Thursday, February 12, 2009

Friday the 13th - Part 5769: Jason and Freddie Make Shabbos

See the Friday the 13th" website and see how many Jewish values are exposed in these wholesome films. Everyone goes to camp and sits around the campfire; the hockey mask is a nice touch for Purim. OK, so there’s a little blood, but I've been at hundreds of brisses, so I can take it.

But that begs the question. Why is Friday the 13th considered so unlucky? For Jews, no day brings a greater sense of anticipation than Shabbat, and 13 is a very lucky number – ask any bar or bat mitzvah. So nothing to worry about. But just in case you are concerned, you might want to join us for services….

The number 13 lucky day for another reason: there are 613 commandments, making any day that ends in "13" undeniably lucky.

If you would like to see a list of all 613 Mitzvot, click here. Another version is found here.

Click here to read about the significance of the number 613

The Jewish Virtual Library reminds us that "There is also complete agreement that these 613 mitzvot can be broken down into 248 positive mitzvot (one for each bone and organ of the male body) and 365 negative mitzvot (one for each day of the solar year)." There are also connections drawn to the numerical values of the strings and knots of the Tallit fringes (the tzitzit).

Wikipedia gives us Rashi’s explanation for that here, followed by an opposing view:

Rashi, a prominent Jewish commentator, bases the number of knots on a gematria: the word tzitzit (in its Mishnaic spelling) has the value 600. Each tassel has eight threads (when doubled over) and five sets of knots, totalling 13. The sum of all numbers is 613, traditionally the number of mitzvot (commandments) in the Torah. This reflects the concept that donning a garment with tzitzyot reminds its wearer of all Torah commandments.

Nachmanides disagrees with Rashi, pointing out that the Biblical spelling of the word tzitzit has only one yod rather than two, thus adding up to the total number of 603 rather than 613. He points out that in the Biblical quote "you shall see it and remember them", the singular form "it" can refer only to the "p'til" ("thread") of tekhelet. The tekhelet strand serves this purpose, explains the Talmud, for the blue color of tekhelet resembles the ocean, which in turn resembles the sky, which in turn is said to resemble God's holy throne - thus reminding all of the divine mission to fulfill His commandments

But, as you can see from this Ohr Samayach essay, there are many more laws in the Torah than are listed in Maimonides’ calculation or others. These can be seen as broad categories.

Note that many of the 613 can no longer be fulfilled since the Temple no longer stands. In addition, some commandments can only be fulfilled by those living in the Land of Israel. As result, there is not a single Jew living on this planet who can claim to fulfill all the mitzvot. We’re all flawed, to a degree, we’re all imperfect. There is no such thing as the Perfect Jew…. Or even the perfectly observant one.

I like that idea. It keeps us humble.

But Judaism was never an all-or-nothing proposition. If you don’t fulfill them all – and who does? – that doesn’t mean you can’t fulfill some.

In fact you can – right here – this Shabbat!

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