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Literally, commandment. An obligation or duty taught by the Torah and rabbinic law; a good deed. Traditionally, there are 613 commandments contained in the Torah, 248 affirmative (“thou shalt”) and 365 negative (“thou shalt not”). Jews regarded these as representing a desirable way of life and an opportunity for fulfilling one’s duty to God and fellow humans. By performing a meritorious act, such as giving charity, a person is said to have “earned a mitzvah.”

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