Makkot 24

R. Simlai, when preaching, said:

Six hundred and thirteen precepts were communicated to Moses: three hundred and sixty-five negative precepts, corresponding to the number of solar days [in the year], and two hundred and forty-eight positive precepts, corresponding to the number of the members1 of man’s body.

Said R. Hamnuna: “What is the [authentic] text for this?”

“It is, ‘Moses commanded us torah, an inheritance of the congregation of Jacob’ [Devarim/Deuteronomy 33:4], “torah” being in letter-value, equal to six hundred and eleven2, ‘I am’ and ‘You shall have no [other Gods]’ [not being reckoned, because] we heard from the mouth of the Might [Divine]3.

“David came and reduced them to eleven [principles]4, as it is written,

A Psalm of David [Tehillim/Psalms 15].

Lord, who shall sojourn in Thy tabernacle? Who shall dwell in Thy holy mountain?

  1. He that walks uprightly
    That was Abraham, as it is written, “Walk before Me and be whole-hearted.” [B’reisheet/Genesis 17:1]
  2. works righteousness
    Such as Abba Hilkiahu.5
  3. speaks truth in his heart
    Such as R. Safra.6
  4. hath no slander upon his tongue
    That was our Father Jacob, as it is written, “My father peradventure will feel me and I shall seem to him as a deceiver.”7
  5. nor does evil to his fellow
    That is he who does not set up in opposition to his fellow craftsman.8
  6. Nor takes up a reproach against his neighbor
    That is he who befriends his near ones [relatives].9
  7. In whose eyes a vile person is despised
    That was Hezekiah the king [of Judah] who dragged his father’s bones on a rope truckle-bed.10
  8. He honors them that fear the Lord
    that was Jehoshaphat11 king of Judah, who every time he beheld a scholar-disciple rose from his throne, and embraced and kissed him, calling him ‘Father, Father; Rabbi, Rabbi; Mari, Mari!’12
  9. He swears to his own hurt and changes not
    Like R. Yochanan; for R. Yochanan [once] said13: “I shall remain fasting until I reach home.”
  10. He puts not out money on interest
    Not even interest from a heathen.14
  11. Nor takes a bribe against the innocent
    Such as R. Ishmael son of R. Jose15.

He that does these things shall never be moved.

It is written [in conclusion], “He that does these things shall never be moved.”

Whenever R. Gamaliel came to this passage he used to weep, saying: “[Only] one who practised all these shall not be moved; but anyone falling short in any of these [virtues] would be moved!”

Said his colleagues to him: “Is it written, ‘He that does all these things [shall not fall]?’ It reads, ‘He that does these things’, meaning even if only he practises one of these things [he shall not be moved]. For if you say otherwise16 what of that other [similar] passage, ‘Defile not yourselves in all these things’? [Vayikra/Leviticus 18:24] Are we to say that one who seeks contact with all these vices, he is become contaminated; but if only with one of those vices, he is not contaminated? [Surely,] it can only mean there, that if he seeks contact with any one of these vices he is become contaminated, and likewise here, if he practises even one of these virtues [he will not be moved].”

Isaiah came and reduced them to six [principles] [Yeshayahu/Isaiah 33:15-16], as it is written,

  1. He that walks righteously
    That was our Father Abraham, as it is written,”For I have known him, to the end that he may command his children and his household after him, etc. [B’reisheet/Genesis 18:19]
  2. speaks uprightly
    That is one who does not put an affront on his fellow in public.
  3. He that despises the gain of oppressions
    As, for instance, R. Ishmael b. Elisha.17
  4. that shakes his hand from holding of bribes
    As, for instance, R. Ishmael son of Jose.18
  5. that stops his ear from hearing of blood
    One who hears not aspersions made against a rabbinic student19 and remains silent20, as once did R. Eleazar son of R. Simeon.21
  6. and shuts his eyes from looking upon evil
    As R. Hiyya b. Abba [taught]; for R. Hiyya b. Abba said: “This refers to one who does not peer at women as they stand washing clothes [in the court-yard]22 and [concerning such a man] it is written, ‘He shall dwell on high’ [Yeshayahu/Isaiah 33:15-16].”

he shall dwell on high.

Micah came and reduced them to three [principles], as it is written,

It hath been told you, O man, what is good, and what the Lord does require of you:

  1. only to do justly
    That is, maintaining justice.
  2. to love mercy
    That is, rendering every kind office.
  3. to walk humbly before thy God [Micah 6:8]
    That is, walking in funeral and bridal processions.23

And do not these facts warrant an a fortiori conclusion that if in matters that are not generally performed in private the Torah enjoins walking humbly, is it not ever so much more requisite in matters that usually call for modesty?

Again came Isaiah and reduced them to two [principles], as it is said, “Thus saith the Lord,

  1. Keep justice
  2. do righteousness [etc.] [Yeshayahu/Isaiah 56:1]

Amos came and reduced them to one [principle], as it is said, “For thus saith the Lord unto the house of Israel, ‘Seek Me and live’.” [Amos 5:4]

To this R. Nahman b. Isaac demurred, saying:” [Might it not be taken as,] ‘Seek Me by observing the whole Torah and live’?”

But it is Habakuk who came and based them all on one [principle], as it is said, ‘But the righteous shall live by his faith’. [Habakkuk 2:4]

  1. Joints, or bones, covered with flesh and sinews (excluding the teeth). V. M. Oha. I, 8; Bek. 45a; J. E. I. Art. Anatomy, p. 565a, and J. Preuss, Biblisch-Talmudischemedizin (2nd ed.) Berlin, 1921. p. 66 ff.
  2. tav = 400. vav = 6; resh = 200; hey = 5, total = 611.
  3. V. Horayoth. (Sonc. ed.) p.55, n. 14.
  4. I.e., reduced them to eleven leading virtues.
  5. A saint to whom the Rabbis went that he might pray for rain (as others had come, during Temple times, to his paternal grandfather (Choni that drew a circle around him, in which he prayed). He was most scrupulous in his “work”, bearing and words, and would not take the least credit to himself or allow any false impression. All these are illustrated in Ta’anith 23a-b.
  6. A Babylonian scholar of eminence who settled in Palestine at Caesarea and carried on extensive trade and scholarly communication between the two countries. An offer was made once to him by a buyer for an article whilst he was reciting the Shema’ when he could not indicate his acceptance and the anxious purchaser increased his offer; but R. Safra refused to receive an increased offer which had been made under misapprehension, he being satisfied with the first offer. V. Rashb. B.B. 88a.

         On another occasion he and Raba were walking on the road when they met Mar Zutra son of R. Nahman who expressed his appreciation on meeting these two great men, saying that it was more than he could have expected of them, to come and meet him, whereupon R. Safra felt in duty bound to explain that they had only met him casually, but added that he would have come even a longer distance to show Mar Zutra respect. V. Chullin 94b.

  7. B’reisheet/Genesis 27:12. He acted only under pressure and protest, on his mother’s advice.
  8. Cf. Sanhedrin 81a.
  9. Cf. Sanhedrin 76b.
  10. V. Sanhedrin (Soncino edition) p. 310, n. 3.
  11. Cf. Kethubot 103b, also II Chronicles 19:3 ff.
  12. Cf. II Kings II 12. Mari is the Aramaic equivalent of Rabbi, my Master or lord. Cf. Aboth 6:3.
  13. I.e., acting on a self-imposed restriction. According to Ta’anith 12a, R. Johanan pleaded a fast to avoid an invitation to the table of the Nasi (R. Judah II). Jerusalem Talmud Nedarim 8:1, however, is a more appropriate illustration, where R. Johanan said: I shall remain fasting until I have finished my (allotted) study of Mishnah or Scripture.
  14. As a demoralizing practice, although not forbidden Scripturally, in the case of a heathen (Devarim/Deuteronomy 23:21). V. Baba Metzia 70b-71a, and Tosefta Ibid. end of Chapter V).
  15. J. b. Halafta. He refused to take the rent-fruit that his own gardener-tenant brought him once on a Thursday instead of (as usual) on Friday, because, said the gardener, he had cited someone to appear with him before R. Ishmael. He refused the fruit and appointed two other scholars to hear the case. While listening to the proceedings he found himself unconsciously thinking of the possible pleadings in the gardener’s favour, and remarked to himself how perverting an influence bribery was. Kethubot 105b.
  16. Than we interpreted it, “some”.
  17. The founder of a school, like R. Akiba, represented in the Mekilta on Exodus. Being a priest, someone brought him a gift of the first-fleece (Devarim/Deuteronomy 18:4). In reply to a question whether there was not a priest in his own place to be the recipient, the visitor told him that he had a suit with someone. R. Ishmael thereupon refused the gift and appointed others to hear the case. He (as told above of his junior), found himself unconsciously biassed in the visitor’s favour. (Kethubot 105b).
  18. V. p. 171, n. 6.
  19. Literally, “one who is scorched through (his association with) rabbis.”
  20. Without defending him.
  21. Baba Metzia 84b, where it is told how his widow discovered a worm emerging from her dead husband’s ear, but her husband appeared and told her in a dream that it was because he had once heard aspersions being made against a scholar without defending him as he should have done.
  22. V. Baba Bathra 57b.
  23. V. Sukkot 49b, P.B. p. 5.