Yesterday, we noted Moshe’s exhortation to Benei Yisrael in Parashat Ki-Tavo (26:16), “This day, the Lord your God commands you to perform these statutes and laws, and you shall observe and perform them with all your heart and your soul.” As we saw, Rashi cites a surprising interpretation to this verse from the Midrash Tanchuma, explaining it to mean, “Each day, they shall be new in your eyes, as though you were commanded them that very day.” According to the Midrash, when Moshe told the people that God was commanding them “this day” to observe His laws, this means that each and every day of one’s life, he should feel as though he or she received the laws that day for the first time.
The Midrash’s comment is commonly understood as referring to the importance of excitement and enthusiasm in mitzva observance. We should perform the mitzvot not by mindless rote and by force of habit, but rather with vigor and energy, with the same fervor with we approach something which we do for the very first time.
There may, however, be a different way of understanding the Midrash. Perhaps, the Midrash here is impressing upon us the point that the mitzvot are relevant, binding and applicable each day, regardless of the circumstances, that we are to see the Torah as having been given to us to observe today, in the situation we find ourselves in at this very moment. Sometimes we might feel that the Torah is meant to be practiced only under idyllic conditions which are now unattainable. We might feel that the Torah was given to be observed only in bygone eras, in simpler, more innocent times. On some occasions, we might feel that our lives are too difficult or complicated for us to be mindful of our Torah obligations. On other occasions, we might look back upon our mistakes and failures and conclude in shame that we are no longer worthy of leading a religiously devoted life, that any mitzvot we perform have no value in light of our past wrongs, or that it is simply too late to do anything of spiritual significance. The Midrash therefore teaches that the Torah is given to us anew each day. No matter what has happened in the past, and no matter what circumstances we face in the present, the Torah is meant to be observed right now. Certainly, the Torah’s practical requirements depend on the given circumstances. But the basic fact of the Torah’s general relevance and applicability does not. Each day, God presents us the Torah anew, for us to apply it to that day’s realities.
If so, then we might perhaps gain new insight into the Midrash’s explanation of the second clause of this verse – “and you shall observe and perform them with all your heart and your soul.” As we cited yesterday, the Midrash Tanchuma comments that this phrase relates to the mitzva of bikkurim (bringing one’s first fruits to the Beit Ha-mikdash) which the Torah presents earlier. According to the Midrash, this verse means, “A heavenly voice blesses him: If you brought bikkurim today, then you shall do so again next year.” We might suggest that if a person views the Torah as having been given to him each day, regardless of the circumstances, then this perspective guarantees that he will remain committed year in, and year out. Once we understand that the Torah is meant to be observed each day, under whatever conditions we happen to find ourselves in, we will fulfill mitzvot each day, and not only when we feel that the circumstances are “right.” We achieve consistency in our mitzva commitment when we realize that “This day, the Lord your God commands you to perform these statutes and laws” – that the Torah is given to us to observe “this day,” irrespective of what we’ve done in the past or of what is transpiring in the present.