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I was watching the video on "Honor Thy Father and Mother" from Dennis Prager's video series on the Ten Commandments.

In the video (at 8 seconds in) Prager claims that the mitzva of honoring parents is the only one that includes a reason - "that your days may be long in your land".

I was wondering if anyone knows whether or not this is accurate. There are 613 mitzvot and I would be surprised is 612 of them do not come with some sort of reason. Can anyone provide an example of another mitzva that is given with a reason?

  • FWIW, almost all of the mitzvot in the Torah have a reason: things like "because I am the Lord your God", or "because I am holy", or "because I brought you out of Egypt", etc. What you mean (and what Prager means) are unique reasons, conceptually specific to the mitzva in question. – Shimon bM Jan 1 '17 at 6:57
  • he was probably referring to the 10 commandments specifically, not to all 613. (although shabbat has a reason as well) – Menachem Jan 1 '17 at 8:24
  • In what sense is this a reason for the mitzva? This is an incentive... – Moshe Steinberg Jan 1 '17 at 18:40
  • @MosheSteinberg I addressed that exact point. judaism.stackexchange.com/a/78646/8775. – mevaqesh Jan 1 '17 at 19:10
  • if you like an answer, consider marking it correct. – mevaqesh Jan 4 '17 at 6:26
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To quote Sanhedrin 21b

מפני מה לא נתגלו טעמי תורה שהרי שתי מקראות נתגלו טעמן נכשל בהן גדול העולם כתיב (דברים יז, יז) לא ירבה לו נשים אמר שלמה אני ארבה ולא אסור וכתיב (מלכים א יא, ד) ויהי לעת זקנת שלמה נשיו הטו את לבבו וכתיב (דברים יז, טז) לא ירבה לו סוסים ואמר שלמה אני ארבה ולא אשיב וכתיב (מלכים א י, כט) ותצא מרכבה ממצרים בשש וגו':


This is two good examples of the תורה giving the reason. A king shouldn't have too many wives as they shall lead him astray. A king shouldn't have too many horses as he will return to Egypt, which is forbidden.

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Off the top of my head I can think of one other: Devarim 22:7 lists the Mitzvah of Shiluach HaKan (sending away the mother bird before taking her eggs) as being "so that it will be good for you and you will live long days."

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There is a distinction between an incentive for the individual to perform a commandment, (as in this case), and God's stated reason why an act should be done. Both are found elsewhere. Example of the former: Deuteronomy (22:7) which relates to sending away the mother bird:

Thou shalt in any wise let the dam go, but the young thou mayest take unto thyself; that it may be well with thee, and that thou mayest prolong thy days. (Trans. JPS)

Additionally, there are associations between general mitzvah observance, and reward, e.g. Deut. (4:1), (5:30), (6:2), (6:18), (8:1), and (11:8).

Example of the latter: Exodus (13:9); the mitzvah of tefillin:

And it should be a sign on your arm for you, and as a remembrance between your eyes, so that the law of God will be in your mouth. (Trans. my own).

Additionally, note Leviticus (23:43-4); the mitzvah of sitting in sukkot:

Ye shall dwell in booths seven days; all that are home-born in Israel shall dwell in booths; so that your generations may know that I made the children of Israel to dwell in booths, when I brought them out of the land of Egypt: I am the LORD your God. (Based on JPS).

Also, Numbers (15:39-40); the mitzvah of tsitsit:

And it shall be unto you for a fringe, that ye may look upon it, and remember all the commandments of the LORD, and do them; and that ye go not about after your own heart and your own eyes, after which ye use to go astray; so that ye may remember and do all My commandments, and be holy unto your God. (Based on JPS).

Sometimes the nature of a reason; i.e. whether it is an incentive or the very reason for the command, or both, may not be self evident. E.g. Exodus (23:12); the mitzvah of Shabbat:

Six days thou shalt do thy work, but on the seventh day thou shalt rest; so that thine ox and thine ass may have rest, and the son of thy handmaid, and the stranger, may be refreshed. (Based on JPS).

Cf. Deut. (5:14).

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