"You have distinguished G‑d this day to be G‑d for you."(Deut. 26:17)

The reason the Torah added the word "this day," may be understood in conjunction with what we learned that "anyone who lives in the Diaspora is considered as if he does not have a G‑d." [Ketuvot 110] The words "this day" limit the application only to people who are in the Holy Land.

Even though at that precise moment the Israelites were still on the land that used to belong to Sichon and Og, this was considered part of the Holy Land, seeing that it had been conquered by the whole nation at the command of their prophet Moses. We have discussed and proved this point in connection with our commentary on Numbers (32:3). Seeing that the land in question was no longer part of the Diaspora, the Israelites could truly claim to have adopted the Lord as their G‑d, and G‑d in turn adopted them as His exclusive people.

...G‑d in turn adopted them as His exclusive people.

Another meaning of this verse may be based on the Zohar (I page 108) according to which the other countries on earth have been assigned by G‑d to a respective heavenly minister, who is in charge of them on G‑d’s behalf. The land of Israel and its people on the other hand are not subject to any delegate of G‑d but are ruled over directly by G‑d Almighty. David phrased it thus: "My judgment will proceed from directly in front of Your eyes." (Psalms 17:2) In other words, we are not subject to the authority of any of G‑d’s deputies.

Still another thought which many be concealed in our verse is that G‑d will utilize His attribute of Mercy when in judgment of the Jewish people. While it is true that G‑d judges everyone and every nation according to their just deserts, in our case, G‑d the Merciful will cause the Israelites [to acknowledge and] to say that His judgment is fair, i.e. they will bless the Lord even when they experience what appears to them to be a harsh judgment.

"…And to walk in His ways…"

Moses compliments the Jewish people that they walk in G‑d’s paths even in matters G‑d has not specifically commanded. As soon as they have divined what it is that He would want them to do, they do so of their own accord. Specific examples are such good practices as visiting the sick, burying the dead. The Israelites learned from G‑d visiting Abraham or burying Moses that these were virtues He wants us to practice, though there is no specific commandment ordering us to do so.

Israel’s walking in the paths of G‑d extends both to His statures...as well as His other commandments and His social laws...

Israel’s walking in the paths of G‑d extends both to His statures, the laws that appear to have no rationale, as well as His other commandments and His social laws, i.e. the laws governing inter-personal relationships, relationships which are to be administered by terrestrial courts.

"…And by listening to His voice."

This is a reference to Torah study. The reason the Torah describes this as G‑d’s "voice" may be understood with reference to the question: "how do we know that if one studies Torah from the mouth of a minor scholar this is equivalent to one’s hearing the Torah from G‑d’s own mouth? (Sifri, 115, See Rashi on Deut. 15:5).

Why did the Torah mention Torah study as the last of the virtues Israel is to practice? This is to inform us that even if a person has mastered all the disciplines of Judaism and is thoroughly familiar with all the laws and precepts, he is still obligated to make study of the Torah part of his daily program. It is a commandment all by itself. As long as man lives, he has never fully discharged his obligation to engage in the study of Torah as we know from a mystical interpretation to Numbers (19:14): "This is the obligation to study Torah. It extends until man dies while engaged in its study."

[Selected with permission from the five-volume English edition of "Ohr HaChaim: the Torah Commentary of Rabbi Chaim Ben Attar" by Eliyahu Munk.]