, which says (Exod. 23:7), “Keep far from
a false charge.”
And do not take in vain, etc. The meaning of “taking in vain” is
swearing the opposite of what is known to everybody. For example, [if
one says] about a pillar of stone that it is wooden; or if one swears truth-
fully about what is known, e.g., about a pillar of stone that it is of stone,
etc; or also if one swears to invalidate a commandment, or swears to do
the impossible. In all these cases, as soon as [the words] come out of his
mouth, a “vain oath” has been expressed.

11. And the commandment against adultery, guard against it,

lest He be angered;
And do not strive to steal, and do not covet your neighbor.
All the forbidden sexual unions [including adultery] are brought
by the poet later (Stanza 135, etc.). The reason why he writes here the
commandment of “You shall not commit adultery” (Exod. 20:13), which
seems to be a general statement about all forbidden sexual relations,
is that the poet in his verses is adhering to the order of the Decalogue.
He starts counting from “You shall not have, etc.” to which is attached
making idols, deriving benefit from idolatrous objects, putting up pil-
lars, and planting asherahs. Then he wrote “You shall not take the . . .”
which comes after “You shall not have, etc.,” and then he wrote “You
shall not commit adultery” and “You shall not steal” and “You shall not
murder” and “You shall not bear false witness” and “You shall not covet,”
and other commandments and prohibitions are interspersed for poetic
But the commentator on the Azharot [Moses ibn Tibbon] inserted
here the prohibition (Lev. 18:6) “You shall not come near to uncover
nakedness.” Maimonides explained (Sefer Hamitzvot Prohibition No.
353) that [this means that] one should not come near to any of these
sexually forbidden relations, even without intercourse, as in hugging
and kissing. He brings proof from the Sifra (Acharei 146:15) that states
that “you shall not come near to uncover nakedness” might be con-
strued to mean not having intercourse. Whence does one know that it
means coming near [otherwise as well]? Scripture says (ibid., v. 19) “To

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a woman in her niddah period you shall not come near.”80

Now, Maimonides differs with him and said that “you shall not come
near” just means actual intercourse. He brings proof from what is said
in the first chapter of Shabbat (13a) that Rabbi Pedat claimed that the
Torah is only prohibiting the “coming near,” which is actual incestuous
He brings another proof [from the law] that it is forbidden for a
woman in her niddah period to be with her husband even if he is covered
with his garment and she with her garment. [To derive this in Shabbat
13a] they had to use a hekesh analogy with the case of being with an-
other man’s wife. This is based on the verse in Ezekiel (18:6), “He has not
defiled his neighbor’s wife, and he has not come near to a woman while
she is niddah.” This juxtaposes one’s wife who is niddah to another man’s
wife, which implies that just as it is forbidden to be together with an-
other man’s wife, although each is separately clothed, so is it with one’s
own wife who is niddah. Now, certainly, the prohibition regarding an-
other man’s wife does not derive from the verse saying (Lev. 18:6), “You
shall not come near to uncover nakedness,” for a similar expression of
“coming near” is written regarding a niddah, as it is said (Lev. 18:19), “To
a woman in her niddah period you shall not come near,” while regarding
another man’s wife (Lev. 18:20), there is no special mention of “com-
ing near.” But if this “coming near” meant to come near for any kind of
enjoyment, the hekesh argument referring to another man’s wife would
be unnecessary. In fact, the prohibition concerning another man’s wife
comes from the statement of Solomon (Prov. 5:8), “Keep your way far
from her and come not near to the door of her house.” And we apply this
to his wife when she is niddah by means of the hekesh. Thus, it is clear
that the verse about “coming near to uncover nakedness” is not about
prohibiting hugging, kissing, or other nearness except intercourse.
He [Nachmanides] brings another proof from what is stated in the
Yerushalmi (Sanhedrin 7:9) about the verse, “To a woman in her niddah
period you shall not come near,” for Rabbi Yose bar Bun said that “you
shall not come near” means the same as “you shall not uncover.” He also
brings proof from what it says in the Gemara Yevamot, chapter “Haba al

80 I don’t know why v. 19 is more instructive than v. 15 itself, since both verses mention “coming
near” as well as “uncovering nakedness.” Indeed, the text, as it appears in the Sifra, is worded
differently than that quoted by Maimonides and Zohar Harakia.

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Yevimto” (55b) that ha’ara’ah [the initial stage of intercourse] means en-
try of the corona into the penis, while gemar bi’ah [completion of inter-
course] means the actual intercourse. Anything other than this [states
the Gemara] is considered kissing and is not punishable [according to
Torah law]. Now, since it says “is not punishable,” it is seen that there
is no whipping administered on the basis of this prohibition of “coming
near,” [while Maimonides’s view is that it is punishable]. In my humble
opinion, I found a clear proof of this, which Nachmanides did not men-
tion, which is in Gemara Sotah, chapter “Arusah” (26b). [It speaks of a
married woman with another man, lying together] with limbs touch-
ing, [and calls this] lewd behavior, but this is not actually forbidden in
the Torah. It likewise says in chapter “He’arel” (Yevamot 76a) that a
woman having lesbian intercourse is considered as just lewd behavior
[i.e., not forbidden by Torah prohibition]. So it is apparent that there
is no prohibition about “coming near” from the Torah.81 But the baraita
(the Sifra quotation) on which Maimonides based his opinion is only of
an asmachta nature [not to be understood as the actual meaning of the
Torah], and the only prohibition against it [“coming near”] is rabbinic.
Or it might be in the category of being below the minimum prohibited
amount, which is prohibited by the Torah [though not punishable as the
minimum is]. Nevertheless, having this [i.e., the subminimum case] as
an enumerated prohibition would not be in accord with Maimonides’s
What he says “Guard against it lest He be angered” is an extra cau-
tion, for on account of sexual misbehavior [divine] anger comes to the
world. This is what they said (Yerushalmi Sota 1:5) that every place that
you find sexual misbehavior, androlamusia [sometimes understood as
severe retribution] comes to the world. The meaning of androlamusia is
a government fighting force, as is mentioned in Yelamdenu (Tanchuma
in the portion Korach).82
But it is possible that he refers [by understanding the word af in this
stanza as connoting “nose” rather than “anger”] to the interpretation
of the sages that “do not commit adultery” (lo tinaf) [sounds like] lo te-

81 The last quotation from Yevamot does not seem relevant here, since there is no Torah verse
specifically prohibiting any aspect of lesbian sexuality.
82 The author of Ziv Hazohar says that he did not locate this source. See, however, Tanchuma, Korach
7, “v’oseh mimenu androlamusia.” This has nothing to do with sexual sinning, but this citation is
apparently only meant to support the idea that androlamusia means a military force.

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haneh l’af [do not please your nose], meaning that one should not make
it possible for his nose to enjoy this. This has been explained as meaning
that one should not smell perfume of a married woman (see Mechilta
of Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai, Yitro 14). The sages have also attached to
this that one should not become a broker for sexual immorality. For they
said in chapter “Kol Hanishba’im” (Shevuot 47b) that Shimon, son of
Rabbi Tarfon, said that there is a prohibition against one who induces
another to commit adultery; it is from lo tinaf (which can be vocalized
as) lo tanef [causative form].
Also, one must raise a question concerning the prohibition of being
alone with any of one’s sexually forbidden relatives, which is a Torah
law, as is stated in the second chapter of Avodah Zarah (36b) and in the
last chapter of Kiddushin (82b). [The question is] whether this is a sepa-
rate commandment, a prohibition derived from a positive statement,
i.e., from the interpretation that a man is allowed to be alone with his
mother, but not with any of the other forbidden relations in the Torah,
based on the verse (Deut. 13:7) “If your brother the son of your mother
entices you.” Or is it just a part of the regulations of the commandment
forbidding incestuous relations?
And you shall not strive to steal. Even though “You shall not steal”
(Exod. 20:13) mentioned in the Decalogue refers to kidnapping, as is
derived from the context [of other capital offenses, see Sanhedrin 86a],
the poet83 leaves kidnapping for later (Stanza 99) with capital offenses.
But here he records stealing property, which is actually forbidden by “lo
tignovu” (you shall not steal, Lev. 19:11), about which they said in the
Mechilta (Yitro 8) that it is the prohibition against stealing property.
Also, it is said in the Sifra (Kedoshim 2:23) that from the verse that says
“he shall pay double” [for a stolen animal] (Exod. 22:3), we have the pun-
ishment specified, but the prohibition is from lo tignovu (Lev. 19:11). His
use of the expression lo tishaf (you shall not strive) expresses desire. A
similar usage is (Job 7:2) “As a slave is eager (yishaf) for the shade.” This
is because a person’s soul yearns for robbery and illicit sexual relations.
And do not covet your neighbors. The Torah talks about desir-
ing (ta’avah) (Deut. 5:18) and about coveting (chemdah) (Exod. 20:14),
and these are two individual prohibitions. And thus is it stated in the
Mechilta (Yitro 8) that Scripture says (Exod. 20:14), “You shall not

83 Instead of “and the poet” in the printed edition, I here follow the MS “the poet.”

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covet,” and later on it says (Deut. 5:18), “You shall not desire,” indicat-
ing that one is separately guilty for desiring and separately guilty for
coveting. It also says that if a person desires, he will be led to covet,
since the Torah says, “You shall not desire” and “you shall not covet.”
And how do we know that if one covets, he is led to robbing? That is
indicated by (Mic. 2:2) “And they covet fields and seize them.” The mean-
ing of ta’avah is desiring in one’s heart, while the meaning of chemdah is
trying by whatever [nonviolent] means to bring the thought to action.
And so they said in the Mechilta (Yitro 8) about the verse (Deut. 7:25)
“You shall not covet (tachmod) silver and gold that is on them and take it
for yourself”; just as that verse means [that one has sinned] only when
he performed an action [“and take it for yourself”], so here [“you shall
covet” in the Decalogue] it is only when one takes action [that one bears
the guilt of coveting]. And if one’s [nonviolent] efforts do not succeed,
and one resorts to seizing forcibly, this is robbery. The expression [do
not covet your neighbors] is abbreviated; it would have been correct to
say, “Do not covet that which belongs to your neighbors.”

12. You shall not crush a person, whose blood I will seek out;
And you shall not set a trap to cause the blind to stumble.
I have already written that the poet organized his poem according
to the Decalogue; so here he wrote about “you shall not murder.” The
meaning of lo tenakesh is “you shall not crush,” like (Ps. 109:11) “Let the
creditor crush (y’nakesh) everything he has,” and the meaning is “you
shall not murder a human being.”
When he says “whose blood I will seek out,” its meaning appears to
be like (Ezek. 3:18) “I will require his blood from your hand [i.e., I will
punish the one who caused death]. It is similar to (Gen. 9:5) “I will re-
quire a reckoning of human life, of every man for that of his fellow man.”
But the commentator [ibn Tibbon] on the Azharot gave this plausible
interpretation that it means not to kill even one who deserves to die. It,
so to speak, means “You shall not crush, i.e., execute, a person whom I
want to kill, and whose blood I am seeking,” for [execution] is permitted
only to the court after witnesses testify before them. Even if the high
court witnessed the transgression, they are not allowed to put him [the
transgressor] to death; but they must bring him before [another] court,
and they must give their testimony, and the other court may put him to
death. This is included in the verse (Num. 35:12) “The manslayer shall

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not die until he stands before the congregation for judgment.” And the
Mechilta says that one might have thought that they could execute a
person who murdered or committed adultery; therefore, Scripture says,
“The manslayer shall not die until he stands, etc.” Also, it says that one
might have thought that if the congregation saw a person committing
murder, they could kill him without having him stand before the court;
therefore, it states, “The manslayer shall not die until he stands before
the congregation for judgment.”
And you shall not set a trap to cause the blind to stumble. The pro-
hibition (Lev. 19:14) “You shall not put a stumbling-block before the
blind,” includes many things. They said in the Sifra (K’doshim 35:14)
in explaining this prohibition that [it means] that if a person is blind
concerning some matter and wants to get your advice, do not give him
advice that is not appropriate. Also, it states that if one causes another
person to sin with something that he knows is forbidden, but gives it to
him as if it were permissible, he violates “You shall not put a stumbling-
block before the blind.” Concerning this, they stated (Niddah 57a) that
the Samaritans do not observe the law, “You shall not put a stumbling-
block before the blind [in the sense of giving misinformation leading
people to sin].” Also, it is forbidden to assist someone who is transgress-
ing against the words of the Torah by providing him with a forbidden
thing. Concerning this, it says (Pesachim 22b) that if a person gives a
cup of wine to a Nazirite or a limb from a live animal to a descendant
of Noah, transgresses “You  .  .  . before the blind.” Also, if one strikes
his grown son, he transgresses this law [since the son might strike him
back, which is forbidden], as is found in Moed Katan (17a) in the hap-
pening concerning the servant woman of Rabbi Judah the Prince [who
excommunicated a man who was beating his grown son]. Also, both a
lender and a borrower, who are involved with interest, transgress this
law (Bava Metzia 75b), since they are abetting each other.

13. You shall not testify falsely, and do not oppress an orphan;
And your land shall not fall into harlotry, as in foreign
The prohibition against false testimony is among the words of the
Decalogue (Exod. 20:13), and this is the prohibition corresponding to

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edim zomemin.84 So is it stated in the Mechilta (Yitro 8:13) and in the

Gemara Makkot (4b).
There is another prohibition85 about a witness, based on the verse
(Num. 35:30) “One witness shall not testify against any person that he
die,” which the rabbis (Sanhedrin 33b) interpreted as meaning that a
witness should not also act as judge [understanding ya’aneh not as testify
but as answering or expressing himself about the guilt of the accused].
For this is what they said in Sanhedrin (ibid.) that a witness should not
“answer” [express his opinion in court] either to acquit or to find guilty.
And they give the rationale that this has the appearance of his having a
personal interest in his testimony.
And do not oppress an orphan. Now Maimonides (Prohibition No.
256) included the orphan and widow as a single commandment, for he
considered them a lav shebichlalut [a single prohibition involving more
than one case], where the particular cases should not be separately
counted, since Scripture has included them under a single prohibition,
saying (Exod. 22:21) “You shall not oppress any widow or orphan.” But
Nachmanides differs, saying that even if his words are correct, that [nor-
mally] you only count the general statement, not the particular cases; in
this instance, however, the Torah separated them and said, “If you will
indeed oppress him [singular].” And since Scripture separated them, he
should count each case as a separate prohibition. And Nachmanides said
that this is how the rabbis interpret every similar case, and so it seems
from what I wrote in the principles (principle 9). But in this particular
instance, I do not agree with his words, for it is said in Sanhedrin (65a)
and Keritot (3b) that the ov and the yidoni [sorcerers] are separated re-
garding [punishing them] with death (Lev. 20:27), but are not separated
in the prohibition (Deut. 18:11), for a true separation is where there is a
separation in the prohibition, while a separation regarding death is not
a true separation. One learns from this that if they are not separated in
the prohibition, this is not a separation, even if they are separated in the
punishment. In fact, Nachmanides himself wrote this in order to refute

84 These are witnesses whose testimony is shown to be false, and who are subject to the same
punishment that their testimony would have caused to the accused. The punishment is stated
in Deut. 19:19, but every punishment must be related to an express prohibition. In this case, the
expression is in Exod. 20:13.
85 It seems that he meant to insert this as one of the 365 prohibitions. It indeed appears as a
commandment (no. 18) in the list preceding the text. However, in the account at the end of the
book, where Duran discusses his enumeration, I do not find this commandment mentioned.

