Last time I was in New York, I went with my father and brother to the Garden, for a Rangers game. I happened to glance up, and among the retired jerseys hanging from the rafters, I noticed that one was emblazoned with the number, 613. Six hundred thirteen! That’s the total number of commandments in the Torah that every Jew has to fulfill. And the name attached to the uniform was Red Holzman, a Jew! the coach of the Knicks’ championship teams thirty years ago. But why did they think to give him that number so fraught with significance? I inquired, and it turned out that 613 was the amount of his total career wins as an NBA coach.
Why did they think to give him a number so fraught with significance?
How appropriate! The Zohar, the primary text of Kabbala, teaches that each mitzvah is connected to a particular part of the human body, and fulfillment of a mitzvah rectifies its counterpart [see also Tanya
, ch. 51]. The Holy Ari, the leading figure of the 16th century Safed Kabbalists, taught that each Jewish soul has to fulfill all 613 mitzvot, and until it succeeds --until it scores 613 victories!-- it gets reincarnated again and again. So Madison Square Garden is not enough. The number 613 should be on prominent display in the consciousness of each and every Jew everywhere.