Can a Person Fulfill all the Torah?

Be careful, it’s a trick question.

Are you a farmer? No? Then you are not required to fulfill the commandments relevant to farmers. If you don’t grow food, then you can’t give tithes from the produce of the land, and you are not likely to create hybrids of two fruit-bearing plants. (Although that last one can also apply to scientists in a laboratory or greenhouse.)

If you don’t work on a farm, then you can’t refrain from working on the land during the Sabbatical year. If you don’t work in the animal husbandry trade, you are not likely to cross-breed animals, so the Torah’s Commandments about these matters do not apply to you. You have certainly not transgressed the Torah by not being a farmer, since the Torah does not command us to be farmers.

Are you a Cohen (a member of the Priestly family of the Tribe of Levi)? No? Then a great many other Commandments do not apply to you. True, you can’t fulfill them, but that’s not a sin. You can’t fulfill those, because you are not allowed to!

Are you a judge? No? Then you can’t fulfill another whole set of Commandments that pertain to judges in Jewish Courts. You can’t be required to judge cases of monetary fines, or capital cases, or thieves, or arbiotrate between two litigants in a law suit, or preside over any sort of court case, because you are not a judge.You can’t take a bribe from a litigant, nor transgress any of the Laws concerning judges (of which, to my count, there are about nineteen that can apply today, and even more when there is a Holy Temple in Jerusalem). So you can’t fulfill those Laws, nor are you expected to. It does not apply to you at all. But that is not a sin; you simply cannot fulfill them.

There are nevertheless a few ways in which you can share in the fulfillment of those Commandments that you cannot fulfill. For one thing, whenever we perform a Commandment, we are supposed to dedicate its fulfilment to everyone in Klal Yisrael (The Union of Israel). That is, when I do a good deed, I include myself with the entire Jewish People, so that each and every Jew has a share in doing that Commandment. Thus, when a judge fulfills his duties, and a Cohen fulfills the Commandments given to him, and when a farmer keeps the Commandments pertaining to his work, I have a share in them.

To solidify my vicarious participation in those Commandments, I study them. It is true that I cannot personally fulfill the Commandment of building a fence around my roof, since I have no accessible roof in my home, but when I study the Laws of this Commandment, and I have a strong desire to fulfill the Commandment, Hashem counts it as if I have fulfilled the Commandment. For the Talmud teaches, «A good intention that a person honestly tries to fulfill but is prevented or unable to fulfill Hashem counts as if it has been performed.»(1)

And there are other ways to participate in Commandments we cannot actually do. The Torah commands each of us to write a Torah Scroll. Most of us cannot do that, and most of us cannot afford to hire a Scribe to write one for us. So we buy holy Books of the Torah, the Talmud, the Rabbinical Writings. We bring those into our homes and we study them (since once of the reasons for that Commandment is that we study Torah). And when we get the chance, we participate in someone else’s writing of a Torah Scroll. We might pay a few dollars to be included in the writing. (You can read a little bit about that here).

Few of us can afford to build a Synagogue or Jewish school. So we donate money to have one built or maintained. Supporting someone so that he can continue to study Torah in Yeshivah is one of the biggest Mitzvos, and when we do that we have a share in the fulfillment of the Commandment.

Okay, so what are the Mitzvos we are supposed to do? For some reason, many people have the impression that there are only ten commandments. Everyone has heard of the «Ten Commandments,» or at least they’ve heard of the movie.

I’ll tell you a secret. There’s no such thing!

Nowhere in the Torah is the phrase «ten commandments» used at all. When referring to these ten, the Torah always calls them the Aseres Had’vorim, the «Ten Matters,» or the «Ten Words.» (Or maybe even the «Ten Speeches.») In Aramaic, that comes out as «Aseres Hadibros,» which is what we usually call them. It means the same thing: «Ten Pronouncements.»

The Hebrew words for «Ten Commandments» would be «Aseres Hamitzvos.» But no such term exists anywhere in the Torah or in Rabbinical Writings. Anywhere.

However, in Exodus 34:28, the King James’ Bible uses the term «ten commandments» to translate the phrase, which is absolutely incorrect. That’s by far not the only translating error in the King James’ Bible.

The original Hebrew, however, doesn’t say that. The Hebrew says «Ten Pronouncements.» The same is true in Deuteronomy 4:13 and 10:14. The Artscroll Chumash translates it as «the Ten Declarations,» which I think is very apt.

So get this: Millions of people in the world are confused because of a poor translation in the King James’ Bible. They all think that when the Torah refers to «doing Hashem’s Commandments,» the Torah is referring to those Ten Declarations that Hashem spoke at Mount Sinai, and no more! And the truth is, they’re wrong!

To be sure, the Ten Declarations are also Commandments. They are ten of the 613 Commandments of the Torah. Also, they represent ten categories of Commandments, which means that all the 613 can be represented by those ten, but there are far more than ten Commandments in the Torah. (The reason Hashem made those Ten Declarations will be discussed, Hashem willing, in another article, possibly on the Holiday Gateway for Shavuos. No promise.)

So there are actually 613 Commandments in the Torah, but as we have seen above, most of them don’t apply to most people.

So what are those Commandments? Keep your eyes tuned to this website. With Hashem’s help, there will be articles about them.

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