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Maimonides for separating the ov and yidoni into two prohibitions, on

account of their being separated in the [punishment of) death].
And your land shall not fall into harlotry. Scripture says (Lev.
19:29), “Profane not your daughter to make her a harlot, lest the land
fall into harlotry [alternatively, and the land shall not fall into harlotry].”
The Gaon [Halachot Gedolot] counted this as a prohibition [i.e., the land
shall not fall into harlotry]. Maimonides (Principle No. 5) criticized him,
saying that this is only expressing the reason for “Profane not . . .” i.e.,
in order that the land shall not fall into harlotry, and this is not another
prohibition. Nachmanides supported the Gaon, saying that the first pro-
hibition applies to the father, i.e., that he should not profane his daugh-
ter; and the second part applies to the man committing the lewdness,
i.e., that he also transgresses a prohibition, and also the harlot herself
is forbidden by this prohibition. So the latter prohibition includes both
the lewd participants, and “Profane not . . .” applies to the father alone.
He brings proof from what it says in the Sifra (Kedoshim chap.7; 77:1)
and is quoted in the Gemara Yevamot (61b) and in Sanhedrin (76a) that
“profane not your daughter . . .” refers to giving away his daughter not
for marriage, and similarly to her giving herself away not for marriage.
Nachmanides understands this [the prohibition to the daughter] not
being derived from the father’s prohibition at all, but [independently]
from “and the land shall not be given over to harlotry.” Therefore, he
agrees with the opinion of the Gaon, who counts this as a prohibition,
and this is likewise the opinion of the poet.

14. Do not wrong the stranger, and you shall not build of hewn
And you shall not bear witness in a dispute, inflaming the
After completing [the commandments in] the Decalogue, the poet
adheres to the order of the Torah portions [in a rough way]. So he said,
“You shall not build of hewn stones” (at the end of Yitro), and thereafter
[other commandments] in the Sedra of Mishpatim, as he encountered
them, with exceptions as required by the rhyming.86
He begins, “Do not wrong the stranger.” Now, this wronging refers to
wronging with words. So it is said in the Mechilta (Mishpatim 18, 178,

86 The first two commandments in the stanza are actually in reverse order in the Sedra.

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20) that “do not wrong the stranger” means with words. It explains in
the Sifra (Kedoshim 82, 2) that you should not say to him “Last night,
you were an idol worshipper, and now you have entered under the
wings of the Shechinah.” Even as we are prohibited concerning wrong-
ing a converted stranger, similarly, there is another prohibition which
is counted regarding a stranger who escaped [from outside Israel] to
the Land of Israel, as it is said (Deut. 23:17), “With you, in your midst,
he shall dwell . . . where it is good for him; you shall not wrong him”
(Sifre, Tetze 125, 17).
And you shall not build of hewn stones, i.e., one should not build
an altar of hewn stones that were touched by iron, and so it was ex-
plained in the Mishnah, Tractate Middot (3, 4). The scriptural verse says
(Exod. 20:22) “You shall not build them of hewn stones, for if you lift
your tool on it, you have profaned it.”
And you shall not bear witness in a dispute (Exod. 23:2). The
intention of the poet is that this is similar in content to (Prov. 25:8) “Do
not go forth quickly to a quarrel” and to “A person should be one who
hears himself being verbally attacked and does not reply” (Gittin 36b);
for if one does not answer back in a quarrel, [the result is that] “When
there is no whisperer, contention ceases” (Prov. 26:20).87 If one does
answer back, this “inflames the contenders,” i.e., the dispute between
them will be aggravated.
But the sages interpreted this (Exod. 23:2) as meaning that a judge
should not tend toward the opinion of one of his colleagues and verbally
express what he does not believe in his heart, veering toward the opinion
of his colleague. And thus says the Mechilta (Mechilta of R. Shimon bar
Yochai, Exodus 23) that “you shall not answer in a dispute to turn aside”
means that you should not say at the time of voting “It is good enough
if I would vote like such a one,” but say how it seems to you. Another
thing learned from this verse is that if one expresses innocence [for the
accused], he should not later express guilt. And also [it is learned that]
it is permitted to reopen the case [if the accused was found guilty, and
then new evidence was found] for exoneration, but not to reopen [from
innocence to] guilt. Also, [it is learned, by reading the word riv, a quar-
rel, as rav, a chief] that one does not begin [in the order of voting by the

87 In this reading of Ex. 23:2, the word ta’aneh is taken to mean “answer back,” rather than “bear

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panel of judges] with the chief, since the word for quarrel, riv, according
to its spelling [can be vocalized] as rav (chief). All of this has to do with
capital cases, as is explained in Mishnah Sanhedrin (4, 1).

15. You should not curse elohim, and you shall not profane His
And you shall not glean your vineyard, nor gather fallen fruit
of the harvest.
This is a prohibition against cursing judges, as mentioned in Sanhedrin
(66a). There is in this verse (Exod. 22:27) another prohibition, about
blaspheming His name, blessed is He. This is an enumerated prohibi-
tion according to what they stated in the Mechilta (Mishpatim 19, 188)
that the punishment for this we hear from the verse (Lev. 24:16) “And
whoever blasphemes the name of the Lord shall surely be put to death.”
Where [continues the Mechilta] is the prohibition expressed [since it is
always assumed that if something is punishable, there must somewhere
be a prohibitive statement]? It is from (Exod. 22:27) “You shall not curse
elohim [that word means judges, but it can also refer to God].” It also
states there (Sanhedrin 66a) that “you shall not curse elohim” is a prohi-
bition against blaspheming His name, blessed is He. In the Sifra (Emor
19, 243) it is stated that [blaspheming] with the special name incurs the
death penalty, but with other synonyms, it is just a transgression of a
Now, Maimonides did not consider it far-fetched to count this prohi-
bition as two commandments, since Scripture separates them with re-
spect to their punishments. So this is not a lav shebichlalut [a generalized
prohibition which Maimonides usually counts as a single command-
ment]; since the punishment is explicit, the fact that the prohibition is
combined with something else is only due to the principle that there is
no punishment without a prohibition. It is not a lav shebichlalut unless
there does not exist in any other place [a separate mention] besides in
the combined prohibition, and thus have I written in the Principles.
And you shall not profane His name. The prohibition (Lev. 22:32)
“You shall not profane My holy name” means that a person should not
perform a transgression nor do any act by which the divine name will be
profaned. For instance, in a time of religious persecution, even one who
is coerced [to sin] profanes the exalted name. Also, in a time when there
is no persecution, if one publicly renounces divine authority, intending

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to rebel against the Holy One, blessed is He, [one violates this com-
mandment]. Also, if a person who has a reputation for proper behavior
does something unseemly [though not an actual transgression], he is
guilty of profaning His name.88
And you shall not glean your vineyard. These are the small clus-
ters that have no “shoulder” [grapes from side stems] and “dripping”
[grapes from the central stem]. These must be left for the poor. They
are called olelot (young children), as in (Lam. 2:11) “young children and
sucklings,” since they are to full-grown clusters as small children are to
adults.The fallen fruit of the harvest. This is a separated prohibition, i.e.,
that one should not pick up grapes that fall during the harvesting.

16. You shall not delay your taking your harvest fullness or your
And do not oppress your neighbor, and do not postpone vows.
The use of the expression “your taking” (b’vitzacha) means [taking]
in the manner of robbery, as in (Ps. 10:3) “And the exploiter (botze’a)
blesses.” This expression b’vitzacha is used for enhancing the poem
[since it is used for rhyming]. But the prohibition m’le’atcha v’dimacha
lo t’acher (Do not delay your fullness of harvest and the flow of your
presses; Exod. 22:28) applies even when one does not intend to rob. The
meaning of this prohibition is explained in the Mechilta (Mishpatim 19,
189, 28) that one should not remove terumah before first fruits from
produce nor should one remove second tithe before the first tithe [alter-
ing the correct order of separation]. If one transgresses this prohibition,
he is not punished by whipping, as is mentioned in the first chapter of
Temurah (4a). It also states in the Mishnah, tractate Terumot (3, 6) that
[although separating these portions in incorrect order is forbidden, if
one did so], the separation is valid.
And do not oppress your neighbor (Lev. 19:13) is when one with-
holds payment for a hired laborer. Thus is it explained in the Gemara
Bava Metzia, Chapter Hamekabel (111a) and in Chapter Haparah (?)
and in Chapter Oto V’et B’no (?). Furthermore, anyone holding on to
money rightfully belonging to his fellow transgresses this prohibition
(Sifre Tetze 145, 14).
And do not postpone fulfilling vows (Deut. 23:22). One has

88 These various cases are not clearly delineated here. See Maimonides’s Prohibition No. 63.

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transgressed this vow only after three festivals have passed, as is stated
in Rosh Hashanah (6a).

17. And do not curse the deaf, for the violence done to him will
be sought;
And the plowman shall not hitch oxen with donkeys.
This prohibition is against cursing anyone in Israel. But Scripture
(Lev. 19:14) mentions the deaf in particular, since [this is forbidden]
even though [the deaf person] is not pained by the curse since he does
not hear it; so much more [is it forbidden to curse] one who hears and
is pained. But since a transgression from a kal v’chomer is not a valid
basis for punishment, the rabbis (Mechilta Mishpatim 19, 188) had to
include [this prohibition of cursing] any Israelite from the word “of your
people” (Exod. 22:27, “And you shall not curse a ruler of your people”).
As it is said in the Sifra (Kedoshim 34, 13) that [from Lev. 19:14] one
would think that it applies only to the deaf, and [its applicability] to
other people is from “You shall not curse . . . of your people.” Then why
[continues the Sifra] does Scripture (Lev. 19:4) state [particularly] the
deaf person? [It is to imply] that the law applies to a deaf person who is
alive, but excludes cursing a corpse, who is not alive. [Note that] one is
not punishable for cursing unless he uses the divine name.
The expression “The violence done to him will be sought” means that
you should not think that, since he does not hear, “What can he do to
me?” For the Holy One hears and exacts retribution for his injury and
will take vengeance from the one who curses. This is why it says (Lev.
19:14) “And you shall fear your God”
And the plowman should not hitch oxen with donkeys. One
should not combine two species of animal for any kind of work: plowing,
threshing, hauling wagons, and similar things. Now, Maimonides wrote
(Sefer Hamitzvot, Prohibition No. 218) that one is punishable by whip-
ping only if one [of the two animals] is a clean animal and the other is
an unclean animal. But I have not seen such a thing anywhere. Rather in
chapter five of Bava Kamma (55a) and in Chapter Oto V’et B’no (Hullin
79a), they clearly stated that it is forbidden to use any two species, even
if both are unclean or both are clean animals. Also in the Mishnah,
Tractate Kila’im (8, 2), we learned that unclean with unclean and clean
with clean [are forbidden to work together]. Maimonides explains this
Mishnah that it means forbidden by rabbinic law [but not punishable as

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a Torah law]. Just as it is forbidden to use two species, so it is forbidden

to mate them, as it is said (Lev. 19:19) “You shall not have your cattle
breed with a different kind.” [The Torah forbids] inserting “the paint
stick into the tube [i.e., manually causing copulation].”

18. Do not oppress your hired worker, and do not glean your
Do not muzzle your ox while he threshes the sheaves.
Even though two prohibitions are written regarding oppression,
“You shall not oppress your neighbor” (Lev. 19:13) and “You shall not
oppress your hired laborer” (Deut. 24:14), they are enumerated as only
one prohibition, as is known from the Principles (No. 9), and I have al-
ready explained above (Stanza 16) the meaning of “oppression.”
And do not glean your harvest (Lev. 19:9 and 23:22) is a prohibi-
tion that one should not pick up the ears of grain that fall at harvest
time but should leave them for the poor.
Do not muzzle your ox while he threshes the sheaves (Deut.
25:4). They have already said in Chapter Haparah (Bava Kamma 54b)
and in Bava Metzia (89a) that this applies to an ox and other animals
as well, and to threshing and other work as well, but Scripture speaks in
terms of the usual case. Muzzling means preventing its eating, and even
if one verbally muzzles it, he transgresses this prohibition.

19. Do not completely harvest your olive branches, and do not

finish off your edge;
And do not wrong your comrade with purchase or selling.
Do not completely harvest your olive branches (Deut. 24:20)
means that one must leave a portion on the tree so that he should not
totally finish it. Also included here is that one should not take what he
has forgotten from the olive tree branches, and this applies to other
trees as well. This is derived from the verse (Deut. 24:20–21) “You shall
not completely harvest the branches after you” and “You shall not glean
the young [grapes] after you” [the expression “after you” implying going
back after forgetting]. It is said in the Sifre (Tetze 150, 2) that “you shall
not completely harvest the branches” [lo t’fa’er] means that the law of
leaving a portion applies, and “after you” means that the law of forgot-
ten produce applies.
The meaning of lo t’fa’er is “You shall not take its branches” [pe’erot

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means branches, and the verb form indicates removal or harvesting].

This is similar [but not exactly] to a person who removes branches
(se’ifot) being called mesa’ef (Isa. 10:33). And the law about leaving a
portion and that of the forgotten produce apply to both field crops and
trees, and they constitute two prohibitions. Therefore, he continues
after this, “And do not finish off your edge,” in accord with the verse
(Lev. 23:22) “And you shall not finish off the edge of your field.” And
regarding what is forgotten in the field, it is written (Deut. 24:19) “If
you forget a sheaf in the field, you shall not return to take it.” These are
counted as two commandments [not harvesting a designated portion of
the produce, and not harvesting forgotten produce], as is known from
the Principles.89
And do not wrong your comrade with purchase or words [Duran
has instead of mimkarim (selling) devarim (words)]. There are two prohi-
bitions, one of which is about wronging monetarily, as it is stated (Lev.
25:14) “If you make a sale to your comrade, etc.” The content of this
wronging is that one should not overcharge. The second kind is wrong-
ing with words, that one should not cause pain with words [derived
from Lev. 25:17]. The meaning of “wronging” is like (Isa. 49:26) “I will
feed those who wrong you with their own flesh.”

20. You shall not bear the guilt for one who intends to sin;
And you shall not think hatefully of him, as for hatred of
He says that if one’s heart intends to do evil [libo m’lao meaning de-
termination to do evil is based on Esth. 7:5] and whose passion incites
him to commit a transgression, “You shall not bear his guilt” (Lev. 19:17)
by rebuking him in a way that shames him. Thus is it in the Gemara
Arakhin (16b) and in the Sifra (Kedoshim 43). One might think that
“you shall surely reprove your neighbor” (Lev. 19:17) applies, even if
he reproves him so that his face is altered [by public embarrassment];
therefore, Scripture says, “You shall not bear his guilt.” From here, the
rabbis said (Bava Metzia 59a and Avot 3:15), “He who publicly blanches
the face of his fellow in shame has no share in the world to come.”

