Mitzvah  

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

In its primary meaning, the Hebrew word mitzvah refers to precepts and commandments commanded by God.

It is used in rabbinical Judaism to refer to the 613 commandments given in the Torah at biblical Mount Sinai and the seven rabbinic commandments instituted later for a total of 620. The 613 commandments are divided into two categories: 365 negative commandments and 248 positive commandments. According to the Talmud, all moral laws are, or are derived from, divine commandments.

The opinions of the Talmudic rabbis are divided between those who seek the purpose of the mitzvot and those who do not question them. The latter argue that if the reason for each mitzvah could be determined, people might try to achieve what they see as the purpose of the mitzvah, without actually performing the mitzvah itself (lishmah), which would become self-defeating. The former believe that if people were to understand the reason and the purpose for each mitzvah, it would actually help them to observe and perform the mitzvah (some mitzvot are given reasons in the Torah).

In its secondary meaning, Hebrew mitzvah, as with English "commandment", refers to a moral deed performed within a religious duty. As such, the term mitzvah has also come to express an individual act of human kindness in keeping with the law. The expression includes a sense of heartfelt sentiment beyond mere legal duty, as "you shall love your neighbor as yourself" (Leviticus 19:18). The tertiary meaning of mitzvah also refers to the fulfillment of a mitzvah.

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Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Mitzvah" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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