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Follow up on Halacha .vs mitsvah

Rabbi David SperlingIyyar 28, 5773
146
Question
Rabbi Sperling, You wrote: "only positive commands can be a mitzvah". Aren’t "Do not steal, murder", etc. mitsvot? i.e. aren’t they negative commandments(mitsvot)? If not, what are they? Thank you
Answer
Shalom, Thanks for the follow up question. Yes, it is true that the negative commandments are also "mitzvot", as you write. They are called "mitzvot lo ta'aseh" "commands not to do". So, as you write, not to steal is a mitzvah, albeit a mitzvah "lo ta'aseh" a negative command. In speech one could not say "there is a mitzvah to steal", or "there is a mitzvah about stealing", rather one would say "there is a negative command, a mitzvah lo ta'aseh, not to steal". So I stand corrected on this point. Since receiving your follow up question I have spoken to several people about the use of these words, and it seems, (as I wrote) that whilst they can very often be used interchangeably, mitzvah refers to the general command, and the term halacha refers to the details of every action of Jewish law. So, one learns there is a mitzvah, and then studies the halacha of the mitzvah. I hope this is of some help - Blessings.
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