89 Maimonides in Principle 9 says that when Scripture has two prohibitory statements that concern
essentially the same topic but which complement one another, they should not be counted
separately. Thus, not harvesting a portion of a grain field and not harvesting a portion of the fruit
of the tree are counted as one commandment, not two.

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And you shall not think hatefully of him. He says this since the
Torah (Lev. 19:17 “You shall not hate your brother in your heart”) only
forbids hatred in one’s heart, as stated in the Sifre (Kedoshim 42) and
Gemara Arachin (16b).
As for hatred of enemies. The Torah only forbids hatred between
enemies because of [personal feelings of] enmity. But if one is guilty of
transgression, though there are no witnesses to bring him to court, then
it is one’s duty to be hateful, as it is said (Prov. 8:13) “Fear of the Lord
*There, it is supposed that is to hate evil.” In this way, it says (Exod. 23:5)
when the Torah speaks “When you see the donkey of your enemy, etc.,”
of “your enemy,” it must
as is noted in the Gemara Pesachim (113b).* Arim
refer to someone who is
guilty of transgressions, [the last word in the stanza] means enemies, as in
since otherwise, it is (1 Sam. 28:16) “And he became your ar,” i.e., your
forbidden to be hateful.

21. Do not take vengeance on your people, so that I should not

take vengeance on you;
And the wages of your laborers shall not stay with you.
The rabbis explained this in Gemara Yoma, Chapter Barishonah (23a)
and also in the Sifra (Kedoshim 44). Suppose someone said to another,
“Lend me your sickle,” and he did not lend it. Then, on another day, the
latter said to him, “Lend me your spade,” and he replied, “I won’t lend
it to you, just as you did not lend me your sickle.” In that case, he trans-
gresses the prohibition [of “You shall not take vengeance,” Lev. 19:18].
The punishment for this is divinely administered, and there is no whip-
ping [by the court], since there is no action involved. Therefore, he says
so that I should not take vengeance on you.
And the wages of your laborers shall not stay with you. There
are two prohibited actions which comprise this enumerated command-
ment. The one is the wage of the hired worker, “The wage of a laborer
shall not remain with you” (Lev. 19:13), which is a prohibition regard-
ing a day laborer. The other one is (Deut. 24:15) “You must pay him his
wages on the same day, that the sun shall not set on it [unpaid].” This
is a prohibition regarding one hired for the night, and both of them are
enumerated as a single commandment, as is know from the Principles
(No. 9). For the intention in both of them is not to delay the payment
of a laborer more than one 12-hour period [following the work], and
so did they state in Gemara Bava Metzia (110b). We count “Should not

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remain . . .” as one commandment, and “You shall not wrong” (stanzas

16 and 18) as another, since one may transgress one without the other.
Even though it is said in the Gemara (Bava Metzia 111a) that if one
withholds payment of a laborer, he transgresses all of them [which in-
cludes these two], it does not mean that they are identical in content.
For when the day has passed [without payment], he has transgressed
the one prohibition, and if he fails to pay him altogether [even later], he
has transgressed the other.

22. You shall not keep angry grudges, and you shall not consult
And fathers shall not be put to death on account of their
children, nor children on account of their parents.
Also there (Yoma 23a, which was previously quoted regarding taking
vengeance in Stanza 21), they spoke about one who says to a person,
“Lend me your sickle,” and he did not lend it to him. Later, that person
says, “Lend me your spade,” and he replies, “Here, take it, I am not like
you.” One is forbidden (to act thus), since, although he did not take ven-
geance [by refusing to lend the spade], he nevertheless carried the anger
in his heart.
You shall not consult ovot. There are two enumerated prohibi-
tions, i.e., not to consult an ov, and not to consult a yidoni. The verse
that prohibits this is (Deut. 18:10–11) “Let no one be found among you
who . . . consults an ov or yidoni.” A person who consults [an ov or yidoni]
is not punishable by death, but he has transgressed a prohibition. The
Sifre proclaims that that an ov is [a sorcerer] where speech comes from
his armpit, and a yidoni has speech come from his mouth; these are
punishable by death, [i.e., the practitioners]. But he who consults them
transgresses a prohibition [which is punishable by whipping]. [The ov
and yidoni] are counted as two [commandments], as is known from the
Principles (No. 9).
And fathers shall not be put to death on account of their chil-
dren, nor children on account of parents. They explained in the Sifre
(Tetze 147, 16) and in Sanhedrin (27b) that this is a prohibition against
relatives testifying about each other, whether regarding guilt or inno-
cence, and whether civil or criminal cases. Since “parents” (horim) refers
to father and mother, the expression is abbreviated and inaccurate, for
a woman’s testimony is invalid whether she is a relative or not. It would

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have been more proper to say that parent cannot be put to death [by
their child’s testimony], nor can children be put to death by [testimony
of] fathers. Even this would still be abbreviated because it still does
not specify according to whose testimony parents are not to be put to
death. It is possible to improve the sense of his words according to the
statement in the Gemara (Sanhedrin 28a) that [one can include in the
words parents shall not be put to death] that parents’ testimony against
each other is invalid, i.e., testimony of brothers against each other is
invalid, since they may be termed fathers. The meaning would be that
a brother and his children could not be put to death by the testimony
of the brother, or by the uncle, who is a different generation. The two
prohibitions contained in this verse (Deut. 24:16) constitute a single
[enumerated commandment], for they are complementary, as is known
from the Principles (No. 9).

23. Do not hearken to the words of a prophet teaching falsehood;

And you shall not follow behind stupid misleaders.
The Torah says regarding a false prophet (Deut. 13:4) “You shall not
hearken to the words of that prophet.” Maimonides (Prohibition No.
28) explained that this prohibition means that we should not inquire
of the one who prophesies in the name of false gods as to what is the
sign or miracle [which he predicts] as one does of one who prophesies
in God’s name. Even if the sign that he gives occurs immediately, we
should not pay attention to it, but we must execute him immediately.
On this basis, the prohibition is counted among the commandments.
However, Nachmanides (in his critique of Prohibition No. 28) wrote
that this prohibition applies after the miracle occurs, as it says (Deut.
13:4) “For the Lord your God is testing you.” Thus, he explained that this
prohibition is that we should not do according to his words, and worship
the false deities, and that we should not be misled by the sign or miracle
that he gave, and which happened. So did Onkelos translate, “You shall
not accept the word of that prophet.” And this is also the meaning of
“You shall not hearken to the word of that prophet,” since “listening” at-
tached to the word to (el) signifies accepting words and acting on them,
while if it were a prohibition just against hearing his words, it would say,
“You shall not hear the words of that prophet.” [In other words, shmiah
el means “listening to” in the sense of obeying, whereas shmiah with-
out el means plain listening.] According to his [Nachmanides’s] words,

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it is not right to include this prohibition in the enumeration, since it

would simply be a prohibition against idolatry. They have already stated
(Tanchuma Lev. 2) that the Torah prohibits idolatry in forty-two places,
but they are not all separately counted, as is known from the Principles
(No. 9). But Nachmanides would haltingly admit this prohibition in the
enumeration, since there is included herein something other than idola-
try. This is that we must not follow the words of a prophet who proposes
to revoke anything in the Torah, even if he performed a sign or miracle,
as is explained in Sanhedrin (90a). [In fact, Nachmanides deletes this in
his final count.]
And you shall not follow behind stupid misleaders. When he
says nivarim (stupid), this is like the biblical expression about idolatry
(Jer. 10:8) “They are altogether stupid and foolish.” It is similarly writ-
ten above (Stanza 8) “with wickedness and foolishness” [i.e., idolatry
and foolishness are associated].
With regard to the misleader [who attempts to mislead someone into
idolatry], there are numerous prohibitions. The first is a prohibition not
to mislead, as it is said (Deut. 13:12) “And they shall no more do such an
evil thing.” The second is a prohibition against loving, as it is said (Deut.
13:9), “You shall not consent to him” [the word toveh, consent, has the
same letters as tohav, love.]. The third is an even stronger prohibition,
which is not to let go of one’s hatred for him, but it is a duty to hate
him. As it is said in the Sifre (Re’eh 67, 9), that from the verse (Lev.
19:18) “You shall love your neighbor as yourself,” you might think that
it means such a person [the misleader] also; therefore, it is stated, “You
shall not consent to [love] him.” [The Sifre continues that from the verse
(Exod. 23:5)] “You shall surely release it with him,” you might think that
it means such a person also; therefore, it is stated (Deut. 13:9), “You
shall not listen to him.” The fourth one is that if the person who is be-
ing misled sees the misleader in a perilous condition, he is forbidden to
rescue him, as it is said (ibid.) “Your eye shall not pity him.” The fifth
is that the person who is being misled is forbidden to plead the cause
of the misleader, even if he knows of a favorable argument for him, as
it is said (ibid.) “You shall not spare him.” And yet a sixth prohibition
is that if he has incriminating knowledge from another viewpoint, he
must make it known and reveal it, as it is written (ibid.) “You shall not
conceal for him.”
Thus did the rabbis interpret in the Sifre, and Maimonides, basing him-

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self on this, included all of them in the enumeration. But Nachmanides

based himself on what they said in the Gemara (Sanhedrin 61b) that the
words (Deut. 13:9) “You shall not consent to him and you shall not lis-
ten to him” mean that if he consented and listened, he is guilty. It looks
like they interpreted the content as accepting the words he said, which
would be [saying] “I will go and I will worship,” and he would be guilty
of the death penalty as soon as he agrees. This is also the opinion of
the Targum who translates it as “You shall not accept from Him,” which
means accepting his words, not listening. Therefore, he invalidates these
two commandments from the enumeration, since they are among the
many prohibitions against idolatry; likewise, the Halachot Gedolot does
not enumerate them.
In my humble opinion, it is possible to maintain the [interpretation
of the Baraita (i.e., the Sifre)] and to include everything here [i.e., the
various prohibitions concerning the misleader mentioned in the Sifre],
just as Nachmanides did concerning the prohibition (Deut. 13:4) “You
shall not listen to the words of that prophet.”90 Since the Talmudic au-
thorities were more proficient in the linguistic usage of “listening” (sh-
emiah) than we are, one should not reject an explicit Baraita on account
of our theorizing. Also, Nachmanides, at the end of his book, where he
enumerates the commandments, does not eliminate from Maimonides’s
list “You shall not consent to him” and “You shall not listen to him.”
However, I noticed that he does eliminate “You shall not listen to the
words of that prophet.”

24. Do not hand over a slave, and do not be partial to certain

And do not mention verbally the names of false deities.
It is a prohibition that one should not return a gentile slave who fled
to the Land of Israel from a Jewish master residing outsode the Land of
Israel, as it is said (Deut. 23:16) “You shall not hand over a slave to his
master.” Thus, it is explained in Gittin (45a). The master is compelled to
free him, and the slave writes for him a contract [of indebtedness] for
his value [as a slave]. I have already written above (Stanza 4) that we are

90 In Nachmanides’s critique of Maimonides’s Prohibition No. 28, he again opposes the inclusion of
a separate commandment based on the rendition of “listening” rather than “obeying”; however, he
does find some justification for Maimonides’s inclusion.

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enjoined by a special prohibition not to oppress him [the freed slave]

just as in the case of a convert.
And do not mention verbally. This is a prohibition not to swear
in the name of an idol as one swears in the name of Him whose name
is exalted. Even mentioning it by name is forbidden, as it is said in
Sanhedrin (63b) that one should not say to his friend, “Wait for me at a
certain idol.” There (Sanhedrin 63b), where they speak of [various types
of honor shown to an idol, which do not constitute actual worship, such
as] hugging, kissing, sweeping around it, and sprinkling around it, [they
comment that] they are not punishable by whipping. However, if one
vows in the name of an idol or takes an oath in its name, [he is punish-
able by whipping, since this is a transgression of the verse (Exod. 23:13)
“And make no mention of the name of other gods.”

25. Do not covet their silver, and you shall not stand idly by
And quit the habit of swearing falsely.
The prohibition of “You shall not covet the silver or gold that is on
them” (Deut. 7:25) means that one may not have any benefit from deco-
rations on a heathen deity, as is made clear in Gemara Sanhedrin (source
not identified) and likewise in the Sifre (Lev. 17:9) and in Avodah Zarah
(51b). They said that “with them” (in Deut. 29:17) and “on them” (in
Deut. 7:25) are comparable; just as the latter refers to forbidden decora-
tive objects on them [idols], so the former forbids decorative objects.
But Nachmanides (on Prohibition No. 194) holds otherwise, since the
verse (Deut. 7:26) “You shall not bring an abomination into your house”
[which follows “You shall not covet, etc.”] cannot include decorations on
idols, [the word abomination here] meaning not the decorations, but the
idol itself. However, this is not what Maimonides wrote.
And you shall not stand idly by blood is a prohibition against
being disinterested as to rescuing a person who needs our help. Also,
it says in the Sifra (Kedoshim 41, 8), “Whence is it known that if you
know testimony, you are not permitted to be silent? It is from the verse
(Lev. 19:16) ‘You shall not stand idly by the blood of your neighbor.’
And whence is it that if you see someone drowning in a river, or being
attacked by robbers or by a wild beast, that you have to save him? It
is from ‘You shall not stand idly by the blood of your neighbor.’ And
whence is it known that if a person is pursuing another to kill him, you

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must save him even at the cost of his [the attacker’s] life? It is from ‘You
shall not stand idly by the blood of your neighbor.’” As to the matter of
suppressing one’s testimony [the first case in the previous quotation]
there is an additional prohibition, namely (Lev. 5:1), “If he does not tell
it, he bears his iniquity.”91
And quit the habit. Scripture says (Lev. 19:12), “And you shall not
swear in my name falsely.” It is explained in the Gemara Shevuot (21a)
that there are two kinds [of oath] that [are further divided] into four: [I
swear that] I will eat, I will not eat, I ate, I did not eat. The grammatical
form of “quit” (hechadel) is imperative in the niphal (passive) structure.
Therefore, the poet has been criticized about this, since this verb does
not occur [in the Bible] in this structure. [The similar-looking word in
Ezek. 3:27] “He who desists (hechadel) is a noun derived from the active
verb form, the letter he [in hechadel] being the definite article. [The poet]
is saying that one should not have the habit of false swearing, as ex-
pressed by the verse (Jer. 9:4) “They taught their tongues to speak lies.”

26. Keep my laws at the door, and do not show preference to the
And desist from taking interest with raising values.
He alludes to the biblical expression (Ps. 141:3) “Keep watch at the
door of my lips.” The phrase is abbreviated, since it should have said, “at
the door of your lips” [not just “at the door”]. The word dal has the same
meaning as delet (door), for the tav of delet is just a feminine ending. He
[the poet] is urging that one should keep the law of God at the doorway
of his lips, and one should be careful with his words, “lest from them the
people would learn to lie” [this phrase from Avot 1:9 seems to be not apt
here]. One should always remember not to show preference for a poor
person in litigation, as it says (Exod. 23:3) “You shall not favor a poor
man in his cause.” They explained in the Sifra (Kedoshim 37, 2) that you
[the judge] should not say, “This man is poor, and since both I and the
rich man are obliged to sustain him, I will decide in his favor, so that he
can sustain himself readily,” since the Torah says (Lev. 19:15) “You shall
not favor a poor man.” Similarly, they said in Gemara Ketubot (84a) that
one does not show compassion in law.

