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The 613 Commandments

The number of the Divine commandments were revealed to Moses on Mount Sinai. The tradition from Sinai is unequivo­cal on this point. There are 248 positive commandments in relation to the 248 organs of the body and 365 prohibitions in comparison to the days of the year. It is as though each organ of the body says do a good deed with me and each day of the year says do not transgress on me.1 Among the commandments are rational ones, celebrations, and statutes for which no reason is evident. All are equally obligatory and it is one of the 13 Principles of Faith that they will never be revoked.

In the 1970's, the Lubavitcher Rebbe inaugurated a ten-point mitzvah campaign to combat assimilation and get the Jewish people back on their feet, spiritually. These specific activities serve as gate­ways to spiritual fulfillment and build appreciation of the Jew for his or her heritage. For the Jewish reader who wants to get back to his roots so that he will blossom into the redemption, we include a description of these ten dimensions of Jewish heritage.

Love your fellow as yourself.
The famous Talmudic Sage, Rabbi Akiva called this "the great inclusive principle of the Torah." A campaign for brotherly love among Jews means that we make an effort that our thought, speech and actions be permeated with a real concern and sensitivity for the well being of our fellows. These efforts share a connection to the Redemption because the love and care we share with others in the present age will lead to the all­-encompassing love that will characterize the redemption.

The Torah mandates respect and consideration, which the Jew must show to all people, Jew and Gentile alike. In addition the Jew must recognize that Jews are one big family in the family of man, and must treat each other in a manner befitting close relatives. As discussed earlier, all Jews have a spark of Moshiach, and are spiri­tually integrated into Moshiach's inclusive soul.

Jewish Education.
The campaign for Torah education seeks to involve any and every Jewish child in an educational program that will teach him/her what it means to live as a Jew. Education is not only for children. Adults are encouraged to enroll in study groups and seminars commensurate with their background and knowledge.

Torah Study.
Torah is the medium of communication through which G-d enables man to know him. The campaign of Torah study encourages every individual to set fixed times for Torah study every day so that our spiritual growth and development can be systematic and directed.

Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Liadi, the founder of the Chabad­ Lubavitch movement, explained that Torah study should be fixed not only in time but also in ‘soul’. It should be the vortex around which the entire spectrum of our day-to-day experience revolves. This prepares us for the explosion of knowledge that will highlight the era of the Redemption when "the Jews will be great sages and the occupation of the entire world will be solely to know G-d."

The Torah describes Tefillin as a sign, a public state­ment of Jewish involvement. By donning Teflilin daily, an individual gives expression to this basic feeling of Jewish identity, and its importance to him. The Teflilin are placed on the arm facing the heart and on the head. This signifies the binding of one's emotional and intellectual powers to the service of G-d.

The straps, stretching from the arm to the hand and from the head to the legs, signify the transmission of intellectual and emotional energy to the hands and feet, symbolizing deed and action. Our Sages explain that the verse, "And all the nations of the world shall see that the name of G-d is called upon you, and they shall fear you," applies to Teflilin. Teflilin are a medium to bring safety and security to Jews in the present era and hasten the coming of the ultimate security, which will be experienced in the Era of the Redemption.

A Mezuzah designates a house, or room as Jewish. Whenever we enter or depart, it reminds us of our heritage and our connection to G­-d. A Mezuzah should be affixed on the right doorpost of the entrance to a home or place of business and on the doorpost of every room within. In a Mezuzah, it's what's inside that counts. It must contain a parchment with two paragraphs of the Shma, writ­ten by a professional scribe.

Unfortunately there are times when the cases of Mezuzos are empty, and many printed or improperly written Mezuzos have flooded the public market. In addition, many Mezuzos that were originally properly written have since faded or cracked due to age or weather.

The Mezuzah campaign makes properly written Mezuzos avail­able and provides competent authorities to check the Mezuzos within your home. A Mezuzah protects the home and its occupants. The Divine name Sha-dai, written on the outside of each Mezuzah, is an acronym for Shomer Dalsos Yisroel, Guardian of the doorways of
Israel, protecting their homes from all undesirable influences.

Charity. We should give to others out of a sense of responsibility, realizing that what we have is also a gift from G-d, granted to us with a purpose, so that we will help others. Our pros­perity is a trust, that we must steward and generously share with those in need. The Tzedakah campaign calls for an increase in giving and also the conspicuous display of a Tzedakah box to serve as a reminder to give often, even a penny, every weekday.

