According to Maimonides, there are six continual mitzvot that apply to all Jews, in all places and at all times. The six are: belief in G-d, belief that there are no other gods besides Him, belief in G-d’s unity, love of G-d, awe and fear of G-d, and protecting the mind from destructive passions. These mitzvot are mental or emotional by nature, in contrast to all the other mitzvot which are attached in some way to either an action, a physical object or speech. Mitzvot connect man to G-d and the body to the soul, emphasizing the Torah’s goal of infusing material reality with spiritual content.
The Sefer HaChinuch, a commentary which explains all the mitzvot in the Torah according to the system of Maimonides, describes the six continual mitzvot as “cities of refuge, ” referring to the six cities set apart by Torah for those guilty of unpremeditated murder. Surrounded as we are by a world of judgment and the constant bombardment of the senses, the six continual mitzvot serve as a Jew’s energy center and cardinal point of orientation. Within the haven of these basic beliefs, one gains strength to confront and interact with the world.
According to tradition there will be three more cities of refuge added after the advent of the Messianic era. This alludes to three additionalmitzvot—teshuvah, learning Torah, and kiddush HaShem, the sanctification of G-d’s name–which will become continual at that time.
We have already seen how teshuvah can serve as a tool for freeing oneself from the confines of the past. The teshuvah of the future is a continual attitude in the present, a constant springboard lifting us to ever higher and deeper dimensions of awareness. The sages termed this state as “all his days are spent in teshuvah.”
The novelty as expressed in the Zohar and as mentioned above is that the Mashiach will come “to return the tzaddikim in teshuvah.” The process of teshuvah adds a spark of insight and passion to serve G-d that even a tzaddik who has never sinned in certain respects lacks. Once all the people have returned to G-d and Torah, thus attaining the level of tzaddikim, (“and all your people are tzaddikim,”) then all souls will begin a process of continual teshuvah, climaxing ultimately in the fifth and all-consummate state of endless spiritual elevation symbolized by “fifty-thousand jubilees.”
Although we are commanded at present to learn Torah “day and night,” it is not considered a constant mitzvah due to the limits of human nature and the constraints of reality. In the future though, learning Torah will become continual, as new insights from G-d will flow into our consciousness like an unceasing current of water: “a stream flowing, a fountainhead of wisdom.” This state of Divine intellect is represented by the spring of water flowing out of the Holy of Holies in the third Temple, as described in the prophesy of Ezekiel.
The mitzvah of kiddush HaShem, is usually thought of in terms of giving up one’s life in defense of fundamental Jewish beliefs. An individual or nation willing to die for its beliefs, in fact, strengthens its reasons to live for its beliefs. The act of kiddush HaShem touches the very essence of the soul, revealing its ultimate unity in G-d. In the future, the service of G-d will be actualized through a continual willingness to not die for G-d, but rather to live to the fullest extent of one’s potential. In this way the mitzvah of sanctifying G-d’s Name reverts to its original intent.
The three continual mitzvot of the future correspond to the first three levels of spiritual change when the Mashiach comes. The teshuvah to take place at the inception of the Messianic era is similar to the process of character self-improvement, inner reflection and return to G-d and Torah that Jews have always been directed to accomplish, especially during the period between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. Teshuvah on this level occurs within the context of practical, worldly experience?conforming to the first level of Mashiach taking place within known parameters of nature. Only later is the process of teshuvah transformed to a continual state of consciousness.
In Kabbalah, teshuvah is always associated with the feminine aspect of “mother,” represented by the sefirah (the Divine radiances or powers upon which all reality is constructed) of binah, “understanding.” The innate capacity of nature to renew itself is likewise associated with the feminine, as in the idiom “mother earth.” The Name of G-d related to binah, “I will be,” (ekyeh) alludes to the intrinsic power of teshuvah to give birth to the self continually.