91 Considering the latter as a prohibition is problematic, since it is expressed as a punishment, rather

than a prohibition.

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And desist from taking interest with raising values. Regarding

the prohibition of interest there are many commandments. Those that
are enumerated are: not to lend with interest, and not to borrow with
interest [text emended to agree with MS and first printed edition], and
not to be a guarantor, or witness, or broker, or scribe between them.
These prohibitions will be explained later on, God willing (stanzas 66,
78, and 116). The meaning of “with raising values” is that one should
not lend something worth twenty units such that after a certain time
something worth thirty units [would be returned]. The scriptural ex-
pression is from (Ps. 44:13) “And you have not set their prices high.”

27. And with the commandment of “do not subvert” take heed
lest you go astray;
And the law of the subverted orphan, or widow, or stranger.
In the Mechilta (209, 6), it is explained that the needy person, of
whom it is said (Exod. 23:6) “You shall not subvert the cause of your
needy in his dispute,” means an Israelite who is sinful and is needy of
merits. This is their statement there: “If a wicked person and a virtuous
person are standing before you [a judge] in judgment, you should not
say [to yourself)] ‘Since this person is wicked, I will turn the judgment
against him.’ For the Torah says, ‘You shall not subvert the cause of your
needy in his dispute.’” The poet addresses the *With regard to the remainder
judge that he should observe this law and not of this section, there are
deviate from it or go astray, for a pious judge disturbing difficulties. The
Yad Halevi, in his commentary
can think that he would be near to God’s inten- on Maimonides’s Prohibition
tion in this [by wrongly punishing the wicked No. 280, says that the
words of the Zohar Harakia
person], and therefore, he warns that the on this stanza are strange
Blessed One does not want a wrongful deci- and confused on account of
sion, even against a wicked person.* editorial errors. One difficulty
is that Deut. 24:17 does not
The law of the subverted orphan is an- prohibit subverting judgment;
other commandment, which is not to subvert it only states “convert and
orphan”! Likewise, in the
the judgment of an orphan, widow, or con- Zohar Harakia’s discussion
verts. He refers to the orphan as subverted on Principle No. 9 (p. 29, col.
(muteh), for he is heartbroken and depressed, 1), the verse is also wrongly
quoted, although in the list
and on that account, the Torah has an addi- of commandments at the
tional prohibition against wronging him, and beginning, the widow is
likewise, the convert and the widow who are

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similarly brokenhearted.92 The law about [subverting] the judgment of

a convert, orphan, or widow is enumerated not as three prohibitions,
but as a single one, as Maimonides has established it. Nachmanides
agrees with him [on this point], since they occur in a single prohibi-
tory statement, as it is said (Deut. 24:17) “You shall not subvert the
judgment of a convert, orphan, or widow”; so they are counted as only
a single commandment, even though they have a number or particular
There is also a prohibition [related to judicial decision] that the
Sanhedrin should not decide for a death sentence on the basis of a ma-
jority of a single vote; it must be at least two votes. For it is said (Exod.
23:2) “You shall not follow a multitude to do evil,” which is interpreted
in the Mechilta (Mechilta of R. Shimon bar Yochai on that verse) that
deciding for good [finding one innocent] is possible with a majority of
one, but deciding for evil [finding one guilty] requires a majority of two.
There is also a prohibition against subverting the judgment of any
Israelite, as it is said (Lev. 19:15) “You shall do no unrighteousness in
judgment.” Regarding the convert, there is an additional prohibition,
i.e. (Deut. 24:17), “You shall not subvert the judgment of a convert,
etc.” [as previously mentioned]. Thus, they conclude in the Sifre (Tetze
148, 17) that “you shall not subvert the judgment of a convert” implies
that if one has subverted the judgment of a convert, he has transgressed
two prohibitions. Now, if the person on trial was a convert and an or-
phan, [the judge] transgressed three prohibitions, i.e., on account of
being an Israelite, a convert, and an orphan. Although one transgresses
two prohibitions [when the person tried] is a convert and an orphan,
this does not mean [as stated earlier] that these should be enumerated
as two. For this is similar to what they said (Bava Metzia 59b) that if
one wrongs a convert [by saying derogatory words; see Maimonides’s
Prohibition No. 252], he transgresses three prohibitions (Exod. 22:20,
Lev. 19:33, and Lev. 25:17; the last verse referring to every Israelite),

92 It seems like the word muteh is assumed to have the nuance of dejected as well as subverted. The
adjective muteh was applied specifically to the orphan, rather than the widow or converts, because
in that masculine singular form it fits the rhyming requirements.
93 This is also a curious statement about Nachmanides’s view. In fact, Nachmanides on Principle
No. 9 seems to have the idea that in such an instance the parts should counted as separate
commandments. In fact, he does not divide the convert and the orphan in his version of the
enumeration of the commandments, so this seems like an inconsistency in his methodology.

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and wronging a convert is not enumerated as three prohibitions.94

28. And do not take a bribe, and one person should not testify,
And you shall not eat the life and the flesh together.
The prohibition of bribery applies even though one did not subvert
the judgment. Thus, they stated in the Sifre (Shofetim 3) that the verse
(Deut. 16:19) “You shall not take a bribe” even to decide in favor of the
innocent and against the guilty. And in Ketubot (105b), they say that
even bribery [not in the form of a gift, but in the form of] service is
forbidden [i.e., if a judge receives some favor or service from a person,
and then he is informed that this man is going to appear in a court case,
he should not try that case], but this is just by way of piety [i.e., not
actually a Torah law].
Know that Maimonides includes in the enumeration of the com-
mandments a prohibition (No. 294) that a judge should not punish a
person who was forced to [transgress]. He brings proof from what is said
in Sanhedrin [actually Nedarim 27a] that the Merciful One excuses one
who is forced, as it is said (Deut. 22:26) “But you shall do nothing to the
girl.” Nachmanides, however, disagrees with him. He claims that if this
were a prohibition, it [the Talmud] would have said, “The Merciful One
prohibits this” [rather than saying that the person is excused from pun-
ishment]. But this verse is not a prohibition, but a negative statement,
namely that one who is forced is excused. And thus did they say in the
Sifre (Tetze 106): “The words but you shall do nothing to the girl teaches
us that Scripture makes her not subject to the death penalty. How is it
known that she is even excused from a sin offering? It is from the words
a sin worthy of death [the use of the word sin suggesting an allusion to
a sin offering].” Thus, all who are forced are exempt [from any punish-
ment], and since they are exempt, there is no need to prohibit [punish-
ing] them with a specific negative commandment, for we are prohibited
(Maimonides’s Prohibition No. 289) against spilling innocent blood.
And one person should not testify. Maimonides (Prohibition No.
288) explained that this is a prohibition against a court deciding a case
on the basis of one witness. The Prohibition is (Deut. 19:15) “A single

94 Perlow, in his notes on this stanza says that the two cases are not similar. For in our situation, we
have two cases, i.e., convert and orphan combined in one statement, whereas in the situation of
“wronging” there are two verses (Ex. 22:20 and Lev. 19:33) both of which apply just to the convert.

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witness may not validate against a person, etc.” Apparently, the witness
is prohibited from this [i.e., the prohibition rests on the witness as well
as on the court], as it states in Pesachim (113b), “Tuviah sinned and
Zigud is punished!” [This was Zigud’s complaint to the court], since Rav
Pappa had Zigud punished for having brought testimony as a lone wit-
ness against Tuviah. A lone witness is valid only in certain instances
[where such a witness is sufficient] to require [the accused] to take an
oath [of denial]. And it also applies to a suspected adulteress [Mishnah
*The Mishnah (Sotah
Sotah 6, 2 states that a single witness to a woman’s
9, 8) states that if marital infidelity is valid to the extent that she is to
one witness says be divorced without receiving her Ketubah money],
that he saw the
murderer, this is and the case is not settled by having her drink [the
valid to the extent sotah’s water]. And it also applies to the heifer whose
that this is no
longer considered
neck is broken.* And it also applies to certain pro-
a case where (Deut. hibited things for which the Torah trusts him [the
21:1) “The identity lone witness who testifies as to the permissibility
of the murderer
is not known” of otherwise doubtful things]. The sages made him
applies. Hence, this [the lone witness] valid to permit an agunah to marry
witness prevents
this ceremony of
[e.g., he testifies that the agunah’s former husband
breaking the neck. died]. These laws are scattered in various places in the
Orders of Nashim and Nezikin.
Nachmanides in his enumeration added the prohibition that is writ-
ten (Deut. 17:6) “He shall not be put to death on the testimony of a
single witness.” For it says in Chapter Keitzad Ha’eidim (Makkot 6b),
“What is the meaning of ‘He shall not be put to death by a single wit-
ness’? If it should be construed as meaning actually just one person, [this
is not reasonable, since] this has already been made clear by the first
part of the verse. But it means to exclude [validating] two persons who
witnessed [a crime], one from one window, and the other from another
window, the two not seeing each other, for they cannot be joined [as a
pair of witnesses].” But I think that in this matter there is no additional
prohibition. From the Talmudic text, it appears that it only means to say
that they cannot be joined in the same sense as (Lev. 19:20) “They shall
not be put to death, for she has not been set free,” as we explained in
the Eighth Principle [i.e., in both cases, “They shall not be put to death”
is not a prohibition, but a negative statement, that under the specified
circumstances, capital punishment does not apply]. Since [the two wit-
nesses here] cannot be joined [into a pair], each one is considered a lone

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witness. And regarding a lone witness it was already stated (Deut. 19:
15) “A single witness may not validate,” which is a prohibition against
any kind of lone witness.
And you shall not eat the life and the flesh together is a prohibi-
tion against eating a limb from a live animal. And the expression in the
Sifre (Re’eh 43) is “The verse (Deut. 12:23) is ‘You shall not eat the life
with the flesh’ refers to a limb from a living animal.’” If it is not an entire
limb, there is another prohibition that applies, i.e., it is included in the
scope of (Exod. 22:30) “You shall not eat the meat of a beast that was
torn in the field.” And likewise, they stated in Chapter Gid Hanasheh
(Chullin 102b), “If one eats a limb from a live animal, he transgresses
two prohibitions.” And I will later (Stanza 30) mention this prohibition.

29. And you shall not covet robbery, which darkness will seize;
And do not eat a carcass, or idolatrous offerings.
Since coveting leads to robbery, and a person’s soul attracts him to
it [robbery], as I mentioned before (Stanza 11, Prohibitions), he speaks
of coveting with regard to robbery. He says that one should not covet it,
for in the end, “Darkness will seize it” (Job 3:6), “For in vanity it comes,
and it goes away in darkness” (Eccl. 6:4). And the meaning of robbery
is taking the property of one’s fellow in his presence by force, as the
sages deduced (Bava Kamma 79b) from the Scripture (2 Sam. 23:21),
“And he robbed the spear from the hand of the Egyptian.” This prohibi-
tion “You shall not rob” (Lev. 19:13) is included in the enumeration,
even though it is only needed to cover the situation of one who wrong-
fully withholds payment due to a hired worker. For actual robbery is
understood to be forbidden by its similarity in nature [binyan av] to [the
prohibition of] exacting interest and wronging in business, and this is
indicated in Chapter Eizehu Neshech (Bava Metzia 61b). Nevertheless,
it [robbing] is counted as a separate commandment, not merely being
included as part of the prohibition against oppression (Lev. 19:13), even
though they say this in Chapter Ham’kabel (Bava Metzia 111a).95 For
all oppression is considered robbery, but not all robbery is considered

95 In that reference, they discuss the overlapping as well as the difference between the prohibitions
of not robbing (lo tigzol) and not oppressing (lo ta’ashok). One of the rabbis, Rava, claims that the
two terms refer totally to the same actions, but are repeated owing to the gravity of these offenses.
The Zohar Harakia appears not to follow this opinion, even though Rava’s opinions are usually
considered authoritative, since he lived at the end of the Talmudic period.

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oppression. Indeed, they stated (Sifre Shoftim 86, 14) that one who
displaces a boundary line marker outside the Land of Israel transgresses
the prohibition against robbery.96 Regarding restitution [of wrong-
fully held property], Scripture counts both [robbing and oppressing as a
single commandment from the verse (Lev. 5:23)] “And he shall give back
the thing that he robbed or the thing obtained by oppression.”*
*This was previously There is within the topic of taking one’s neigh-
stated in the Positive bor’s property without permission, a prohibition
Commandments, Stanza
22. There, the Zohar
to a worker [in his neighbor’s fields] not to eat
Harakia clearly says that [from the produce of the field] more than what
returning an article gotten the Torah allows him. Maimonides counts this
by robbery and gotten by
oppression is counted as as two commandments (267 and 268). The one
one commandment. The is (Deut. 23:26) “You shall not put a sickle,” and
words of the Hebrew text
here are to be counted as
the second is (ibid., v. 25) “You shall not put any
two commandments. I into your vessel.” For each of these prohibitions
conjecture that the text has a meaning distinct from the other. The one
here is incorrect, and I
have translated according prohibits harvesting with a sickle, and the other
to this assumption. prohibits more than he can eat.
And you shall not eat a carcass, i.e., if
it died naturally or became unfit during the slaughtering process.
Concerning this, Scripture says (Deut. 13:21) “You shall not eat any
carcass.” And there is another prohibition, not mentioned by the poet,
which is not to eat the meat of an ox condemned to be killed [for killing
a person], even though he was properly slaughtered. For they said in the
Mechilta (Mishpatim 10, 100) concerning the verse (Exod. 21:28) “And
his flesh shall not be eaten,” that an ox who was about to be stoned, and
his owner slaughtered him beforehand, is forbidden for eating. This is
also mentioned in Bava Kamma (41a) and Kiddushin (56a).
Or offerings unto demons. Idolatrous offerings are forbidden by
the Torah, as is explained in Chapter Merubah (Bava Kamma 71a) and in
Chapter Hashochet (Chullin 40a). The prohibition is from what is writ-
ten (Exod. 34:15) “And he will call to you that you eat of his sacrifice.”
And it is also written (Ps. 106:28) “And they joined themselves to Baal
Peor and ate sacrifices of the dead.” And they interpreted [the phrase

96 The general question concerning the enumeration of redundant prohibitions is dealt with by
Maimonides in his Ninth Principle. If two prohibitive statements have equal content, Maimonides
would ordinarily reject counting them as two distinct commandments. He apparently does not
think that “not robbing” and “not oppressing” have the same content.

