The Rambam and those who follow suit divide the 613 mitzvos into two groups, 248 positive mitzvos and 365 negative mitzvos. This is sourced from Makkos 23b.

However, many of the Geonim (for example: Bahag, Rav Saadiah Gaon) divide the 613 mitzvos differently:

  1. 200 Positive mitzvos for the individual
  2. 277 Negative mitzvos for the individual
  3. 71 Punishments (counted towards negative mitzvos)
  4. 65 "Parshiyos" (in general, for the tzibbur (community) and Jewish court, 48 positive and 17 negative)

The Rishonim didn't have any source for this division, so they (for example, the Rambam (Shorash 14, see also Shorash 7 and Shorash 10)) outright rejected it.

Rav Yerucham Fishel Perla (mid 19th to mid 20th century) suggests that there must have been some baraisa or source that the Geonim had, to explain why they shared this common (and seemingly unusual) division. He couldn't find one, but suggested a couple of sources (Midrash Tehillim 119, Midrash Rus § 1) that hint to a different division than just positive and negative mitzvos, but no explicit source, nor a source that provides these numbers.

His sefer was published over a hundred years ago. Has anyone since found a source to vindicate the Geonim's division? In some manuscript or something.

  • 4
    Since the publication of R. Perla’s work, R. AH Rabinowitz wrote his ‘Taryag - A Study of the Tradition that the Written Torah Contains 613 Mitzvot’ (1st ed. 1967) and had not found any beraisa corroborating BeHaG’s division. The author only repeated R. Perla’s suggestions (Aronson Press 1996, pp. 83-84).
    – Oliver
    Aug 5, 2019 at 17:37
  • The introduction to Yonah Frankel's Maḥzor Shavuot (published 2000) does not give any source for the division, except to say that early authors didn't feel bound by the Talmudic division.
    – magicker72
    May 13, 2021 at 20:12
  • Dov Friedberg also mentions the division in the introduction to his work on Rambam's count (hebrew ed put out by Yeshivat Maaleh Adumim's press). If I recall correctly he also did not have any known source for it. Jun 23, 2021 at 22:14
  • Rav Shaul HaCohen, in his sefer Nesiv Mitzvosecha, a commentary on Ri Albargaloni's Azharos, understands from the latter's words (אשר סיפרו אבותינו) that this was a tradition the Geonim received that this was the proper division. Although he presents an alternative explanation there.
    – robev
    Jan 16 at 19:20


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