In his review of the precepts of Judaism, Moshe prefaced the imparting of the commandments with the injunction that the Jews listen to what he teaches so they may do the mitzvoth “to live, and go in and possess the land which the Lord, the G-d of your fathers gives you”.
R’ Eli Munk wrote that the ultimate objective of Israel’s existence is to give life to its Law and give Law to its life. He quoted R’ SR Hirsch who wrote that when living becomes more than a biological phenomenon, it can endow existence with lasting value. That value must stem from that which is eternally lasting – the knowledge of G-d and of His Law.
Nechama Leibowitz commented on Moshe’s statement that G-d “made this covenant with us, all of us here who are alive today”
teaching that the Torah was not given to one particular generation, a principle which Moshe reaffirmed on the eve of his death. She quoted Rashi who commented on “this day” meaning that mitzvoth should not be seen as an obsolete decree which no-one regards but rather as a new one which everyone welcomes. Nechama Leibowitz wrote that Rashi’s statement applied not only to the legal portion of the Torah but also to the narrative portions. She wrote that the commentators of every age were deeply conscious of the timeless quality of the Torah, ever able to convey comfort, a warning or a summons particularly appropriate to their own generation.
Nechama Leibowitz compared the comments of Abravanel at the time of the Inquisition and Biur at the time of the emancipation. They responded to the gloomy prediction of the consequences of breaking the commandments, that the Jews would be scattered among the peoples and serve other gods. Abravanel saw that the Jews were worshipping idols not through choice but only to escape death. The author of the Biur saw that the attractions of western secularism and “enlightenment” threatened the integrity of the Jewish people.