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“sacrifices of the dead”] as teaching that just as it is forbidden to derive

benefit from a corpse, so is it forbidden to derive benefit from idolatrous
offerings. One who benefits from this transgresses “And you shall not
bring an abomination into your house” (Deut. 7:26) as well as “Let noth-
ing that has been condemned stick to your hand” (Deut. 13:18).
Included in this prohibition is wine that has been used as a libation
before an idol, which is forbidden by the Torah. Thus did Maimonides
write in his large work (Mishneh Torah), where he lists the command-
ments (in his introduction). He wrote concerning the commandment
about idol worship (Prohibition No. 25), “One must not derive benefit
from an idol, or its accessories, or its offerings to it, or a wine libation that
was poured for it, as it is said (Deut. 7:26) ‘You shall not bring an abomi-
nation to your house.’” This is true, as it is said in the Gemara (Sanhedrin
60b), “If one slaughtered a sacrifice [for an idol] or burned incense for it,
or poured a libation for it, [this constitutes a capital offense of idolatry].”
The question is raised why the act of sprinkling [sacrificial blood] is not
also listed. The reply was that “sprinkling” is included in “pouring,” as it
is said (Ps. 16:4) “I will not pour their libations of blood.”
I have also found a proof that libation wine is forbidden by the Torah,
and that even a gentile touching [wine makes it forbidden], from what
is said in the last chapter of Avodah Zarah (72b) that [forbidding wine
moved by] exertion of a gentile is a rabbinic law. One infers from this that
actually touching wine [is forbidden] by the Torah. But there is some-
thing perplexing in Maimonides’s words, since in Hilchot Ma’achalot
Asurot [introductory list of commandments No.
28], he makes drinking libation wine into a sepa- *As to the following opinion
of the Zohar Harakia that
rate [prohibitive] commandment. His words do Maimonides did not mean
not seem correct, for we do not find Scripture to have an enumerated
commandment regarding
expressing this as a prohibition. It is only that the prohibition of libation
they [the rabbis] invoked the juxtaposition of wine, later commentators
[libation wine] to sacrificial meat, as it is said, disagree strongly. For
example, Yad Halevi states
(Deut. 32:38) “Who eat the fat of their sacrificial that actually drinking
meat, and drink the wine of their drink offer- libation wine is a separate
ing.” And they made the inference that just as commandment, in addition
to having benefit from it.
sacrificial meat [of idolaters] is forbidden, so is He states that the author of
their wine forbidden. Maimonides has been un- the Zohar Harakia did not
understand Maimonides’s
clear in his words about this matter.* It seems words, and therefore, wrote
that Maimonides’s intention is that this should what he did.

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be a separate prohibition among the 613 commandments. For in his list

of the commandments (Prohibition No. 25), he includes it together with
other things pertaining to idolatry, under the prohibitions (Deut. 13:18)
“Let nothing that has been condemned stick to your hand” and (Deut.
7:26) “You shall not bring an abomination.” But when in context of the
particular laws of forbidden foods [in the Mishneh Torah], he wants to
instruct us that it is forbidden, based on these [verses], and it is the
same general prohibition that includes all the other types of idolatrous
objects, for he does not mention another verse.
Maimonides also wrote (Prohibition No. 194) that one who drinks
libation wine is punished by whipping, and he says that this is known
throughout the Talmud. Now, Nachmanides wrote about this (in his cri-
tique of Prohibition No. 194), that he did not see this in either of the two
Talmuds. However, Nachmanides thought that one is punished for this
on the basis of the verse (Exod. 34:15) “Lest you make a covenant with
the inhabitant of the land . . . and they will call unto you, and you will
eat of their sacrifice,” the prohibitive “lest” applying to the later clause
“And you will eat of their sacrifice.” But this is missing in Maimonides’s
enumeration, where he counts libation wine as a specific prohibition. As
to the question of punishment, it seems to be an obvious fact that one
is whipped on the basis of the verse (Deut. 7:26) “Let nothing that has
been condemned stick to your hand.”

30. Do not eat terefah or a rejected abomination;

And do not make the ephah small, nor charge higher than
market price.
Maimonides wrote in the Book of Commandments (Prohibition No.
181) that if a person ate any type of terefah listed by the rabbis [i.e.,
certain physical illnesses or injuries which render a live animal terefah,
even though it was later properly slaughtered], he is not whipped [this
being the punishment for transgressing a Torah prohibition]. But in the
Gemara Chullin (49b), it is made clear that these are forbidden by the
Torah. For it states in amazement concerning one of the [rabbinically
listed terefahs], “Terefah is a Torah law, so how could you say [as one
rabbi did] that [one could treat such a terefah leniently since] the Torah
is concerned about the property of Israel.” Indeed, he [Maimonides]
changed his mind in his large work (Mishneh Torah, Ma’achalot Asurot

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4, 6) and wrote that one who eats them is whipped by Torah law.97
Even though the simple meaning of the verse concerns a terefah torn
to death by a lion [this being the literal meaning of terefah], as stated in
the Mechilta (Mishpatim 20, 194) that Scripture speaks in terms of the
commonplace case, the rabbis nonetheless received the tradition that
this verse includes any illness from which the animal would die. Also,
they said concerning the phrase (Exod. 22:30) “Torn by beasts in the
field” that included in this, according to the Gemara (Makkot 18a), is
anything that has gone out of its proper boundary, e.g., sacrificial meat
out of its proper boundary, or paschal meat that has gone out from its
assigned group, or the limb of a fetus that extended its hand before
slaughtering [its mother], and then retracted it, all these are forbidden.
This is because of the verse (Exod. 22:30) “You shall not eat meat torn
by beasts in the field,” as is mentioned in Chapter Behemah Hamakshah
(Chullin 68a). The same applies to flesh detached from an animal dur-
ing its life, as mentioned in Chapter Gid Hanasheh (Chullin 102b). And
flesh hanging loosely from an animal is rabbinically forbidden for this
reason, as mentioned in Chapter Ha’or V’harotev.
Or a rejected abomination. This says that one may not eat a re-
jected abomination, which is from His word, exalted is He (Deut. 14:3),
“You shall not eat any abomination.” They said in the Gemara Chullin
(114), “Everything that I have made abominable to you is forbidden by
‘You shall not eat.’” This includes many things. In the Sifre (Re’eh 93, 3),
they said that Scripture refers to blemished dedicated meat. [The Sifre
continues that] Rabbi Eliezer ben Yaakov said that if one slit the ear of
a firstborn animal [thus making it unfit for sacrificial use], and he ate
of it, he transgresses the prohibition “You shall not eat any abomina-
tion.” The explanation of this matter is that the Torah forbids making
a blemish on a dedicated animal, as explained in Bechorot (33b) and

97 The actual wording in Maimonides’s Prohibition No. 181 is that one who eats a terefah listed by the
rabbis is whipped by rabbinic law (lokeh mid’rabbanan), which implies that he is not punished with
the whipping prescribed by the Torah, but with the rabbinic whipping, makkat mardut. Indeed,
Nachmanides, in his critique of Maimonides’s Second Principle, also disagrees with Maimonides’s
statement in Prohibition No. 181 that whipping by Torah law does not apply to the terefahs listed
by the rabbis. He also says that Maimonides’s opinion in the Mishneh Torah is different. But the
Megillat Esther on the Second Principle claims that Maimonides’s Mishneh Torah statement is
in agreement with his words in Prohibition 181; for the words lokeh mid’rabbanan do not imply
rabbinic whipping, but lokeh means whipping by Torah law, and the word mid’rabbanan here
means that, although the prohibition has the full force of Torah law, its validity is made known by
rabbinic tradition, rather than from the actual words of the Torah.

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in Gemara Yom Tov (Betzah 27b), as it is said (Lev. 22:21) “There shall
be no blemish therein.” So if one transgresses that prohibition, he has
done an abomination, and thus the poet adjures that one should not eat
such an abomination. Since it is forbidden to offer this as a sacrifice, he
calls it a “rejected abomination.” Since in all other cases where the Holy
One, blessed is He, has considered something an abomination, there is
a specific prohibition against eating it, this prohibition (Deut. 14:3) is
only needed for dedicated things that have become unfit. Therefore, this
is separately enumerated since there is no other prohibition for them
[unfit dedicated things].
And you shall not make the ephah small. The poet uses the lan-
guage of Scripture (Am. 8:5) “Making the ephah small and the shekel
great.” And they said in Gemara Bava Batra (90b), “Those who corner the
market on fruits [artificially forcing scarcity and high prices, the Gemara
text here includes lending on interest], and those who charge higher
than the market price, and those who make the ephah small, concerning
them Scripture says (ibid.), ‘When will the new moon be over, so that we
will be able to sell grain? When will the Sabbath be out, so that we open
the grain, making the ephah small and the shekel large?’” This law [for-
bidding false weights and measures] is expressed by (Deut. 25:13) “You
shall not have in your house diverse measures, large and small.” They
said in Tractate Bava Batra (89b), “It is forbidden for a person to keep
in his house an undersized measure or an oversized measure, even if it
is a vessel for holding urine [which one would only use for measuring
in an emergency].” Even though there are two separate verses here, one
about an ephah [volume] and another about a stone [weight], it is only
enumerated as a single commandment, for the idea is the same, that one
should not have differing standards, whether in volume measurement
or in weight.

31. Do not do anything wrongful in measurement of land,

Or in weight of coins, or in volume.
There is a prohibition here, which is His statement, exalted be He
(Lev. 19:35), “You shall do nothing wrongful in judgment, in measure-
ment, weight, or volume.” Included in this is that one should not do
wrong in any type of measurement, whether liquid measure or dry
measure. [Proper] measure of real estate (Bava Metzia 61b) means that
one should not measure the portion of one of the brothers [dividing an

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inheritance] in the summer and for another during the rainy season,
since the ground expands in the rainy season, and one would receive a
smaller portion than one for whom the measurement would be made
in the summer time. [I find this difficult to visualize.] And a wrong
weight measure would be that one should not bury weights in salt to
reduce them. And a wrong volume measure would be that one should
not bubble the liquid, i.e., he should not fill the measuring vessel rapidly
so that the measuring vessel would be filled by the vigorous bubbling.
The Aramaic term for the Hebrew gerah (a coin) is ma’ah, whose plural is
ma’ot [thus the word ma’ot in this stanza, meaning coins], and the plural
of m’sorah (“volume” in Lev. 19:35) is m’sorim [thus the word m’sorim in
this stanza means volume measurements].

32. Do not give your food on interest, lest I destroy you;

And your foot should not run, talebearing about secrets.
The Torah said (Lev. 25:37) “You shall not give him your money on
interest, nor give him your food for increase.” The meaning of interest
(neshech) is giving someone ten zuzim, and then [the borrower] pays a
zuz every month for every month that the [borrowed] money is in his
hands. And increase (marbit) is giving a loan of two measures of wheat
for a [repayment of] three measures at a certain future time. These are
not two separate prohibitions, for in Chapter Eizehu Neshech (Bava
Metzia 60b), they stated that you do not find any neshech without
marbit, nor any marbit without neshech; and Scripture mentions them
separately to make [the transgressor] guilty for two prohibitions. They
also said there that neshech and tarbit (or marbit) are the same thing.
But repeated prohibitions with the same content, do not increase the
number of commandments, as is known from the Principles (No. 9), and
the poet has already written [this prohibition] “And cease from interest,
increasing the prices” (Stanza No. 26).
When he says, “Lest I destroy you,” he refers to the statement (Bava
Metzia 71a) that the possessions of lenders on interest are wobbly, as it
is said (Ps. 15:5), [if a person] “Does not give his money on interest . . . he
will not be moved.” [The scriptural source of “Lest I destroy you,” Exod.
33:3] “Lest I destroy you on the way,” [uses the unusual form achelcha,
“I will destroy you”] as equivalent [to the conventional form] achalcha
which has a dagesh [in the lamed].
And your foot should not run, talebearing about secrets. The

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Torah said (Lev. 19:16), “You shall not go about talebearing among
your people.” Now, the rabbis [explained lo telech rachil in various ways,
e.g.], you shall not be soft-spoken to one and harsh-spoken to another
(Ketubot 46a) [this remote interpretation being based on the similarity
between rach (soft) and rachil, which would be a prohibition to a judge
not to be more respectful to one claimant than another]. They also said
(Yerushalmi Peah 1, 1) that [this verse means that] you should not be
like a peddler [rochel, a peddler, associated with rachil], who loads up
words, and goes about, and this would be the prohibition against tale-
bearing, which is the intention of the poet. He adapts the scriptural ex-
pression (Ps. 101:5) “One who slanders his neighbor in secret, him will I
destroy.” The word melashni (talebearing or slandering) is present tense
masculine in the m’ruba construction [I would call this the pi’el construc-
tion, m’ruba having quite a different meaning], and the yod [at the end
of m’loshni] is an added letter [which has no effect on the meaning]. He
is, as it were, addressing the talebearer: “You, O’ talebearer, let your foot
not run.” In this verse, there is also a prohibition against [a husband]
who defames (his bride, Deut. 22:19), as is indicated in Chapter Na’arah
Shenitpat’tah (Ketubot 46a).

33. You shall not put your hands with the wicked and evildoers;
And do not demand payment from comrades and brethren, as
is done from foreigners.
This is a prohibition against accepting testimony of a wicked person,
as it is said (Exod. 23:1) “Put your hand not with the wicked,” [which
is interpreted in Bava Kamma as] “Do not put a wicked person as a
witness.” And in Chapter Zeh Borer (Sanhedrin 27a), they explain that
wicked people are invalid as witnesses.
And do not demand payment from comrades. This is a prohi-
bition against demanding payment of a debt after the year of release
(Deut. 15:1–3).

34. Leave the sheaf you forget, and do not return to take it;
You should give it to the widow, orphan, and stranger.
This is a prohibition against taking forgotten sheaves in the field, and
the law also applies to tree fruits, as I wrote above (Stanza 19), and it
is all a single commandment. This is a prohibition linked to a positive
commandment, for if one [unlawfully] took it [the forgotten sheaf], he

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may return it and be free from guilt; therefore, it says (Deut. 24:19) “It
shall be for the widow.”

35. Keep the seventh year, and refrain during the jubilee year;
Do not harvest the aftergrowth, nor gather fruit from un-
trimmed vines.
Concerning the shemittah year (the seventh year of release) and the
jubilee year there are seven prohibitions, four about the shemittah and
three about the jubilee. Concerning shemittah, it is said (Lev. 25:4–5)
“You shall not sow your field or prune your vineyard. You shall not reap
that which grows by itself from your harvest or gather the grapes of your
untrimmed vines.” These are the prohibitions against work in the field,
the prohibition against working on a tree, the prohibition against har-
vesting the aftergrowth, and the prohibition against harvesting grapes;
but they must be made ownerless for the use of everyone. Concerning
the jubilee year, all agricultural work is under a single [prohibition],
whether on the field or the tree, as it is written (ibid., v. 11) “You shall
not sow,” and no distinction is made between the field and vineyard.
[The other two prohibitions are] “You shall not reap the aftergrowth,
and you shall not harvest the untrimmed vines,” just as for shemittah.
It seems that the reason why the Torah did not separately forbid
orchard work separately on the jubilee year, as it had for the shemittah
year, is that tree work was expressed by the term pruning. Now, since
pruning was forbidden in the shemittah year, and the jubilee year follows
right after the shemittah year, and the activity of pruning extends over a
long time, therefore, the pruning in the jubilee year is included with the
pruning during the previous shemittah year. All of the above is included
by the poet in what he says, “Keep the seventh year, and refrain during
the jubilee year,” and only harvesting and fruit-gathering are expressly
said in this stanza.

