The Talmud says that there are 613 commandments in the Torah:

Rabbi Simlai, when preaching, said: 613 precepts were communicated to Moses: 365 negative precepts, corresponding to the number of solar days [in the year], and 248 positive precepts, corresponding to the number of members in a man's body [joints, or bones, covered with flesh and sinews, excluding teeth]. [Makkot 23b]

You would think that the Talmud would tell us next what they are, considering how critically important that is. But it doesn't. Strangely, the Talmud provides no list. Later, commentators have offered many candidate lists, which don't always agree among themselves.

Why did the Talmud not provide a list of the 613? Could they have been in a lost book? Any speculation on that in the Sources?

  • I recall a related question about many numbers that Mishnah lists, like 4 Avos of Nezikin, etc - namely, were the known A"N simply counted to remember, or the number was prior and they tried to fill it up (hence different opinions). Same with Mitzvos or Number of letters of the Torah (600k).
    – Al Berko
    Jun 5, 2019 at 17:38
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    Rav Yerucham Fishel Perla asks a related question: why doesn't the number 613 appear in the Mishnah, sifra, sifrei, or yerushalmi. He says it's almost as if it was purposefully concealed
    – robev
    Jun 5, 2019 at 17:43
  • it was probably common knowledge at the time
    – Menachem
    Jun 5, 2019 at 17:44
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    considering how critically important that is Is the number 613 critically important?
    – magicker72
    Jun 5, 2019 at 17:47
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    @robev And that content is included in the Torah, the Talmud, etc.
    – magicker72
    Jun 5, 2019 at 17:55

1 Answer 1


I was told(source needed) some of the main reasons were the desire of the Sages to equal the Rabbinical decrees to the Torah laws, as opposed to Sedusees and others that claimed that only the Torah laws obligate. It the Talmud provided a clear list of all the Mitzvos, people would say "That would be sufficient for me".

That is also the reason all the following Halachic books (Rambam, Tur, etc) make no clear distinctions between Halochos Deorayso and Derabonon, they list them mixed.

  • 1) You don't know who you heard it from? 2) Your second paragraph is simply factually wrong. Try searching all the halachic seforim you list (Rambam, meaning Mishnah Torah and Sefer HaMitzvot, Tur, and Shulchan Aruch) for דאורייתא, דרבנן. They make countless distinctions of these two categories. Jun 5, 2019 at 18:14
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    I agree about the Tur but the Rambam is very careful to list Rabbinic laws after outlining the biblical ones. Look at how he organized most of Hilkhot Shabbat
    – Double AA
    Jun 5, 2019 at 19:24

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