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The Six Constant Mitzvot

 

By: Rabbi Ari Enkin

Although the Torah contains six hundred and thirteen mitzvot, most of them only apply in specific places or circumstances, and some only to specific people. Believe it or not, from among the six hundred and thirteen mitzvot of the Torah, there are only six which apply to every Jew, every second of every day.

This group of six mitzvot is referred to as the “shesh mitzvot temidiot”, the Six Constant Mitzvot. Indeed, the very first halacha written in the Shulchan Aruch includes the requirement to “place God before me at all times” – which is one of the six mitzvot. Although one is not expected to contemplate the six mitzvot at all times, one should make an effort to review them whenever possible. In fact, when one reviews them one concurrently discharges a number of additional mitzvot, as well. One should certainly take the opportunity to review the Six Constant Mitzvot when one has nothing better to do, anyways (i.e. when standing in line at the bank, etc.).

The Six Constant Mitzvot are:

(1) To believe in God
(2) To reject the possibility of any other God
(3) To believe in His complete Oneness
(4) To fear Him
(5) To love Him
(6) To not stray after forbidden desires

There are a number of inspiring interpretations as to what these six mitzvot represent. One interpretation has it that these six mitzvot correspond to the six cities of refuge. The cities of refuge were specially designated places where an unintentional murderer was able to flee to in order to escape a possible revenge attack by members of the victim’s family. As a person’s evil inclination is also, with poetic license, referred to as a “murderer” of sorts, these six mitzvot are constant “cities of refuge” where one can “flee” in order to elude the evil inclination.

Another superb interpretation of the Six Constant Mitzvot teaches that each mitzva corresponds to one of the six walls of one’s home. The ceiling of one’s home represents our constant remembrance of God who is always above us. The floor, recalling prostration during worship, reminds us not to worship any entity other than God. The front wall reminds us that God is One. The walls to the right and left remind us to love God and to fear Him. The back wall, and by extension the back door, teaches us not to “sneak out the back” and stray from the ways of the Torah. It is also suggested that the six constant mitzvot serve to remedy the sin of Adam and Eve who ate from the forbidden fruit. One should make an effort to ponder the Six Constant Mitzvot during the blessing which immediately precedes the shema each morning.

…next week: The Six Rememberances

 
 
The opinions and facts here are presented solely by the author. Torah Musings assumes no responsibility for them. Please address religious questions to your rabbi.
 

21 Responses

  1. ba says:

    Would you mind telling the author of the second interpretation? (The first is that of the Chinuch.)

  2. zz says:

    ” Believe it or not, from among the six hundred and thirteen mitzvot of the Torah, there are only six which apply to every Jew, every second of every day. ”

    source ?

  3. aenkin says:

    ZZ-

    This is in the introduction to the sefer hachinuch.

    Ari Enkin

  4. zz says:

    so perhaps you should qualify or footnote your intro ?

  5. aenkin says:

    ….will be added to the original manuscript.
    Ari Enkin

  6. Nachum says:

    Interestingly, the Mishna in Sanhedrin does not list atheism among the things that will keep someone out of Olam HaBa. It’s obviously implied, but perhaps it was so far out of people’s imaginations back then that there was no need. (You can interpret “Apikores” that way, I suppose, but no Amora does.)

    R’ Enkin: You mean ten remembrances, right? :-) (See the Gra’s siddur.)

  7. aenkin says:

    Ill look at the Gra’s siddur! Thanks!

    Ari Enkin

  8. Shai says:

    You can learn more here (video, audio and text links at the website)http://shivisi.com/classlist.php?id=2.
    There is a great Artscroll book on this limud too

  9. Chaim says:

    R Ari-
    “based largely on”- doesn’t that deserve to be in the text as well?

  10. Ari Enkin says:

    Nachum-

    I looked in the “Siddur Vilna” and there is nothing about 10 remembrances. I also looked at Hebrewbooks.org and there is no “Siddur Hagra” listed.

    Help fast!!

    Ari Enkin

  11. Ari Enkin says:

    I just came across this (Re: the walls of one’s home): http://www.inner.org/dodi/dodi05.htm

    Ari Enkin

  12. Nachum says:

    R’ Ari:

    http://hebrewbooks.org/pdfpager.aspx?req=21127&st=&pgnum=190

    Ten, check it out. (It continues on the next page.)

  13. Ari Enkin says:

    Amazing! Thanks! Whats your last name so I can properly cite you in next week’s posting?

    Ari Enkin

  14. Nachum says:

    Thanks! It’s Nachum Lamm. I first saw the siddur in the study of my Rav in New York, R’ Matis Blum, and he copied those pages for me.

  15. Eli Reich says:

    A glance at the top of the link to siddur ha-Gra seems to show a reference to what may be AVODAT HAKODESH , a compendium of smaller works by Ha-Chidah (= Hayiim David Azulai). I have no access to the book so I can’t check.

  16. Jacob says:

    Re: Ten remembrances –

    There are currently a number of contemporary Sephardic siddurim that list the ten remembrances and in the past I have prayed in minyanim where they actually recite them at the end of shaharit. They come from the Hida in a work called Tziporen shamir (included in Avodat Hakodesh) and can be found here –

    http://www.hebrewbooks.org/pdfpager.aspx?req=34343&st=&pgnum=55

    Some siddurim even have a special “leshem yihud” composed for the ten zekhirot.

  17. Jenny says:

    Not sure what #6 means, as it appears to be a negative commandment. Are there not other negative “constant” commandments?

    Do not kill, Do not commit adultery, Do not steal, many many many more.

    Am I missing something?

  18. Ari Enkin says:

    Jenny-

    This is a very good question. You’re right “Though shall not eat treif” is a constant mitzva, along with all such other prohibitions.

    I guess a person is not constantly eating, etc, but a person’s mind IS constantly wondering.

    Ari Enkin

  19. Shmuel says:

    No #2 is negative too.

 
 

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