36. Do not sow your furrow, so that it produces your food;

And do not trim your vineyard, or it will produce briers.
This stanza is a completion of the previous one, since it explains how
one keeps the seventh year, and from what one ceases during the jubilee
Do not sow your furrow. These [the furrows] are the grooves made
by plowing. I have already explained this in the book Ohev Mishpat. He

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[the poet] is using exaggerated language, when he says that if one is

not heedful about this, and does prune his vineyard, then it will turn to
briers, which is the meaning of sirim. This is the opposite of other years,
when an idle vineyard will become totally briers, as is mentioned in the
Book of Proverbs (24:30–31). Likewise, the Torah said (Lev. 26:34–35)
“Then the land shall make up for its Sabbath years . . . in which it had
not rested.”

37. And you shall not eat parched grain, bread, or fresh grain,
Before you bring to Me the first of the harvest.
In the Gemara Keritot (5a), they say that if a person eats bread and
parched grain and fresh grain [all three at the same time, during the
forbidden period before the omer offering], he is punished three times
by whipping. The objection was raised that one is not punished thus
for an inclusive prohibition [the three categories of forbidden new grain
being contained in a single clause]. The answer is given that [this rule
does not apply] since it is different in our case in that we have an exces-
sive scriptural verse [i.e., not all three categories had to be specified,
since one could deduce part of the law by inference; the explicit men-
tion of all three categories can, therefore, be taken as an implication
that these are separately punishable]. At the end of the discussion, they
concluded that the only category that did not need explicit mention was
parched grain [since if a certain case not mentioned in Scripture differs
substantially in character from the one mentioned, it cannot be inferred
that it is also included in the law]. For bread has a property that does
not apply to fresh grain, in that it is included for meal offerings. And
fresh grain has a property not possessed by bread in that it is still in
its original state, and it is recognizable. Now, parched grain resembles
bread in that it is included for meal offerings, and it resembles fresh
grain in that it is recognizable. So if the Torah had just mentioned fresh
grain and bread, we could have derived the case of parched grain be-
tween the two of them according to Talmudic methodology. That it was
expressly written only serves to imply that it is a separate cause of guilt
on its own. Since parched grain is written between bread and fresh grain
(Lev. 23:14), and thus separates them, we learn from this that just as
one is guilty for parched grain on its own, so is he guilty for bread on
its own and for fresh grain on its own. Therefore, these are counted as
three prohibitions, and one is punished for each one separately, even

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though [usually] one is not punished for such inclusive prohibitions, as

is known from the Principles (No. 9. See also my book The Puzzle of the
613 Commandments and Why Bother, chapter 27). This is Maimonides’s
view, since he counts prohibitions separately if there is separate punish-
But in Nachmanides’s view, since he only counts the subject matter
of prohibitions, and he pays no attention to separate punishment, the
present prohibition enters into the enumeration as only a single one,
which is that one may not eat of whatever kind it is. And this prohibi-
tion, which is the prohibition of using the “new grain” before the six-
teenth of Nissan, which is the day of the waving of the Omer of the first
of our harvest, applies according to the Torah both within the Land of
Israel and outside it. [This is so] even though it is an agricultural com-
mandment [most of which only apply inside the Land of Israel], as we
learned from certain verses in the first chapter of Kiddushin (37a).

38. Do not eat uncircumcised fruit before the time of praise;

And do not show deference to the great, while the poor are
This prohibits eating the “uncircumcised” fruit for [the first] three
years [after planting]. It is forbidden to benefit from it [even other than
eating], and for that reason they [the sages, Yerushalmi Orlah 2, 1] were
strict about its annulment, requiring a 1/200 dilution to annul it. Its
prohibition applies even outside the Land of Israel, which is a tradition
to Moses from Sinai, definitely known produce being forbidden and
doubtful produce being permitted outside the Land of Israel, as men-
tioned in the Gemara Kiddushin (39a).
Before the time of praise, i.e., before the fourth year, in which year
all its fruit is dedicated for giving praise to the Lord (Lev. 19:24), and
the latter is a positive commandment (Positive Commandment No. 72).
And you shall not show deference to the great. It is said in the Sifra
(Kedoshim 84, 38), “You shall not say that this person is from an im-
portant family, so how can I shame him and look at his embarrassment.
Therefore, it says (Lev. 19:15) ‘You shall not show deference to a great
While the poor are abashed, i.e., if you show deference to the rich, the
poor will be abashed and their claim will be squelched. To me, the writer,
it seems that the intention of the poet in “The poor are abashed” is that

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one should not show special deference to the poor, as it says (ibid.) “You
shall not favor the poor.” Now, we have not found on this matter [i.e., the
word abashed, nechparim] in the niphal (passive) form, [i.e., nechparim is
a passive form], only the kal (active form) in (Isa. 24:23) “And the moon
will be confounded (v’chafrah).” Or [one finds] the hiphil (causative form)
in (Prov. 19:26) “That deals shamefully and reproachfully (umachpir).”
Had he said muchparim [instead of nechparim], it would have been more
plausible, since it is the passive form of the hiphil, of which an example

39. You shall not be like a creditor to a poor, hard-pressed man;

And you shall not give as a sacrifice the blind or broken.
In the Gemara Bava Metzia (75b), [it says], “How is it known that
if one is a creditor to a fellow-person, and he knows that the debtor
does not have what is owed, he is forbidden to pass before him? [It is
from] what is said (Exod. 22:24) “Do not act toward him as a creditor.”
Likewise, they said in the Mechilta (Mishpatim 19, 185) “You should
not appear to him continually.” Also, there is included in the scope of
this negative commandment the prohibition against a lender taking
interest, as mentioned in the Gemara Bava Metzia (75b).
Hard-pressed (niksheh) means a person with bad luck, from the
verse (Isa. 8:21), “And there shall pass through it the hard-pressed and
the hungry.”
And you shall not give as a burnt offering, etc. This is a prohibi-
tion against burning the sacrificial portions of blemished animals on the
altar, as it is said (Lev. 22:22) “And you shall not make an offering by fire
of them.” Concerning blemished animals, there are many prohibitions,
aside from that about making a blemish, as it is said (ibid., v. 21) “There
shall be no blemish therein,” [which implies] that you should not make
a blemish on it, and one who inflicts a blemish is punished by whipping
(Bechorot 33b); [this is mentioned above, Stanza 30].
There is another prohibition, and I am amazed why the early authori-
ties do not enumerate it, which is applying unblemished animals toward
upkeep of the sanctuary [rather than to sacrificial use]. This is prohib-
ited, as they said in the first chapter of Temurah (6a), “But there is the
case of applying unblemished animals to upkeep of the sanctuary, about
which the Torah says (Lev. 22:23) ‘You may give a freewill offering [of
animals with] a limb extended or contracted,’ [which implies] that you

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may dedicate it [that blemished animal] for the upkeep of the sanctu-
ary, but you may not dedicate unblemished animals to the upkeep of
the sanctuary; even though this is the subject of a prohibition, if one
did so, it is nevertheless binding.” In the same chapter (Temurah 7b), it
says, “We have only found it from a positive statement [i.e., this prohibi-
tion was only inferred above from a positive statement, which is weaker
than a prohibition directly expressed as a negative commandment].
Where do we see a negative commandment? It is from the verse (Lev.
22:17) ‘The Lord spoke to Moses, saying.’ [This comes from the word
leimor (saying) being understood as a compound lo and emor, i.e., ‘saying
not.’] This teaches that a direct negative commandment applies to the
entire section.” [This statement] is also quoted in Chapter Kol Sha’ah
(Pesachim 42a). Even though this teaching, as found in the Sifra (Emor
119, 8), is only the opinion of an individual [Rabbi Judah], and the ma-
jority of rabbis differ with him, we should decide [like Rabbi Judah] in
agreement with the unnamed source in the Mishnah, and according to
the discussion in the Talmud [later scholars think that Zohar Harakia is
way off here], and I must further examine this matter.
As for the other prohibitions [concerning blemished animals], one is
not to dedicate blemished animals for the altar, as it is said (Lev. 22:20)
“You shall not bring near whatever has a blemish,” and the Sifra explains
this as prohibiting its dedication. The second is not slaughtering a blem-
ished animal for a sacrifice, as it is said in another verse (ibid., v. 22)
“You shall not offer these,” and they said in the Sifra that this prohibits
slaughtering it [even though the same Hebrew verb is used in verses
20 and 22]. The third is not to sprinkle the blood of blemished animals
on the altar, as it is said in another verse (ibid., v. 24) “You shall not
offer unto the Lord” And they said in the Sifra (Lev. 120:10) that Rabbi
Yose bar Yehudah said that this refers to receiving the blood, but in the
Gemara Temurah (7a), they said that the first Tanna requires that verse
for sprinkling the blood [not receiving], which is the accepted ruling.
The fourth is not to burn the sacrificial portions of blemished animals,
as it is said (ibid., v. 22) “You shall not make a fire offering of them,” and
they said in the Sifra (Lev. 116:4) that this refers to [burning] the fats
[which is part of the sacrificial portion]. There, it is said, “One might
think that only the entire [portion is forbidden to burn]. How is it
known that even a part of it [is forbidden]? This is from the expression
‘of them,’ which means even a part of it.” According to this, there should

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be two [enumerated] prohibitions, not to burn all of it, and not to burn
part of it. Likewise, it says in the Sifra (Lev. 108:5) that a person who
dedicates a blemished animal for the altar may transgress five prohibi-
tions, not dedicating, not slaughtering, not sprinkling the blood, not
burning the fat [one author emends this to read “not burning all of it”],
and not burning a portion of it.
Now, Maimonides rejected this Baraita [in the Sifra] and said that not
burning a portion of it is not a separate prohibition, since this teacher
holds that one is punished [upon transgressing] an inclusive prohibition
[a single statement containing more than one item], while the accepted
law is that one is not punished for an inclusive prohibition. He brings
proof from what is said in the Gemara Temurah (7a) that if one offers
up the limbs of blemished animals on the altar, then Abbaye says that
he is punished on account of the prohibition against sacrificing all of it,
and also on account of sacrificing part of it, but Rava says that one is not
punished for an inclusive prohibition. An objection was raised against
Rava from this Baraita [in the Sifra], and they concluded that this objec-
tion was valid. Now, he [Maimonides] decided the law according to Rava,
for it is concluded throughout the Talmud that one is not punished for
an inclusive prohibition, as is known from the Principles (No. 9).
Now, Nachmanides wondered about his [Maimonides’s] words that
Rava’s words were here refuted, although this was not so in any other
case where Rava and Abbaye differed about inclusive prohibitions. So he
[Nachmanides] explained that the correct text here is Rabbah, not Rava,
and this is a new argument, Abbaye disagreeing with Rabbah; for this
inclusive prohibition is unlike other inclusive prohibitions, since here
*The idea is that normally an
they are interpreting two prohibitions
inclusive prohibition is where a concerning blemished animals, the one
single clause mentions two or more being (Lev. 21:22) “You shall not offer of
separate nouns indicating what
is forbidden. Here, there are two these to the Lord,” and the second one
separate things, the whole of the being (ibid.) “And you shall not make a
portion to be burnt, and a part
of it, both of which, according to
fire offering of them.” That is what he
Maimonides, are contained in the [Nachmanides] wrote.*
clause “You shall not make a fire But I do not see this as improving
offering of them.” Nachmanides,
however, says that that the two cases anything, since we have five prohibitions
are derived from different clauses, only by enumerating both burning all of
and they are considered as a case of
an inclusive prohibition only because
the burnt portion and also burning part
one is a special case of the other. of it. So one clause must necessarily be

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———————————————— The Negative Commandments ————————————————

an inclusive prohibition, for we have only four prohibitive clauses [so

one must contain two prohibitions]. Had the Baraita only stated that
one who offered up the limbs is guilty on account of the whole thing and
also guilty for part of it, it could be claimed that there is no inclusive
prohibition, since one prohibition would be given by “You shall not of-
fer these,” and the second one by “You shall not make a fire offering of
them (both in v. 22).” But since [the Sifra] states that one is guilty of
five punishments, it is making one statement embodying guilt for two
prohibited things, and thus it would be an inclusive prohibition, and
thus it needs further clarification.
I did not see that Nachmanides counted as any more than four pro-
hibitions, in agreement with Maimonides’s enumeration. However, at
the end of his book, because he was constrained by the [total] number,
he wrote that dedicating blemished animals to the altar, slaughtering
them, sprinkling their blood, and burning their fat all comprise a single
commandment, even though one is punished for each action individu-
ally. For the intention in all of them is to forbid making a sacrifice from
blemished animals. And the expression in the Torah [used repeatedly] is
“You shall not bring an offering (lo takrivu),” whereby we should count
the Torah’s expression as one of the commandments, even though [ac-
cording to the Talmudic interpretation] several separate prohibited
matters [are derived from repetitions] of a single term. That is what he
[Nachmanides] said.
As to why they did not count the clause (Lev. 22:23) “But for a vow
it will not be accepted,” it is because it is not a prohibitive command-
ment, but a negative statement. It is similar to (ibid., v. 30) “It shall not
be accepted for you,” or to (Lev. 19:7) “It is a *The above statement, which is
vile thing; it will not be accepted.” The Sifra based on the Gemara Chullin,
(Emor 108, 5) says, “This teaches us that is full of perplexities. The
comments of Perlow on this
they [blemished animals] do not bring about passage deal with its problems
divine favor.” And so does it say in Chapter at length.
Oto V’et B’no (Chullin 80b), where they said
that this prohibition is not to be enumerated, **This translation assumes that
since it is a prohibition which can be cor- the word rishon in the printed
edition is clearly wrong, and is
rected by a positive action.*
based on the MS version, which
Now, Maimonides counted a certain pro- does not have rishon, but an
hibition** which is not to sacrifice an animal aleph as an abbreviation, which
might stand for echad.
with a temporary blemish. This is from the

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statement in Mishneh Torah (i.e., Deut. 17:1) “You shall not sacrifice
to the Lord your God an ox or sheep having a blemish on it, any evil
thing,” and they explained in the Sifre [this reference is not found in
our editions of the Sifre,but is found elsewhere] that this verse refers to
animals with temporary blemishes. But Nachmanides thinks that it all
belongs in one prohibition together with the permanent blemishes. He
brings proof from what they said in the Sifra (Emor 7, 107), as well as in
the Gemara Temurah (5b), that the expression (Lev. 22:20) “That which
has a blemish” would imply just a permanent blemish. How do we de-
rive the temporary blemish? It is from “everything which has a blemish
(ibid.).” Whether it is a permanent or a temporary blemish, it is punish-
able on all these five counts. Also the verse in Mishneh Torah (Deut.
17:1) includes everything, for they said there (Sifre, Shoftim 8, 499),
“One might think that only an animal that was unblemished and later
became blemished [is meant here]. Whence is it known that an animal
blemished when emerging from its mother’s belly [is also meant]? It is
from (ibid.) ‘any evil thing.’ How [do we know to include] an animal with
a boil scab or wen or scurvy? It is from the expression ‘a blemish any evil
thing.’ How [do we know to include] one that is aged, sick, or smelly? It
is from the expression ‘an ox or sheep . . . any evil thing.’ How [do we
know to include] sacrifices that were slaughtered at an improper place or
time, or that were sexually engaged with people, or that were designated
for idolatrous use, or that were worshipped, or that was payment for a
harlot, or that was acquired in exchange for a dog, or a terefah [injured
or diseased that it could not live a year], or one that had a caesarean
birth, etc.”98 So it is that all kinds of invalid animals are included in the
prohibition of this verse.
Nevertheless, his [Nachmanides’s] elimination of this [i.e., tempo-
rary blemishes] as a separate commandment does not diminish his total
count. For he added another prohibition (Nachmanides’s Additional
Prohibition No. 4), which is not to slaughter a sacrifice with the inten-
tion of eating it at a wrong time or place. This is from the quotation in
the Sifre (Shofetim ibid.): “Regarding the verse (Deut. 17:1) ‘You shall
not sacrifice unto the Lord your God . . . which has a blemish,’ how is it
known [that this applies also] to sacrifices that one slaughtered with the

98 See this verse in Torah Temimah, where this verse reads somewhat differently, and where the logic
for the inferences is explained.

