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There are sources that say that there are many more mitzvos than 613, and only some are counted. My question (or chakira) is, is there any difference between the ones that are counted and the ones that aren't? לגבי us, is it all the same and we simply don't know the reasons why some are counted and some are not?

Or, is it למשל like a tree, with 613 main branches, and the rest are offshoots of those branches, so the ones that are counted get a higher priority.

If anyone knows any sources on this, or if you have a possible nafka mina in my chakira, please let me know.

edit - I am primarily looking for nafka mina's in the two tzdadim of my question. Therefore I am not sure if the question marked as similar will help me. I am also looking for sources one way or the other, for this that question may help, I need to be מעיין in it more.

edit 2 - I have seen the questions that are similar, but I am still not satisfied, I don't think they answer my question.

(I was thinking that there might be a nafka mina for arvus (I have seen that there are achronim that discuss this about mitzvos that aren't counted), if the ones that are counted get higher priority than perhaps it is possible to say that arvus only applies to them, so as to be sure to keep the main 'tree' alive and well.)

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Here are some mareh mekomos on this question:

The Gra's brother in the beginning of Maalos Hatorah quotes the Gra who said that there is no nafka minah regarding the 613 mitzvos, because the number 613 is about roots, but in fact there is an infinite number of mitzvos and the whole discussion of minyan hamitzvos in the rishonim is just about what the roots are (like your 2nd tzad).

R. Yerucham Perlow in his introduction to his commentary on the Rasag discusses the question of what the nafka minah is. He says that there is no direct nafka minah but there are indirect ones. In other words, he says, since every rishon has to come up with 613 mitzvos, if one is short a few mitzvos, they will have to find additional sources that they would not otherwise have counted as mitzvos to fill in the count, ayen sham.

R. Zelik Epstein in Yeshurun, vol. 32, also discusses this question and quotes some approaches to it. His own approach is that the reason one is supposed to know what the 613 mitzvos are is because that is part of talmud Torah. In other words, there is a mitzvah to know the Torah and part of knowing the Torah is knowing what the 613 mitzvos are.

Others have suggested that there is a nafka minah regarding aseh docheh lo saaseh.

In a recent podcast, R. Shnayor Burton also discussed this issue. He quoted the Gra, mentioned above, and explained that there is nevertheless a difference between mitzvos that are counted in the list of 613 and those that are only inferred as God's will. Basically, regarding the latter it is our duty to discover God's will but if we have not done so we have only failed in our Torah study; we have not violated an express command.

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This seems to be a machlokes.

The brother of the Vilna Gaon discusses this in Maalos Hatorah. He gives the analogy you mention, considering the 613 roots with many hundreds of branches, although he continues to point out that there is no intrinsic relevance in knowing which are 'roots' and which are 'branches'. [See the maalos hatorah* with the commentary of R Yitzchak Isaac Chaver, for more depth.]

Others (Rambam Teshuvos 141, quoted by Ramban in Shoresh 2; see also Minchas Chinuch in his introduction) do explain that there is an intrinsic value of knowing the count and recognizing which mitzvos do fit into the count. (I understand this is not relevant to your question, I won't elaborate.)

However, some commentators assume halachic ramifications based on the Count. I'll quote some:

The Tzlach in his commentary to Beitza 19b discusses whether the dictum of aseh docheh lo saaseh applies to a mitzva that isn't in the count.

In Sefer Binyan Adam (Kisui Hadam), the author posits that the laws of forcing one to perform mitzvos does not apply to one which is not part of the 613.

There is a view in the Rishonim/Kabbalists that every person is obligated to perform all 613 mitzvos at least once in their lifetime (Sefer Chareidim, among others). Accordingly, the count makes a very large difference.

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  • "R Yitzchak Isaac Chaver, who was a talmid muvhak of the Gr"a" - he was actually a talmid of a talmid (R. Mendel of Shklov I believe) – wfb May 10 at 19:30
  • @wfb - Noted. Edited. Thanks for the correction. – chortkov2 May 10 at 21:09
  • How can a non-kohein perform all 613 mitzvos? Also today when there is no beis hamikdash. – Dovid May 11 at 0:08
  • @Dovid - good question, but too long for comment. If you ask this as a question, I'll provide sources for the concept and answer your question. – chortkov2 May 11 at 11:20
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Maimonides wrote the Book of Commandments, or Sefer Hamitzvot (in Arabic: Ketab el Fara'id), where he lists the 613 and comments on each one of them. His list is the one most often used today. He developed 14 principles to guide him in what commandments to include. These are:

  1. Exclude the seven rabbinic commandments, which were later added to the list: Washing hands before eating bread, building an Eruv, saying a blessing before eating, lighting Shabbat candles, reading the Megillah scroll on Purim, lighting Hanukkah candles, and reciting the Hallel on major occasions.

  2. Exclude commandments derived from Rabbi Yishmael's 13 principles of hermeneutics, which derive commandments from other commandments. For example, “Revere Torah scholars.”

  3. Exclude commandments that are not permanent. For example, prior to the Exodus from Egypt the Israelites were told: “Put blood on the doors of your houses so the Angel of Death passes over them.”

  4. Exclude commandments that encompass the entire Torah, such as “Observe all my laws, commandments and decrees, statutes and ordinances.”

  5. Do not consider the reason for a commandment as a separate commandment. For example, “Do not do this and do not bring guilt upon the land.”

  6. Count a commandment with both positive and negative components as two. For example, “Rest on Shabbat” and “Do no work on Shabbat”.

  7. Exclude the details of a commandment. For example, “Bring an animal sin-offering if you can afford it; if not, bring two birds; and if not, bring a flour-offering.”

  8. The negation of an obligation is not a prohibition.

  9. An instruction repeated many times counts only once. For example, “Do not eat blood” is repeated seven times in the Torah, but counts as only one commandment.

  10. Exclude the preparations for a commandment.

  11. Do not count the parts of a commandment separately. For example, the four species required for Sukkot – lulav, etrog, aravah, and hadass – are only one commandment.

  12. Do not count separately the activities required to fulfill a commandment.

  13. Count only once a commandment performed over many days.

  14. Count each form of punishment only once, regardless of context.

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    This does not answer the question – robev May 10 at 5:40

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