Let My People Know

"A single entity"


The Jewish way of life, or the way of life of a Jew who lives according to the Torah, is held to be extremely difficult. 

According to tradition there are said to be six hundred and thirteen commandments in the Torah. 

This, however, is misleading in a number of respects.

For one thing, many of the positive commandments-that is, mitzvot that obligate one to perform certain actions-along with many of the prohibitions, are not actually concerned with life but refer either to the general structure of the whole of the Torah or to the Jewish nation as a body. 

No Jew, therefore, can be expected to keep all of the mitzvot. 

Actually, only a small number of the mitzvot relate to daily life, though if one adds to the formal list of mitzvot all the minute details that are not specifically included, one arrives at a sum of not hundreds but thousands of things that are to be done at certain times and certain places and in a special way. 

Indeed, seen as separate and unrelated commandments, each as an individual obligation and burden, these ancillary mitzvot seem to be a vast and even an absurd assortment of petty details which are, if not downright intimidating, then at least troublesome. 

What we call details, however, are only parts of greater units which in turn combine in various ways into a single entity. 

It is as though in examining the leaves and flowers of a tree, one were to be overwhelmed by the abundance, the variety, and the complexity of detail.

But when one realizes that it is all part of the same single growth, all part of the same branching out into manifold forms of the one tree, then the details would cease to be disturbing and would be accepted as intrinsic to the wondrousness of the whole. 

–Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz
In The Thirteen Petalled Rose by Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz