As we mentioned above, the gematria (numerical value) of the word Torah is 611. As per Deut. 33:4, Moshe communicated Torah – that is, 611 mitzvos – to the Jewish people. G-d spoke the first two of the “Ten Commandments” Himself, for a total of 613. Here are some more Taryag fun facts:
· Ruth was a Moabite convert. As a non-Jew, she was only bound by the seven universal (“Noachide”) laws commanded to all mankind. By joining the Jewish people, she voluntarily accepted an additional 606 mitzvos upon herself. The gematria of Ruth’s name is 606.
· The Torah tells us quite clearly that the reason for tzitzis is so that we should see them and recall G-d’s mitzvos, encouraging us to perform them and not stray (Numbers 15:39). The gematria of the word “tzitzis” is 600. Each corner has eight threads and five knots. 600+8+5=613.
· When Yaakov (Jacob) was about to be reunited with his estranged brother Eisav (Esau), he sent the message, “I lived with Lavan.” The Hebrew word for “I lived,” “garti,” is an anagram of “Taryag. According to Rashi on Genesis 32:5, the message Yaakov was sending was, “I lived with Lavan, but I kept the mitzvos rather than learning from his evil ways.”
· Some people mistakenly believe that a pomegranate has exactly 613 seeds, corresponding to the 613 mitzvos. This is a misconception based on the Talmud in Brachos 57a, which states that even the simplest of Jews is as full of mitzvos as a pomegranate is full of seeds. The obvious intent there is that the Jews have the merit of having performed many mitzvos, not that a pomegranate has 613 seeds. (The Malbim on Shir Hashirim 4:3 seems to take this more literally when he says, “just as a pomegranate has 613 seeds…,” but even then there is room to consider it literary license. It is worth noting that a scientific study of over 200 pomegranates from six countries found that the mean average of seeds was in fact 613!)
· The 248 positive mitzvos are said to correspond to the organs and limbs of a person, They also correspond to the number of words in Shema (including the subsequent paragraphs). However, the paragraphs of Shema only have 245 words; they are built up to 248 by the reader’s repetition of the words “Hashem Elokeichem emes” (God your Lord is true). When davening alone, there would be no repetition of these words. However, in such a case, we add the words “Keil Melech ne’eman” (God is a faithful King) to the start of Shema, bringing the word count back up to 248.
· 248 is also the numerical value of the name of Avraham, our Forefather Abraham, who served God with every limb of his body.