In Hilchot Tefillin 4:26 Rambam writes:

וכל שאינו מניח תפילין עובר בשמונה עשה שהרי בארבע פרשיות צוה על תפילין של ראש ועל תפילין של יד

Whoever does not wear tefillin transgresses eight positive commandments, for in each of the four passages contained in the tefillin we are commanded to wear both head and arm tefillin. (Touger translation)

The commentaries point out that this comes from a Talmudic passage in Menachot 44a:

אמר רב ששת כל שאינו מניח תפילין עובר בשמונה עשה וכל שאין לו ציצית בבגדו עובר בחמשה עשה וכל כהן שאינו עולה לדוכן עובר בג' עשה כל שאין לו מזוזה בפתחו עובר בשני עשה וכתבתם וכתבתם

R. Shesheth said, Whosoever does not put on the tefillin transgresses eight precepts; and whosoever has not zizith attached to his garment transgresses five precepts; and every priest who does not go up to the platform transgresses three precepts; and whosoever has not a mezuzah on his door transgresses two precepts, namely, And thou shalt write them, And thou shalt write them. (Soncino translation)

If we look at Hilchot Birkat Kohanim 15:12 we see that Rambam mentions the number of mitzvot violated there as well:

Any priest who does not ascend to the duchan - even though he neglects [the performance] of [only] one commandment - is considered as if he violated three positive commandments, as [Numbers 6:23-27] states: "This is how you shall bless the children of Israel," "Say to them," "And you shall set My name..." (Touger translation)

However, in Hilchot Tzitzit he does not mention how many mitzvot are violated by not wearing tzitzit, and in Hilchot Mezuzah he does not mention how many mitzvot are violated by not having a mezuzah.

Given that all four cases stem from the same Talmudic passage, why does Rambam only mention this in two out of the four cases?

  • I'm surmising because both tefillin and mezuzot are "conditional" mitzvoth. A mezuzah is required only if you own a permanent home. If you're a constant traveler, you would never need to affix a mezuzah. Tzitzit are required only if you wear a 4-cornered garment. Ramba"m explains why it has become customary to wear a tallit kattan, so that we can fulfill the mitzvah. It seems that Ramba"m feels that the wearing of a 4-cornered garment is voluntary, but it has evolved into a universally accepted minhag.
    – DanF
    May 1, 2019 at 17:27
  • @DanF But if you wear a four-cornered garment without tzitzit or have a house without a mezuzah you still violate the commandments.
    – Alex
    May 1, 2019 at 17:29
  • I guess I misinterpreted the focus of your question, then. I interpret it as meaning "Why Ramba"m doesn't mention violations by not doing the mitzvah in the 1st place", rather than "Why he doesn't mention violations if you meet the prerequisites that require the mitzvah but don't perform it."
    – DanF
    May 1, 2019 at 17:34
  • 1
    @Loani That would be a nice answer.
    – Alex
    May 1, 2019 at 22:09
  • 1
    @Loani He also holds that tefillin is two mitzvot.
    – Alex
    May 1, 2019 at 22:43

1 Answer 1


Multiple responsa have been written to address this question. In Shu"t Toafot Re'em (# 32) R. Aharon Moshe Taubes argues that by tefillin there really are eight mitzvot, whereas in the other cases there really is only one mitvah and it's only as if there are multiple mitzvot. As evidence of this he cites the fact that by birkat kohanim Rambam actually wrote that "it is like three mitzvot".

However, this doesn't seem like such a strong answer because Rambam clearly mentioned the number of mitzvot by birkat kohanim even though in reality it's only one mitzvah, and therefore he could have done the same by tzitizit and mezuzah. Moreover, in Sefer Hamitzvot (Shoresh 9) Rambam mentions the Talmudic passage and lumps all the cases together, saying that despite the statement of the Sages none of the counters of mitzvot ever suggested that tzitzit is five mitzvot, that birkat kohanim is three mitzvot, or that tefillin is eight mitzvot:

והראיה על כל מה שאמרנו אמרם כל שאין לו ציצית בבגדו עובר בחמשה עשה בעבור שנכפל בו לשון הצווי חמשה פעמים אחד ועשו להם ציצית שני ונתנו על ציצית הכנף שלישי והיה לכם לציצית רביעי גדילים תעשה לך חמישי על ארבע כנפות כסותך ומצאנו להם לשון מבואר במצות ציצית שהיא מצוה אחת כמו שאבאר כשאזכור אותה ועל הדרך הזאת בעצמה אמרו כל שאינו מניח תפילין עובר בשמנה עשה להכפל הצווי בהם שמנה פעמים כלו' בשלראש ושליד וכן אמרם כל כהן שאינו עולה לדוכן עובר בשלשה עשה להכפל הצווי בו שלש פעמים ולא יתפשט אחד מהמונים המצות שיאמר ברכת כהנים שלש מצות וציצית חמש מצות ותפלין שמנה מצות

So it seems that Rambam himself did not distinguish between tefillin and the other cases.

R. Yaakov Ettlinger suggests a different answer in Shu"t Binyan Tzion (# 7). He argues that Rambam tends to end off sections with words of mussar about the topic, and this Talmudic passage fits that bill. However, in the cases of tzitzit and mezuzah he didn't need to turn to this passage, because he already had better statements to use. In Hilchot Tzitzit (3:12) he wrote that one should always be diligent because tzitzit is equated to all other mitzvot, and in Hilchot Mezuzah (6:13) he wrote that one should be diligent because mezuzah is a constant obligation for everyone.

ומה שלא כ' דברי ר"ש ג"כ לענין ציצית ומזוזה לענ"ד הטעם דהנה כל דברי ר"ש כמה עשה איכא אין נפקותא לדינא ולא אמר כן רק להגדיל ענין המצות הללו ולכן הביא הרמב"ם דבריו בסוף ה' תפילין ובסוף ה' נכ"פ כדרכו שבסוף ההלכות כותב דברי מוסר על המצות שביאר אכן לענין ציצית לא הוצרך להביא דברי ר"ש לזה שכתב סוף ה' ציצית להגדיל המצו' מה שכולל יותר שכתב לעולם יהא זהיר במצות ציצית שהרי הכתוב שקלה ותלה בה כל המצות כולן עכ"ל וכן לענין מזוזה כתב בסוף ה' מזוזה חייב אדם להזהר במזוזה מפני שהיא חובת הכל תמיד וכו' ע"ש שהגדיל ענין המצו' ע"י בחינות התרוממות אשר על כן לא הוצרך לכתוב שיש בה ב' מצות

This answer seems to fit better with Rambam's statement in Sefer Hamitzvot where he apparently assumes that the Talmudic passage is meant to be an inspiration rather than a legal declaration.

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