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Please use this identifier to cite or link to this item: http://hdl.handle.net/1807/16809

Title: An Evaluation of Maimonides' Enumeration of the 613 Commandments, with Special Emphasis on the Positive Commandments
Authors: Friedberg, Albert
Advisor: Fox, Harry
Department: Near and Middle Eastern Civilizations
Keywords: Maimonides
Legal Philosophy
Issue Date: 20-Jan-2009
Abstract: The TaRYaG count, that is the traditional enumeration of the 613 commandments contained in the five Mosaic books (Torah), has gained a prominent place in Judaism. The count is based on a dictum found in the Babylonian Talmud and attributed to R. Simlai, a Palestinian rabbi of the late third century. No one did more to see this count achieve the importance it has than Moses Maimonides, the prominent 12th-century Jewish philosopher and perhaps the most important post-talmudic jurist of all times. M. offered an impressive methodology, made up of rules of individuation, identification and interpretation - in all, fourteen rules - to support his proposed enumerative scheme and used it to critique all previous such attempts. By his own account, Maimonides undertook this project with the sole aim to provide a comprehensive outline for his upcoming Code of Jewish Law. This thesis demonstrates the enormous difficulties inherent in such a project - difficulties that could not have passed unnoticed by such an accomplished author - and seeks to uncover any other reason or reasons that may have prompted him to adopt such a constraining count. The thesis concludes by speculating that Maimonides may have found it convenient to use the TaRYaG scheme in order to introduce into the list of commandments the beliefs in the existence of God and in His unity - beliefs that had previously not been considered commandments. An ancillary product of the dissertation is the discovery that many of the commandment designations proposed in the enumerative scheme are abandoned in the Halakhot, a discovery that was noted, albeit only partially, by less than a handful of scholars over the past eight hundred and fifty years. The dissertation examines the proposed solutions and rejects them on a number of counts. A systematic analysis of these occurrences suggests a more consistent solution and reveals an aspect of Maimonides that has not been sufficiently appreciated, Maimonides the exegete and legal philosopher. The agenda-oriented research also examines some of the important innovations contained in M’s list of positive commandments, the hermeneutics behind them and the politico-philosophical ideas that may have informed them.
URI: http://hdl.handle.net/1807/16809
Appears in Collections:Doctoral
Department of Near and Middle Eastern Civilizations - Doctoral theses

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