The first mitzvah is that we are commanded to acquire knowledge1 of the nature of G‑d‘s existence, i.e. to understand that He is the Original cause and Source of existence Who brings all creations into being.
[We see that this commandment is included in the total of 613 from] the end of the tractate Makkos,3 which states, “613 commandments were given to Moshe at Sinai. From which verse do we see this? — ‘The Torah which was commanded to us by Moshe.’ “4 This indicates [that the number of mitzvos which Moshe commanded us equals] the numerical value of the word Torah.5 The Gemarathan asks, “But is this the proper numerical value? It only totals 611!” The answer was given, “The two commandments ‘I am G‑d your Lord’ and ‘Do not have any other gods’6 were heard from G‑d directly”7 [and not through Moshe. They are therefore not alluded to in the word Torah in this verse, which refers only to those 611 mitzvos which were given through Moshe. It is included, however, in the total of 613.]
It is clear from this passage that “I am G‑d your Lord,” i.e. knowledge of G‑d, as explained above, is counted as one of the 613 mitzvos.
|1.||Some translations render this commandment as “belief” in G‑d. However, see Kapach (5731) and Heller (note 1), who translate the Arabic word aetkad as “knowledge.” See Guide to the Perplexed, Pt. I, Ch.50, for a detailed description of this term; Derech Mitzvosecha, Haamanas Elokus; On the Teachings of Chassidus, Ch. 13. See Hilchos Yesodei Hatorah, Ch. 1:1-6, for details of the knowledge mandatory for fulfillment of this mitzvah.|
|2.||Exodus 20:2. Deut. 5:6.|
|5.||In the word “Torah,” the tov=400, vov=6, reish=200, and hei=5.|
|6.||Exodus 20:3. Deut. 5:7.|
|7.||[and not through Moshe. They are therefore not alluded to in the word Torah in this verse, which refers only to those 611 mitzvos which were given through Moshe. It is included, however, in the total of 613.]|