The Hebrew Bible or Tanakh is divided into 3 sections: the Torah (Instructions or Laws), the Nevi’im (Prophets), and the Ketuvim (Writings). In Judaism the first section, often called the Law of Moses is the most important. It contains the covenant between God and His “chosen people.” It also as the title suggests includes the rules or laws, that make the “legal” agreement of that covenant.
The Torah (Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy) contains 613 commandments. Of these 248 are positives (or thou shalts) and 365 negatives (thou shalt nots).
That is a lot of thou shalt-ing, and shalt not-ing. Most all of these conveniently fall under the umbrella of the 10 commandments of Exodus 20, a far easier list to put into daily practice.
There have always been those who want to do things the hard way, though. Don’t get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with making sure every “jot and tittle” is in place. True too is the certainty of potentially “getting it right,”if you have a firm grasp of what “right” is. The problem come when you make it a law unto itself, to make laws on how to interpret the laws.
As a theologian this is an occupational hazard. It is easy to get caught up in the words, and loose focus of the Word. Studying the scriptures should be an exercise of faith, not just of the mind. It should never be an exercise of jurisprudence.
In Matthew 22, the Pharisees challenged Jesus to declare what the greatest of the 613 commands was. They did this to attempt to trap him. In their legalistic approach to God’s word, they were sure Jesus would “condemn” himself. His response was immediate and simple: ”‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments (NIV).” Jesus said these two points sum up the Torah, the Nevi’im, and the Ketuvim as well. They also reflect the division (and yet unity) of the 10 commandments (rules about God, rules about human relationship.).
Put into practice its easy to “keep it simple.”