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I remember a teaching that all the commandments in the Torah are things most people would not do naturally. That's why they needed to be commanded. Is this correct and what is the source?

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    Seems unlikely. The Torah commands not to murder. It commands to have children. – Double AA Sep 20 '18 at 1:43
  • I think you may have heard or interpreted incorrectly. Many mitzvot are based on ideas that most humans would conclude on their own. However, the Torah mentions these explicitly so that people would do these commandments because G-d commanded it, not because it sounds ligical or natural. – DanF Sep 20 '18 at 2:04
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    @Double AA -- The Torah commands men to have children, but not women. That may be because most women naturally want to have a family, but most men would rather just fool around. So only those who would not do it naturally are commanded. – Maurice Mizrahi Sep 20 '18 at 2:16
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R. Yechiel Michel Epstein argues that it is just the opposite. He writes that the Torah commanded us to do many things that we would have naturally done anyway. The purpose is so that we do them specifically because the Torah commanded them and not to do them because we would have done them naturally anyway:

Aruch Hashulchan Y.D. 240:2

כיבוד אב ואם היא מהמצות השכליות ונתפשטה בכל אום ולשון וגם הכופרים בתורה נזהרים בה מפני השכל והטבע ואנחנו עם בני ישראל נצטוינו על כל מצוה שכליות לבלי לעשותה מפני השכל אלא מפני ציוי הקב"ה בתורתו הקדושה ועל זה נאמר והיה עקב תשמעון את המשפטים האלה וגו' דמקודם כתיב ושמרת את החוקים ואת המשפטים וגו' ולזה אומר והיה עקב תשמעון את המשפטים האלה כלומר דהחוקים וודאי תעשו מפני שאתם שומעים לקולי אבל עיקר השכר הוא שגם המשפטים שהם המצות השכליות תעשו מפני השמיעה כלומר מפני שאני מצוה אתכם ולא מפני השכל וזהו שאמר דוד מגיד דבריו ליעקב חוקיו ומשפטיו לישראל וזהו עיקר גדול במצות התורה

Aruch Hashulchan O.C. 1:13

ומיסודי הדת להאמין בשכר עוה"ב ובעונש הגיהנם ובביאת משיח ובתחיית המתים וכן מיסודי הדת לעשות כל המצות לא מפני שהשכל מחייב כן כגון במצות שבין אדם לחבירו אלא מפני שהקב"ה צוה אותנו לעשות כן ולכן נאמר בדברות האחרונות בשבת ובכיבוד אב כאשר צוך ה' אלהיך משום דזה מוסכם בכל אום ולשון שהאדם צריך לנוח יום אחד בשבוע כדי לחזק כחותיו וכן ההסכמה בכל אום ולשון לכבד הוריו ולזה אמרה תורה שמור את יום השבת לקדשו כאשר צוך ה' אלהיך כבד את אביך ואת אמך כאשר צוך ה' אלהיך כלומר ולא מפני שהשכל מחייב כן ובדברות הראשונות קודם חטא העגל לא הוצרכו לאזהרה זו לפי שהיו כולם במדרגת מלאכים כדכתיב אני אמרתי אלהים אתם ובני עליון כולכם

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    I personally think those long passages, when unformatted are unreadable and useless as an answer. It's nice to back your answer with sources but if it clearly states what you're trying to say. Can you please punctuate it at least and bold the parts you think are relevant to your answer. I.g what Mitzvot ARE natural. – Al Berko Sep 20 '18 at 10:51
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    The passages are not the answer. The answer is the first paragraph. The passages are a bonus if you want to see the original sources. If you don’t like the format you even have the option of clicking on the links to read it as formatted in the actual sefer. – Alex Sep 20 '18 at 11:40
  • So at least give examples of what natural behaviors might count. – Al Berko Sep 20 '18 at 11:45
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    @AlBerko The question didn't ask for examples of commandments that are natural behaviors. It asked whether commandments are specifically for non-natural behaviors. My answer is that commandments are just as much for natural as for non-natural behaviors. A discussion about whether, for example, honoring parents is natural or not could be a distraction. – Alex Sep 20 '18 at 12:39
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    @Alex -- Actually, that's in the Talmud: Rabbi Hanina said: He who is commanded and does, stands higher then he who is not commanded and does. [Avodah Zara 3a] (The reason is that he who is commanded and does, may not want to do it, so he earns credit by overcoming his reluctance; whereas he who is not commanded and does, definitely wants to do it, and so earns little credit.) But it still doesn't answer my question. – Maurice Mizrahi Sep 20 '18 at 15:20
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Great Q. I'd say there are 3 kinds of natural we need to distinguish

  1. Automatic and autonomous, like breathing
  2. Basic physiological needs/urges - eating, sex (not children!), shelter etc (see Maslow)
  3. Human social norms/inclinations (not to steal or murder).

Concerning #1 there could be no commandments as it is pretty self-evident.

Concerning #2 there are Mitzvot but not commanding to do so, but to do so in a proper way, e.g. no Mitzvah of eating, but Mitzvot of eating what and when, no Mitzvah of living in a house, but details on how to buy and manage property etc. Also, there's no Mitzvah of having sex (besides Onah), but the Mitzvah of procreation is to get to the result of at least two grown-up kids!

Concerning #3 it is very problematic to call the social norms natural esp. in Judaism as we get into the egg-and-chicken paradox of what came first - Torah or humanity. As we know the Torah preceded the world, so the social norms preceded the humanity and therefore can not be called natural.

There's nothing "natural" with not killing or not stealing or honoring parents or getting married, it's just the way we were taught, we would not develop those inclinations otherwise. That's why they have to be commanded anyway.

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