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In the Rambam's introduction to Mishneh Torah or just thereafter (depending where you consider the introduction to end) he lists his count of the 613 mitzvot twice. First he lists all the positive mitzvot, then all the negative mitzvot. After this he lays out the organization of Mishneh Torah into 14 books (sefer Maddah, Sefer Ahavah, ....) with subcategories (Hilchot Yesodei HaTorah, Hilchot Deot, ....). He lists the mitzvot that will be covered in each of these subcategories. So from this list, we have a full list of the mitzvot the Rambam is including in all of Mishneh Torah.

If he is going to list all the mitzvot in the order he will address them in the balance of his work, what does listing them before that add?

  • I will admit that if the first listing appeared to follow a more sensible order (see: judaism.stackexchange.com/questions/101868/…), I would have less question as to why it is there. – Ze'ev misses Monica Jul 20 at 21:39
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    I know nothing in the Torah is superfluous. But I never heard that nothing in the Rambam is superfluous. – Maurice Mizrahi Jul 20 at 22:40
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    @MauriceMizrahi Whether they were correct or not, plenty of later commentators approached the Rambam with the premise that nothing in his book is superfluous. – Alex Jul 21 at 0:35
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In the first listing he gives the Scriptural source for each one (which fits with his view, in the Shorashim prefaced to his Sefer Hamitzvos, that the 613 don't include Rabbinical enactments or (generally) those derived from the 13 principles of Torah exegesis); in the second one he doesn't.

(In the Rambam La'Am edition, they did combine these two listings: the index to the work (second listing) includes the Scriptural sources for each mitzvah (from the first listing). It's possible that the Rambam didn't want to do it that way because it would make the index too hard to follow, or maybe because then it would be more difficult to see the counts of 248 and 365 mitzvos. The latter might have been particularly important to highlight, since a previous listing, in Sefer Halachos Gedolos, had 265 positive and 348 negative mitzvos.)

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Lawrence Kaplan in this article argues that Rambam’s decision to split Mishneh Torah into 14 sefarim actually came at a fairly late stage in the work’s development.

Thus, the introduction originally contained the first listing of the mitzvot only.

When Rambam subsequently decided to split the halachot into sefarim, rather than rewriting the introduction, he merely adduced the explanation of the work’s final structure, including how the mitzvot are addressed in the relevant sections, almost as a postscript.

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