The Ramban’s Emendations to the Taryag Mitzvos – pt. I

Throughout the Rambam’s list, we have noted that the Ramban (Nachmanides) does not count certain statements in the Torah among the 613 mitzvos. For example, the Ramban doesn’t count the four types of capital punishment as separate mitzvos. So what does he count? Following are what the Ramban adds to make up for his deletions from the Rambam’s list. (It still comes out to 248 positive mitzvos and 365 negative mitzvos.) You will note that the lists of the Rambam and the Ramban are not so radically different. Sometimes, the Ramban counts one mitzvah of the Rambam as two separate mitzvos; sometimes he counts multiple mitzvos of the Rambam as a single mitzvah. At the end of the day, there are very few significant differences of opinion. (The obligation to live in Israel is a pretty big one!) Most of the differences of opinion, however, involve different ways of dividing the same pie.

1. To eat the korban Pesach specifically at night. “And they shall eat the flesh on that night” (Exodus 12:8).

2. Not to eat the korban Pesach (a) raw and (b) boiled – counted by Rambam as a single prohibition in Mitzvah #7.

3. Not to benefit from a first-born donkey before it is redeemed – derived from a gezeira shava between Exodus 13:13 and Deuteronomy 21:4 (see Talmud Zevachim 60b).

4. To send a Canaanite servant out over the loss of a limb. “He shall be sent out because of the eye…” Considered by the Rambam to be part of a general category of laws in Mitzvah #347.

5. Not to aggrieve (a) a widow and (b) an orphan – counted by Rambam as a single prohibition in Mitzvah #65.

6. Not to execute (a) an innocent person and (b) a righteous person – counted by Rambam as a single prohibition in Mitzvah #82.

7. Not to change the order of placing the vessels in the Tabernacle. “According to all that I say unto you, you shall guard” (Exodus 23:13).

8. To offer incense (a) in the morning and (b) in the evening – counted by Rambam as a single obligation in Mitzvah #103.

9. To offer a sacrifice only from domesticated species. “From domesticated animals, from cattle and from sheep you shall offer” (Leviticus 1:2).

10. Not to offer (a) leaven or (b) honey on the altar – counted by Rambam as a single prohibition in Mitzvah #117.

11. To offer all sacrifices in between the two daily korban tamids. “Arrange the burnt offering on it” (Leviticus 6:5).

12. Not to eat a sacrifice that was slaughtered with the intention of an improper place. “The one who offers it shall not intend…” (Leviticus 7:18).

13. To distance oneself so as not to benefit from an infected garment. “Tzara’as is a malignant plague; it is unclean” (Leviticus 13:51).

14. For a stubborn and rebellious son not to eat in a gluttonous fashion – the Ramban derives two prohibitions from Leviticus 19:26 where the Rambam only has one (Mitzvah #248).

15. Not to give one’s daughter to a man unsuitable for marriage. “Do not desecrate your daughter with immorality…” (Leviticus 19:29).

16. For a kohein not to desecrate the Temple by leaving during the service – the Rambam includes this in Mitzvah #151.

17. Not to accept donations toward public offerings from non-Jews. “From the hand of an outsider you shall not offer…” (Leviticus 22:25).

18. To eat the produce of the Sabbatical year and not to sell it. “The resting of the earth shall be food for you” (Leviticus 25:6).

19. The save a resident alien from danger. “You shall support the stranger and resident and he will live with you” (Leviticus 25:35).

20. To return interest taken from a Jew. “Do not…take interest from him…and your brother will live with you” (Leviticus 25:36).

21. Not to steal the Temple vessels. “Do not come to see when they cover the holy…” (Numbers 4:20). See Talmud Sanhedrin 81b for how this is derived.

22. To distance one’s self from benefitting from the hair of a nazir. “Holy he shall be, he shall let the hair of his head grow long” (Numbers 6:5).

23. For a Levite not to serve past age 50. “From age 50 years…he shall serve no longer” (Numbers 8:25).

24. (a) To separate challah from dough and (b) to give it to a kohein – counted by Rambam as a single obligation in Mitzvah #385.

25. Not to dispute the priesthood. “Do not be like Korach and his band…” (Numbers 17:5).

26. For the kohanim to offer all sacrifices as directed. “And you shall perform the service I have given you as a gift…” (Numbers 18:7). The Ramban consolidates in a single mitzvah what the Rambam has as seven mitzvos.

27. (a) To separate maaser Rishon (b) and give it to a Levi – counted by Rambam as a single obligation in Mitzvah #395.

28. To separate terumah from the best. “You must separate the terumah for God from the best of everything” (Numbers 18:29).

29. The Leviim must not give terumas maaser from inferior produce. “You shall not bear a sin by separating the finest of it” (Numbers 18:32).

30. To inquire of God via the Urim and Tumim. “He shall inquire of the Urim in judgment…” (Numbers 27:21).*

31. To offer a korban tamid (a) in the morning and (b) in the afternoon – counted by Rambam as a single obligation in Mitzvah #401.

32. When besieging a city to leave one side open so the enemy can flee. “They waged war against Midian as God commanded Moshe…” (Numbers 31:7).

33. To possess Israel and to live there. “You shall take possession of the land and dwell in it…” (Numbers 33:53).

34. For the “blood avenger” to pursue the manslaughterer who has been found guilty in order to kill him. “The blood avenger will kill the murderer when he catches him” (Numbers 35:19).

35. Not to spill innocent blood in Israel. “Do not defile the land…” (Numbers 35:34).

*Ramban is not 100% sure about #30, so he provides an alternative: that one who has drunk wine may not render a legal decision. According to Ramban, this would be a prohibition derived from an obligation and therefore a positive mitzvah – see Ramban’s notes on Rambam’s Negative Mitzvah #73.