Our Sages say, "Tzedakah is great because it brings the Redemption near." By showing generosity to our fellow men, we anticipate G-d's ultimate generosity and bountiful blessings.

Possession of Jewish Books.
An environment teaches. What you have in your home helps determine what type of home you will have. By having sacred Jewish books conspicuously displayed at home, you and your visitors will be prompted to use them. Moreover, their very presence reminds us of their contents and the importance of Jewish values. Of course, the more books, the better. However the minimum of a Chumash (Five Books of Moses), Tehillim (Psalms), Tanya, and a Siddur (Prayer Book) are suggested.

Candle Lighting.
This is a subject, which has stirred the imagi­nation of poets, scientists and psychologists. Because its nature is so different from other material entities, candles are frequently used to describe the spiritual realm. Shabbos is a day of light; a day with a different pattern and value-orientation than our ordinary weekdays. Every Shabbos is a foretaste of "the day that is all Shabbos and rest for life everlasting," the era of Moshiach.

The lighting of the Shabbos candles 18 minutes before sunset ushers in and inspires this state of awareness. The responsibility for lighting the candles and inducing this change of perspective is the woman's. It is she who welcomes the Shabbos Queen into the home. Young girls from the age of three are also encouraged to light their own candle so that too can have a share in creating this spiri­tual atmosphere.

Kosher Food.
Eating kosher food enables the Jew to identify with his Judaism on a very basic and fundamental level. As long as our Jewish involvement is limited to prayer, study, or even specific ritual acts, it is spiritual, above our normal day-to-day real­ity. When you eat differently because you are Jewish, your commitment is not merely metaphysical, but part and parcel of your physical being.

This orientation will reach its ultimate expression in the Era of the Redemption when G-dliness will permeate every element of our experience. Kashrus and other mitzvos, which involve the material dimensions of our experience, foreshadow the approach of this age.

The observance of Kashrus consists of eating only kosher foods at home and away from home. It also entails not eating dairy and meat foods together, and maintaining separate dishes, cutlery, and utensils for meat and dairy.

Kosher Marriage.
Taharas HaMishpacha. The love life of a Jewish couple is most successful and lasting when conducted in harmony with the laws of the Torah. Judaism requires that all inti­macies be saved for marriage. In marriage, there is a monthly cycle of withdrawal and reunion, with relations resuming after the wife immerses in a mikvab, which is a pool of rain or spring water.

A kosher love life is not only for those who have been raised in a Torah environment. On the contrary, couples from all walks of life have adopted this mitzvah as a means to enhance and enrich their married life. It is no coincidence that in families that observe this time-honored tradition, the divorce rate is far lower than the national average, as are the rates of various gynecological illnesses. Also these practices foster genuine communication and love between husbands and wives.

The cyclic love life of the Jewish husband and wife has a paral­lel in the relationship between G-d and the Jewish people, who wane and wax like the moon. In the near future the separation phase will be over, with the complete reunion of G-d and the Jewish people forever.

* * *

It is only natural to feel Intimidated when considering a whole palate of sweeping changes in lifestyle. For the overwhelmed, here is some bite-sized food for thought.

Picture a ladder with 613 rungs. There's someone on the 600th step and someone on the 2nd step. Who's higher?

Actually it depends. If the one on the 600th step is on his way down, and the one on the 2nd step is on his way up, maybe this latter one is higher. Because maybe what really counts is the direc­tion you're going not the status you have achieved. After all, G-d is an infinite number of steps removed from our limitations. However, when you take on just one more mitzvah, you have made a quan­tum leap, transcending your habits and comfort. By finding the infinite within you, you connect to the Infinite beyond you.

There is a Chassidic saying that returning to G-d is like cleaning a barnyard chicken. If you were to pluck all the dirt from the feath­ers of a barnyard chicken one by one, you would be at it all day and you'd never be done. However, if you just tickle the chicken in just the right place, she'll give one great shudder and will come perfectly clean all by herself.

If all this website has accomplished is to tickle you in just the right place, it's been worth it. If not, let's try one more time. Please read on. 


1. Mimonides, Mishnah Torah, Introduction



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