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