Rabbi Boaz Genut
Former Rosh Kollel in St. Louis
Former Executive Director of Torah Mitzion
Currently Director of the Department of Marriage and Community Affairs at Tzohar
ה ‘ ֶת ַעֲשׂוֹת א ל ָ ְצַוְּך מ ָ ֱלֹהֶיך א ָ ָמַרְתּ ְשׁ ְפָּטִים ו ַמִּשׁ ֶת ה ְא ָאֵלֶּה ו ַחֻקִּים ה ה ָ ֶך ְשׁ ַפ ְכָל נ וּב ָָבְך ְב ְכָל ל אוֹתָם בּ ָ ָשִׂית ְע ו )כו דברים ,טז(
This day, Hashem, your G-D, commands you to perform these decrees and statues, and you shall observe and perform them, with all your heart and with all your soul. (Dvarim 26:16)
As soon as we read this pasuk we may wonder about the expression, “this day”. What day does it refer to? We know that the time frame of Sefer Dvarim is the last 37 days of Moshe’s life (see Dvarim 1:3). Is “this day”, in which Hashem “commands to perform etc.”, one of Moshe’s last days on earth? One might think that it refers back to the day of Matan Torah?
Rashi seems to oppose an idea of a secondary covenant of kiyum Mitzvot (observance). Nevertheless he has an interesting suggestion, quoted from the Tanchuma:
You should see mitzvot as new every day, as if you were commanded just today.
Rashi argues that there was no secondary national covenant but there is an individual covenant which should take place every day in privacy.
Rav Naftali Tzvi Yehuda Berlin, the Natziv, in his commentary on the Torah has a different suggestion:
And here it adds one central issue beyond the Mount Sinai covenant. It comes to warn the people to be diligent in Torah learning and to do research in Torah…
Accordingly there was a secondary national covenant which took place years after the first one. Basically, the covenant comes to strengthen the original one and to add another aspect: devotion to Torah learning.
The Natziv goes ahead and compares the centrality of Torah learning and observance:
Learning engages the people of Israel to their father in heaven, therefore we daven “Ahava Raba Ahavtanu ..” (Great love you have to us …) as part of Birkat Hatorah (the blessing we recite for learning Torah), in which we mention: “and let our heart understand, be educated, learn, teach, observe and fulfill all your Torah”. We call it “great love”, since the love of Hashem to the people of Israel which comes out of Torah learning and the love the people of Israel to Hashem is stronger that the one which comes out of the Sacrifice Service.
The Sacrifice Service is the top of Kiyum Mitzvot (observance) in many senses (See Pirkei Avot 1:2). Learning Torah has an advantage over all mitzvot. It’s the most powerful way to create the bond with Hashem. As a matter of fact it works both ways. On the one hand, when we learn Torah we develop our love of Hashem through exploring his world and commands. On the other hand, his love of us grows as we expend time and energy in learning. This kind of relationship is a truly covenant, the Torah learning covenant.