[It should always appear in your eyes that] today G‑d, your G‑d, is commanding you to fulfill these supra-rational commands and rational commands [for the first time]. Be careful to observe them, with all your heart and all your soul.

[It should always appear in your eyes that] today you have selected G‑d [from all the foreign G‑ds] to be your G‑d [for the first time]—to go in His ways, and to observe His supra-rational commands, His [other] commandments and His rational commands, and to listen to His voice.

And [it should always appear in your eyes that] today G‑d has selected you [from all the nations of the earth] to be His treasured people [for the first time]—as He told you—and to observe all His commandments…

-- Devarim 27:16-18

Classic Questions

How is G‑d commanding you "today"? (v. 16)

Rashi: [This means:] Every day they shall be new in your eyes, as though you have been commanded them today.

What do the words he'emartah and he'emirtah mean? (v. 17-18)

Rashi: There is no conclusive proof in scripture as to what he'emartah and and he'emirtah mean, and it appears to me that they mean "separation" and "distinction." [The meaning here is:] You have separated G‑d for yourself from all the foreign G‑ds to be your G‑d, and He distinguished you for Himself from all the nations on earth to be His treasured people.

[Alternatively,] these words could be understood as being similar to the term for "glory" (tiferes), as in the verse "all workers of violence glorify themselves (yisamru)" (Psalms 94:4).

Ibn Ezra: He'emartah means "exalted." Rabbi Yehudah Halevi Hasefardi understood it as meaning "speech": "Today, you have caused G‑d to say that He is your G‑d... And today G‑d has caused you to say that you are His treasured people."

The Rebbe's Teachings

Rashi & Ibn Ezra (v. 17-18)

Why does Rashi reject the simple interpretation cited by Ibn Ezra that he'emartah and he'emirtah are from the Hebrew word amirah, meaning "speech," and opt instead for an interpretation that "has no conclusive proof in scripture"?

The Explanation

In his commentary on verse 16, Rashi explains that the word "today" comes to stress, "Every day they shall be new in your eyes, as though you have been commanded them today." Thus, when verses 17 and 18 continue to stress something which is happening "today," Rashi under­stands that the subject here must be something that happens every day. Since there may be times, G‑d forbid, that the Jewish people do not follow G‑d's will, Rashi could not accept the (second) interpretation of Ibn Ezra that our actions cause G‑d to happily affirm that he is the G‑d of the Jewish people every single day. Similarly, it is difficult to accept that G‑d would glorify (Rashi's second explanation) or exalt (Ibn Ezra's first explan­ation) the Jewish people on a daily basis, for the same reason.

Therefore, Rashi accepts that the primary interpretation here is that G‑d separates the Jewish people on a daily basis, even though this inter­pretation "has no conclusive proof in scripture," because the context of this verse dictates such an interpretation. For even when the Jewish people do not follow His Will, G‑d forbid, they still remain distinct as His people every day (even if G‑d is not openly proud at that particular time).

Nevertheless, since this is an unprecedented interpretation, Rashi deems it necessary to offer a secondary interpretation which has some scriptural basis: that G‑d is glorifying the Jewish people daily. Of course, this will leave us with the above question—how are we causing G‑d to glorify His people when we are not acting in accordance with His Will? So since this is a less acceptable explanation at the literal level, Rashi leaves it as his secondary interpretation.

(Based on Likutei Sichos vol. 9. p. 162ff.)