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———————————————— The Negative Commandments ————————————————

intention to eat them beyond their proper time or place? It is from davar
[translated as ‘thing’ in ‘any evil thing,’ but which also means ‘word’ or
‘speech’], i.e., that which depends on speaking [speaking can also be in-
ternal].” Likewise, they included in this prohibition the case of a sacrifice
slaughtered on the south [side of the altar, which is also wrong], and all
other ways in which a sacrifice would become invalid. Maimonides [who
does not count these as another commandment] must think that this
is an inclusive prohibition (lav shebichlalut), and he only included the
prohibition of [sacrificing a] blemished animal, which is explicitly writ-
ten in this inclusive commandment. The above is what Nachmanides
wrote. Still, this does not suffice to justify him [Maimonides], since in
chapter 2 of Zebachim (29b) they give a specific prohibition [for animals
invalidated by wrongful intentions]. They say there that according to
Rabbi Yannai, if one thinks wrongful things while offering a sacrifice,
he is punished by whipping, on the basis of the verse (Lev. 7:18) “It will
not be counted (lo yechashev)” [which can be revocalized as] “He shall
not think (lo yachashov).” They conclude there that one is not punished
by whipping for this, since it is a prohibition which does not involve an
action, and Maimonides wrote thus in his code (Mishneh Torah, Pesulei
Hamukdashin 18, 2). But it appears that it should be an enumerated
prohibition which is not included in [the prohibition of] a blemished

40. My anointed one shall not ascend on steps to My altar;

And do not slaughter My paschal offering in any of the gates.
The poet includes all kohanim in the term my anointed one, for this
prohibition is not limited to the High Priest. And they explain in the
Mechilta (Yitro 11, 9) that the meaning of (Exod. 20:23) “That your
nakedness should not be uncovered thereon” is that he should not take
long strides, but should walk heel to big toe.
When he says “Do not slaughter My paschal offering,” it applies also
to other sacrifices, in that it is forbidden to slaughter them outside [the
Sanctuary]. This is what Scripture says (Lev. 17:3–4), “Whoever slaugh-
ters an ox or sheep or goat in the camp, or does so outside the camp, and
does not bring it to the entrance of the Camp of Meeting to present an
offering to the Lord before the Lord’s tabernacle, it will be considered
blood-guilt for that man; he has shed blood, and that man will be cut
off.” And in the Gemara Zevachim (107a), they derive the prohibition

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connected with this punishment [for slaughtering] from a hekesh (jux-

taposition) analogy with offering the sacrifice outside the Sanctuary. [It
is from the verse] “There you shall offer, and there you shall do” (Deut.
12:14). Just as “offering” is both punished and prohibited so is “doing”
[e.g., slaughtering] both punished and prohibited.
But what is written, (Deut. 16:5) “You may not sacrifice the pas-
chal offering within any of your gates,” they explained in the Gemara
Pesachim, Chapter Ha’isha (91a), that in the opinion of Rabbi Yose and
Rabbi Shimon it applies to the case of slaughtering a paschal lamb at
a private altar at the time when private altars are forbidden. If so, it
is included among other sacrifices generally [which are forbidden when
slaughtered outside the Sanctuary]. But Maimonides wrote in his large
work (Mishneh Torah, Hilchot Korban Pesach 1, 3) that one is punished
for this even at the time when it was permissible to offer even on pri-
vate altars, and I do not know how he derives this. Now, according to
his words, he should have counted this as a separate commandment.
Perhaps he did not enumerate it because permission of private altars
is not a situation that applies throughout the generations. Likewise, in
the Laws of Sanhedrin he did not count this among the prohibitions
that are punishable by whipping. But I finally I found in Chapter Parat
Chatat (Zevachim 114b) [a quotation] in agreement with the words of
*The above discussion, Maimonides.*
which specifically considers
slaughtering the paschal
lamb outside the Temple,
41. And examine the vessels, and destroy
involves a number of the leavened bread;
difficulties. A fairly Burn it at the sixth hour, through the
comprehensive discussion
twenty-first (of Nisan).
of the problem is found in
Perlow’s treatise on Sefer I do not know what is the sense of what he
Hamitzvot (of R. Sa’adya
Gaon, Vol. II, p. 182).
says “And examine the vessels [i.e., search for
leaven before Passover; but the appendix note
of Rabbi Yosef Rosen has a different interpretation].” This is a positive
commandment, which does not belong with the prohibitions. Also, it is
[only] a rabbinic enactment.
And destroy the leavened bread, etc. is the commandment of
burning the leaven, and he takes his view according to those authorities
who follow Rabbi Judah (Pesachim 21a), who says that the only proper
way to destroy leaven is by burning. But it should not be mentioned

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———————————————— The Negative Commandments ————————————————

among the prohibitive commandments, and also it is rabbinic.99 But

perhaps he follows the opinion of Rabbi Judah (ibid., 28a) who says
that leaven before the time [of the holiday], i.e., from midday of the
day preceding Passover until the onset of the holiday is forbidden by a
[Torah] prohibition. Therefore, he says, “You shall burn it by the [begin-
ning of] the sixth hour,” which is one hour before the time it becomes
forbidden, so as not to reach [the time of] the Torah prohibition. Thus
did Maimonides decide (Hilchot Chametz Umatzah 1, 8), and he in-
cluded it in his enumeration of prohibitions (No. 199). He brings proof
from what they said in the first chapter of Pesachim (4b) that all the
rabbis agree that leaven is forbidden by Torah law from [the end of]
six hours [i.e., after midday] and thereafter. And the prohibition that
concerns this is (Deut. 16:3) “You shall not eat leaven with it,” where
the meaning of “with it” is at the time of slaughtering of the paschal
lamb, which is between the darkenings (bein ha’arbayim), [understood
traditionally as the period from noon to night].
But Nachmanides (Prohibition No. 199) disagrees. He says that the
law is not according to Rabbi Judah, but according to Rabbi Shimon,
who said that both before the time [at the beginning of the holiday]
and after the time [the end of the holiday], one does not transgress [a
Torah law] at all [by eating leaven]. As to what the Gemara says that it
is forbidden from the end of the sixth hour [i.e., noon], and thereafter,
it does not mean that one has transgressed a [direct] prohibition. It is
just that [it is forbidden] on the basis of the [positive commandment]
(Exod. 12:15), “You shall remove leaven”; since one must remove it from
six hours and on, it is forbidden then. But in the verse [with the direct
prohibition] (Deut. 16:3) “You shall not eat with it,” in Rabbi Shimon’s
view [the expression] “with it” does not refer to the time of slaughtering
the paschal lamb but of eating it.
It is possible that the poet meant to include here one prohibition,
which is (Exod. 12:19) “No leaven shall be found in your house.” For
later on (Stanza 44), he only wrote the commandment (Exod. 13:7)
“There shall not be seen,” and these are two separate prohibitions. And
this is the expression in the Talmud (Pesachim 5b), “He transgresses on
‘not being seen’ and ‘not being found.’”

99 The clause “And also it is rabbinic” is found in the MS but not in printed versions.

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42. Do not bring outside the urgent paschal meat;

And the alien and the uncircumcised are outside, and so-
journers and hired servants.
Urgent. He calls the paschal sacrifice “urgent,” following the expres-
sion (1 Sam. 21:9) “the king’s business is urgent.” If someone takes some
paschal meat outside of the group, he transgresses a prohibition, as it is
said (Exod. 12:46) “You shall not remove from the house any of the meat
outside.” And they said in the Mechilta (Bo 15:94) that “outside” means
outside of the place where it was to be eaten. One is not culpable unless
he performs both the picking up [inside] and the setting down [outside],
just like the case of taking something from one domain to another on
the Sabbath [where one violates the Sabbath only if he both picks up and
sets down].
There are three prohibitions concerning eating the paschal lamb. They
are: (Exod. 12:43) “No alien shall eat of it,” translated by Onkelos as “No
Jew who becomes an apostate,” and so it is explained in the Mechilta
(Bo 15:88) that this means an apostate Jew who has done idolatrous
worship. [The second is] “No one uncircumcised shall eat of it (Exod.
12:48),” which includes even a Jew who is not circumcised because his
brothers died on account of circumcision. [The third is] “A sojourner and
a hired servant shall not eat of it (ibid., v. 45),” which precludes even one
who converted and was circumcised, but had not yet immersed himself
[which would complete the process]. Thus, it is explained in Yevamot,
Chapter He’arel (71a), and that is what the poet wrote.
The meaning of “are outside” is that such a person should remain
outside and not come into the group to eat [the paschal lamb].

43. Do not dishonor the blood of My sacrifice by offering it with

And do not harden your heart concerning giving what is
This sacrifice means the paschal sacrifice, which is forbidden to be
slaughtered if any member of the group possesses leavened bread, as
it is said (Exod. 34:25) “You shall not offer the blood of my sacrifice
with anything leavened,” and one who transgressed is punished with
whipping. But the sacrifice does not become invalid; so when the poet
says “Do not dishonor,” he means this as a poetic enhancement, but the
dishonor does not mean invalidation.

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And do not harden your heart concerning giving what is needed

is a prohibition against being hard-hearted so as not to give a person will
suffice for his needs, as it is said (Deut. 15:7) “You shall not harden your
heart.” Letiten (to give) is the same as latet (the usual word for “to give”).
[The unusual form letiten, occurs] in 1 Kings 6:14, “To set (letiten) there
the ark of God”

44. Do not curse the ruler, and no leaven shall be seen;

And no meat of the night of watching shall be left over until
[the morning] light.
The “ruler” means the king and also the head of the academy [i.e., the
leader of the Sanhedrin], and they are both encompassed in the same
commandment. For the meaning of the commandment is that one must
not curse any one who has nobody higher than himself in his domain,
as they said (Horayot 10a) “It means one who has no one over himself
except his God,” whether his rule is political rule or religious rule.
And no leaven shall be seen (Exod. 13:7) is a single prohibition
together with (ibid.) “No leavened bread shall be seen with you.” As they
said (Betzah 7a), “[The verse] begins with unleavened bread (chametz)
and finishes with leaven (se’or) in order to tell you that se’or and chametz
are identically prohibited.” The only reason that both are written is that
neither could be inferred from the other, as they mentioned in the first
[chapter] of Betzah.
And no meat of the night of watching shall be left over until the
[morning] light. He mentioned in this stanza that it is forbidden to leave
over the paschal meat until morning, as it is said (Exod. 12:10) “And you
shall let nothing of it remain until morning, but whatever remains until
morning you shall burn with fire.” They state in the Mechilta [actually
not cited in our Mechilta, but occurs in other Midrashim] that Scripture
comes here to put a positive commandment in addition to a prohibition
which tells that one is not to be punished for leaving anything remain
[since it can be remedied by burning].
Apparently, this stanza forbids leaving over meat, and the following
stanza (No. 45) forbids allowing the fats to stay on the floor overnight
[rather than burning them on the altar], since here (in Stanza 44) it
speaks ofthe meat of the night of watching, which is forbidden to leave
over (notar), but in the following stanza, it speaks of the “fats of the
festival offerings,” which are forbidden to stay overnight (linah). But he

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[the poet] was not being strictly correct when he says here “to let stay
overnight” (l’halin), and later “to leave over” (l’hotir), since the concepts
are related, i.e., “letting stay overnight” and “leaving over,” and in the
language of the Torah sometimes “staying overnight” (linah) is applied
to “left over” (notar). [I don’t know which citation he has in mind; per-
haps Deut. 16:4 quoted in Stanza 45.] But the strict distinction between
the [sacrificial] fats and the [sacrificial] meat is that the fats are forbid-
den to “let stay overnight,” while the meat is forbidden “to leave over.”

45. And the fats of your sacrifices, and fats of your festival of-
And the thank offerings of your peace offerings are forbidden
to leave over.
And the fats of your sacrifices, etc. Here, he records that it is for-
bidden to leave overnight the fats of the paschal sacrifice on the floor,
as it is said (Exod. 23:18) “Neither shall the fats of my feast remain all
night until morning.” And in another place (Exod. 34:25 it is written)
“Neither shall the sacrifice of the feast of Passover be left over until
the morning.”100 The language of the Mechilta (Mishpatim 20, 228) is
“Scripture comes to indicate that the fats become invalid [as a sacrifice]
by lying all night on the floor.”
Then he says, “And the thank offerings of your peace-sacrifices are
forbidden to leave over.” There are many prohibitions enumerated re-
garding leftover [sacrificial meat]. One is the regular paschal lamb, as I
mentioned in the preceding stanza. The second is for the second paschal
lamb, as it is said (Num. 9:12) “They shall not leave any over till morn-
ing.” The third is the meat of the festival offering that goes with the
paschal lamb, which may be eaten for two days and a night, as it is said
(Deut. 16:4) “None of the meat which you sacrifice in the evening of the
first day may stay overnight until the morning.”101 And they said (Sifre
Re’eh 177 and Pesachim 70) that this verse refers to the festival offering
that goes with the paschal lamb, which may be eaten for two days, [and
although] one might [think that this means] for a single day, [it really
means that] when it says “till morning,” [it refers] to the morning of

100 The above translation is based on the MS version, since the printed text seems redundant.
101 The two days and a night, which is not evident from plain reading of the text, is based on the
rabbinic interpretation.

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the second day [of Pesach, i.e., the morning of the sixteenth of Nisan].
And the fourth prohibition is about the thank offering, as it is said (Lev.
22:30) “You shall not leave it over until morning,” from which we learn
that all other sacrifices should not be left over after the time up to which
they may be eaten.

46. When meat touches anything unclean, it is forbidden.

And do not eat the tithe of your grain in your gates.
When meat touches. I will explain later (end of Stanza 151) the
topic of holy meat which has become unclean, which is prohibited.
And do not eat tithe [is about what] the Torah says, “You shall not
eat within your gates (Deut. 12:17).”

