||An explanation of the taryag (613) mitzvot in alphabetic order by R. Moses ben Nahum Katzenellenbogen. The title page describes it as being of small size but great value for someone who can read the book but is not expert in all the works related to the subject. In it he can find the law in the arranged order (alphabetic), explained according to the Mekhilta, Torat Kohanim, Sifrei, Tosefta, Babylonian Talmud, Jerusalem Talmud, the halakhah according to Maimonides, Semag, Tur, and Shulhan Arukh in a manner easy to understand. The title page is followed by an listing of the mizvot and then the text, set in a single column in rabbinic type. The volume concludes with errata and a blessing for translators.
The taryag mitzvot (613 commandments) are the total number of biblical commandments (precepts and prohibitions) is given in rabbinic tradition. R. Simlai, a Palestinian teacher, states: "613 commandments were revealed to Moses at Sinai, 365 being prohibitions equal in number to the solar days, and 248 being mandates corresponding in number to the limbs of the human body" (Mak. 23b).(See Table: 613 Commandments.) The number 613 is found as early as tannaitic times in sayings of Simeon b. Eleazar (Mekh. Yitro, Ba-Hodesh, 5, only in ed. by I. H. Weiss (1865), 74 [75a]), Simeon b. Azzai (Sif. Deut 76 where the 365 prohibitions are mentioned), and Eleazar b. Yose the Galilean (Mid. Hag. to Gen. 15:1) and is apparently based upon an ancient tradition (see Tanh. B., Deut. 17; Ex. R. 33:7; Num. R. 13:15–16; 18:21; Yev. 47b) which crystallized in the school of R. Akiva (see A. H. Rabinowitz, Taryag, 38–39). Doubt as to the validity of this tradition in the eyes of the sages of the Talmud has been expressed by Nahmanides, Abraham ibn Ezra, Simeon b. Zemah Duran, Schechter, and others, but the majority of scholars, including Nahmanides and Duran, conclude that the tradition does in fact reflect the opinion of the rabbis of the Talmud. Works enumerating the commandments are numerous, but the majority of the lists conform to one of four methods of enumeration:
1. The earliest lists, those of the anonymous azharot, are divided simply into two lists of positive and prohibitive precepts, with little attention being paid to the internal classification, e.g., Attah Hinhalta, Azharat Reshit, Emet Yehegeh Hikki.
2. The threefold division into positive commandments, prohibitions, and parashiyyot, first found in the list prefacing the Halakhot Gedolot of R. Simeon Kayyara and subsequently in almost every enumeration of geonic times. (The basis for this division is to be found in Mid. Ps. 119:1 and indirectly in PR 22:111.) The section called parashiyyot lists precepts involving the public body but not the individual, e.g., setting aside cities for the levites, erecting the sanctuary.
3. Classification of the precepts under the tenfold headings of the Decalogue. This method of classifying the precepts is at least as old as Philo (Decal.), is mentioned in the Midrash several times (e.g., Num. R. 13:15/16) and is followed by Saadiah Gaon, Isaac Abrabanel, Ma'amar Haskel, and many others.
4. Independent logical classification of the two lists of positive and prohibitive precepts. This is the method of Maimonides and his school. There are in addition many literary curiosities in this field. Elijah Ettinger attempted to show that the 613 precepts are contained in the four verses of Moses' prayer (Deut. 3:23–6). Shirah le-Hayyim (Warsaw, 1817) attempts to insert the 613 precepts into the 613 letters of the song of Ha'azinu (Deut. 32:1–43). David Vital's Keter Torah construes a 613-line poem, each line defining one mitzvah and commencing with the letters of the Decalogue as they appear in the text. A Taryag enumeration amounts in principle to a codification of the major elements of biblical law - the 613 headings under which all the details of Torah legislation may be classified. Extracting and identifying these headings from the complex body of biblical law is the central problem of the vast literature which has grown up around Taryag enumerations. In this literature the term mitzvah is used in the limited sense of a mandate or prohibition which fulfills the conditions necessary for inclusion among the member mitzvot of Taryag. Since early tradition gives no precise criteria, the problem is immense and no logical system hitherto proposed is free from criticism. Although preceded by the logical systems of Saadiah Gaon and Hefez b. Yazli'ah, and subsequently criticised by Nahmanides, the principal method of enumerating the mitzvot is that defined by Maimonides in his Sefer ha-Mitzvot. Maimonides introduces the work with a lengthy treatise in which he lays down 14 guiding principles governing the inclusion or exclusion of a mitzvah in a Taryag enumeration. This treatise formed the basis for subsequent literature on the subject, and the divergence of different Taryag lists, both preceding and succeeding Maimonides, is due to differences of opinion over these principles. Taryag lists are by no means confined to halakhic treatment. They range over the fields of ethics (Aaron of Barcelona, and Isaiah Hurwitz, among others) homiletics (Ahai Gaon), philosophy (Moreh Nevukhim), and mysticism (David b. Solomon ibn Abi Zimra). An entire (though incomplete) section of the Zohar, the "Ra'aya Meheimna" ("Faithful Shepherd"), is devoted to enumerating Taryag and offers a mystical interpretation of the precepts. Taryag lists also entered the liturgy, during geonic times, in the form of azharot, which form an integral part of the festival prayer book.