47. And [do not eat that of] your wine or your oil; and your
firstborn cattle,
And the contributions of your hand, and the choicest vows.
The Torah said (Deut. 12:17) “You shall not eat within your gates the
tithe of your grain, wine, or oil, nor the first born of your cattle and your
flocks, nor your vows that you vow, nor your free will offerings, nor the
contributions of your hands.” They state in the Gemara Keritot (4b) that
every specific item in this verse is a specific prohibition, and it is not
a lav shebichlalot (inclusive prohibition).102 This is what they said there
(Keritot ibid.): “If one ate the tithe of grain, wine, and oil [together],
he is guilty for each one, i.e., if he ate them outside of Jerusalem.” This
verse is talking about second tithe. Now, they raised the objection there
(ibid.) as to how one can be punished for such a lav shebichlalut. [They
replied that in this case the usual rules regarding lav shebichlalut do not
apply, since] the verse is repeated redundantly. Since it is written (Deut.
14:23) “And you shall eat before the Lord your God the tithe of your
grain, wine, and oil,” why is it necessary to write (in addition the verse)
“You may not eat within your gates, etc.” (Deut. 12:17)? And should you
say [that the latter verse is needed] for an [expressly stated] prohibition
[this would not remove the redundancy], for the verse could have just
stated “You may not eat them,” why does it again write all these things
individually? It is to imply that these items are to be treated separately.
In a similar vein, they said in the Gemara Makkot (18a): “Inasmuch as it

102 See chapter 27 of Caplan’s The Puzzle of the 613 Commandments.

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is written, ‘You shall eat before the Lord your God, etc. the tithe of your
grain,’ the Torah could have written ‘You may not eat them within your
gates (in 12, 17). So why does it repeat each one separately? It is so that
one might deduce from there that there is a separate prohibition for
each case.” Thus, we should enumerate grain, wine, and oil as separate
prohibitions. This is how it is written in Maimonides’s reasoning about
lav shebichlalut, since he enumerates according to the [number of] cor-
poral punishments, which is known from the Principles (No. 9).
But Nachmanides differs from him there (in Principle 9), saying that
we are not to pay attention to the separate punishments, but to the for-
bidden topics. In his opinion, the tithe of grain, wine, and oil is all one
topic, i.e., second tithe, regardless of what species it is, and it should be
counted as one [topic].
And your firstborn cattle is one prohibition, and the content of this
prohibition in its simple meaning is that it is forbidden to eat meat of
firstborn cattle outside Jerusalem. But according to rabbinic exegesis
another meaning is included in this, which is that a stranger (zar, not
a kohen) is forbidden to eat a firstling. For thus do they say in the Sifre
(Re’eh 34) concerning “the first born” (Deut. 12:17) that in this [men-
tion of the] the first born, the scriptural verse is needed only [to forbid]
a layman [not a kohen] from eating a first born either before or after
sprinkling the blood [which is essential to the sanctity of the sacrifice].103
However, the law of firstborn [being forbidden to certain persons or in
certain places] only applies to an unblemished animal [i.e., a blemished
firstborn animal can be eaten as ordinary meat].
Your cattle and sheep constitutes a separate prohibition which is ex-
plained by the rabbis (Sifre, Re’eh 34), as follows. The verse “your cattle
and sheep” is only needed to say that, if one has eaten the meat of a sin
offering or a guilt offering [having nothing to do with firstborn] outside
the curtains [of the Temple court], he has transgressed a prohibition. In
the Gemara Makkot (18a), it is explained that the same law applies to
eating minor sacrifices outside the wall [of Jerusalem].

103 It should be noted that frequently the law expressed by the simple meaning of a passage is
redundant, since it can be derived from inference. In such cases, the rabbis could attach to the
verse a meaning which is related to the subject, but not in keeping with the plain meaning of
Scripture. Thus, in our case the passage about the “firstborn” carries two messages. The first,
according to the simple meaning, is that the firstborn may not be eaten outside of Jerusalem.
Since this law can also be inferred from other laws, it was used also as a source for the prohibition
against a layman eating firstborn flesh.

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And your vow is another prohibition, which is about eating meat

of the burnt offering anywhere. The rabbis said thus (Sifre Re’eh 34)
concerning “all your vows that you vow” that Scripture is only teaching
that one who eats of the burnt offering, whether before the blood is
sprinkled or afterward, whether within the sanctuary or outside, trans-
gresses a prohibition. This prohibition includes that anyone who makes
improper use of sacrifices is punished with whipping. Thus, they stated
in Sanhedrin (83a) that if one intentionally made such use, he is subject
to the death penalty according to Rabbi [Judah the Prince], while the
other rabbis say that he has only transgressed a prohibition [punishable
by whipping]. This is what Maimonides wrote (Prohibition 146). But in
Sanhedrin (84a), they learn this by a gezerah shavah, the word chet (a
sin), [occurring both in the verse regarding improper use of sacrifices,
and in the verse regarding terumah, which implies that wrongful use of
the former is prohibited, just like the improper use of terumah]. This
[that the derivation is from terumah] is what Nachmanides wrote (Sefer
Hamitzvot, Principle 2, 24a in the common edition).
Your freewill offering is another prohibition. This is what they said
(Sifre Re’eh 34) about “your freewill offerings,” that Scripture comes
only to indicate that one who eats of the thank offering or peace offer-
ing before sprinkling of the blood transgresses a prohibition [and this is
explained in the Gemara Makkot].
And the contributions of your hands is another prohibition. As
the Sifre (Re’eh 34) says about the “contributions of your hands,” that
Scripture comes only to indicate that one who eats the first fruits before
[the owner’s] reciting over them [the words of Deut. 26:5–10] trans-
gresses a prohibition. And in the Gemara Makkot (18a), they explain
that this prohibition is addressed to a kohen, but a layman [who thus
transgresses] incurs the death penalty [by divine retribution], the prohi-
bition for that being (Lev. 22:10) “And no layman shall eat of the sacred
things.” This prohibition is mentioned later (Stanza 53).
When he says “the choicest of vows,” he is including that which he
did not specify [i.e., it includes offerings other than vows, as well]. They
explained (Tosefta Menachot 9, 1) that one must bring from the choic-
est [for offerings]. Nachmanides wrote (Supplementary Commandment
No. 7) that if one did not bring the choicest, he transgresses a prohibi-
tion, and he includes this in his enumeration of the commandments.
The verse that refers to this is (Num. 18:32) “And you shall bear no sin

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because of it, since you have set apart the choicest of it.” Nachmanides
said that this is similar to (Lev. 22:9) “And they shall keep my charge,
that they bear no sin for it,” which is a prohibition for a kohen who is
defiled [from eating his holy food]. “You shall surely reprove your
neighbor, that you bear no sin because of him” (Lev. 19:17) is similar.
Maimonides indeed counts these two commandments (Prohibitions
136 and 303), and it would be proper for him to count this [prohibition
for not bringing the choicest] as well. But he [Maimonides in Positive
Commandment 129] had written that this verse (“And you shall bear no
sin because of it” is a negation [not a prohibition], that if you set apart
the choicest, you will bear no sin because of it. [However, even under
the assumption that this is not a prohibition] the rabbi [Nachmanides]
wondered about him [Maimonides], why he did not make a [separate]
positive commandment that what is set apart should be from the choic-
est [as well as the commandment to set apart a tenth portion]. But the
rabbi [Nachmanides himself] decided to make it a prohibition.104

48. And you shall not eat with the blood my daily offering,
which is first;
And the fat and the blood are both forbidden.
This prohibition includes many things. Thus, they expounded in
Tractate Sanhedrin (63a), “Whence is it that one who eats a [properly
slaughtered] animal before it expires transgresses a prohibition? It is
from the verse (Lev. 19:25) ‘You shall not eat with the blood.’ Another
thing [forbidden by this verse] is eating sacrificial meat portions while
the blood is still in the bowl [i.e., before performing the sprinkling of
the blood]. Rabbi Dosa says that the verse that prohibits providing the
mourner’s meal after one has been given capital punishment is ‘You
shall not eat with the blood’ [by vocalizing tochlu as ta’achilu, so as to
mean] ‘You shall not feed because of the blood.’” Rabbi Akiva says that
the verse that prohibits a court that executes a person from tasting any-
thing that entire day is “You shall not eat with the blood.” Rabbi Yose bar
Chanina said that the verse prohibiting the actions of a rebellious son is
“You shall not eat with the blood.” Also, in the first chapter of Berachot

104 The actual substance of this discussion is that the Levites, who receive a tithe of produce from the
Israelites, must then take a tenth of this and give it to the kohanim. It is this contribution that that
must be from the choicest portions.

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(10b), they said, “Whence is it that one should not taste anything before
praying? It is from ‘You shall not eat with the blood’ [in the sense that]
you shall not eat until your pray for your blood [i.e., your life].”
Now, in the Gemara Sanhedrin (63a) they said that this is a lav
shebichlalut [inclusive prohibition], for which [the transgressor] is not
punished by whipping. So also it is stated in Tractate Pesachim (24a). As
to the matter of enumerating the commandments, Maimonides wrote
(Principle No. 9) that one should not enumerate each element within
this prohibition separately, since Scripture does not treat them indi-
vidually so as to make each of them punishable separately. Therefore,
he decided to enumerate this, which would be, among other things, a
prohibition for the rebellious son, that is to say that you shall not eat in
a way that leads to death, for by the eating he would be stoned.
But Nachmanides (on Principle 9) expresses the possibility of count-
ing this as two separate commandments, since there are two punish-
ments for the rebellious son. One is whipping for the first [gluttonous]
eating, as is stated in Sanhedrin (71b), “Where is it written that the
rebellious son is whipped? It is according to Rabbi Abbahu, since Rabbi
Abbahu said [concerning the punishment for the falsely accusing hus-
band] that we derive this [by a gezerah shavah] from the twice-used
word v’yisru (“And they shall chastise” in Deut. 22:18 and in 21:18),
[thus linking the rebellious son with the falsely accusing husband], the
words v’yisru and ben [both applied to the rebellious son in 21:18], and
[another gezerah shavah] from the twice-used ben (21:18 and 25:2), [and
in the latter the corporal punishment is explicit] “And it shall be that
if the wicked man deserves to be whipped.” For the second instance of
rebellious eating, the death penalty is incurred. Since this prohibition
has two punishments, it is possible to count them as two command-
ments. And since the first eating leads to death for the second eating, it
is, therefore, included under the content of “You shall not eat with the
blood.” And when it says (Sanhedrin 63a) “Where is the prohibition for
the rebellious son?” it refers to both eatings, since it is both that lead to
shedding his blood.
Nachmanides further wrote that Maimonides did a similar thing
regarding [eating)] leaven and mixtures of leaven [counting them sepa-
rately in Prohibitions 197 and 198]. I am perplexed about this state-
ment of his, since the cases are dissimilar; there [regarding leaven] two
prohibitive statements are involved, while here [rebellious son] there

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is only one. However, he [Maimonides] did similarly concerning (Exod.

22:27) “You shall not curse elo-him,” where he enumerates two prohibi-
tions (Nos. 60 and 315) on account of the difference in punishment. A
similar instance is (Exod. 23:13) “You shall not mention the name of
other gods (Maimonides’s prohibitions Nos. 14 and 26).” So I wonder
why he [Maimonides] did not [in the case of the rebellious son] include
two prohibitions in the enumeration.
What the poet wrote “my daily offering, which is first” has no basis.
Actually eating with [or before] the blood of the daily offering, which
precedes other sacrifices, is not included in the verse “You shall not eat
with the blood.” Also, there is nothing of the daily offering which is eat-
en, of which it would be forbidden to eat before the sprinkling. And as
to the prohibition of eating sacrificial meat before the sprinkling, that is
not due to this prohibition “Do not eat with the blood,” but it is from the
prohibition “You may not eat within your gates, etc.” (Deut. 12:17), as I
wrote in the preceding stanza. Perhaps he is alluding to the prohibition
of eating before praying for one’s blood [i.e., life], since prayers were
instituted in lieu of the daily offerings (Berachot 26b). And when he
says, “My daily offering which is first,” he took this from what is said
(Pesachim 58b) that the words (Lev. 6:2) “It is the burnt offering” means
the first burnt offering, that nothing should precede the morning burnt
And the fat and the blood are two prohibitions, “You shall eat no
blood” (Lev. 3:17 and 7:26) and the prohibition of fat, which is counted
as one [even though the prohibition is repeated in Lev. 3:17 and 7:23],
as is known from the Principles (No. 9). But I do wonder why there are
not two prohibitions concerning blood, one being the blood of life [the
spurting flow of blood as the animal is slaughtered], which is punish-
able by “cutting off” (karet), and the other being the blood of the organs
[which is retained in the organs after the animal expires], which is only
punishable as a prohibition [by whipping]. This is like Maimonides
counting two prohibitions in (Exod. 22:27) “You shall not revile judges”
[which also encompasses reviling God], because there is a difference
in penalty. Also, Nachmanides dealt thus with “You shall not eat with
the blood,” even though it is a single prohibition [see beginning of this

105 The Talmudic source actually refers to another proof text for this law, i.e., “And he shall put the
burnt offering in order upon it” in v. 6.

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stanza]. It seems to me that so much more so this should be so for

[the prohibition of] blood, where there are several prohibitions, and
it resembles the prohibitions [on Passover] of leaven and mixtures of
it, one of which is punishable as just a prohibition [by whipping], and
the other is punishable by “cutting off.” Also, I wonder why they should
[even] not be counted as three prohibitions, for [the various scriptural
verses] are not a prohibition of the same thing. But one case is that
blood from animals for ordinary consumption, and that from sacrifi-
cial animals, and blood that needs to be covered (Lev. 17:13), which is
blood of life, and which is punishable by “cutting off.” A separate case is
blood from organs which has separated [from the organ], which, if still
in the organ, would have been permissible. And another case would be
oozing blood [which comes out gradually after death]. Should all these
be counted as only one commandment, just because they are all called
“blood,” when they are different in their rules? It requires deliberation
[to decide] if this is similar to the law of sh’atnez [see below, Stanza 68,
where he states that it is a single commandment, even though the pro-
hibition is repeated, since the repetition is done to clarify details of the
commandment]. Nevertheless, when there is a difference in penalty be-
tween them, one being “cutting off,” and the other [just being whipped
for] a prohibition, it seems obvious that they should be counted as two
[prohibitions], and certainly, if [in addition] there is a multiplicity of
prohibitive statements.

49. [Also forbidden are] both fish and beast, and varieties of
Unless they have the sign by which they are recognized [as
In this stanza, he includes unclean fish, both unclean domestic and
wild animals, and unclean fowl, which are three prohibitions. And the
signs of every one of the fish and animals [which indicate uncleanness]
are written in the Torah, while the fowl [are indicated] by the words of
the sages.

50. And one having a blemish may not come near to offer a
pleasant gift,
Whether he is hunchbacked, or scabbed, or lame, or blind.
“But he shall not enter within the curtain, or come near the altar

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(Lev. 21:23).” [These two clauses] are only to be counted as a single com-
mandment (Maimonides’s Prohibition No. 69), since each is needed
to complete the content, since neither one could be inferred from the
other, as explained in the Sifra (Emor