Va’etchanan - Starting Today

You shall therefore, observe the commandments, the statutes, and the ordinances, which I command you this day to do.
 וְשָׁמַרְתָּ אֶת הַמִּצְוָה וְאֶת הַחֻקִּים וְאֶת הַמִּשְׁפָּטִים אֲשֶׁר אָנֹכִי מְצַוְּךָ הַיּוֹם לַעֲשׂוֹתָם
Devarim 7:11
Why does this verse emphasize that on 'this day' (or today) that we were commanded to observe mitzvot. Why not simply state 'which I command you to do'?

Rashi explains that the significance of the word 'this day' (היום) refers to Olam HaZeh (This World), where 'מחר' ('tomorrow') refers to Olam HaBah (The World to Come)

Eternal Reward
Explains Rabeinu Bechayai that mitzvot are available in this world and the reward for doing mitzvot is in the world to come. Rabeinu Bechayai emphasizes this by bringing a verse from Kohelet.
for there is neither deed nor reckoning, neither knowledge nor wisdom in the grave, where you are going.
 כִּי אֵין מַעֲשֶׂה וְחֶשְׁבּוֹן, וְדַעַת וְחָכְמָה, בִּשְׁאוֹל, אֲשֶׁר אַתָּה הֹלֵךְ שָׁמָּה 
Kohelet 9:10
We see from here that there are no mitzvot in the afterlife. After death, they may wish to do mitzvot and impact their existence in the afterlife or even want to deal with accounting of their own assets. But this is impossible, for the opportunity for these activities was in this world alone.

Doing mitzvot in this world, results in reward that we are able to enjoy in the world to come. 

Taking Immediate Action
This should drive home to us the importance of the special opportunity we have in our lives to do mitzvot. We should take advantage of this to strive to do good and fulfill mitzvot, using the strength and capabilities that we have. As it says at the beginning of the verse from Kohelet:
Whatever your hand attains to do [as long as you are] with your strength, do;
כֹּל אֲשֶׁר תִּמְצָא יָדְךָ, לַעֲשׂוֹת בְּכֹחֲךָ--עֲשֵׂה
Kohelet 9:10
We need to put into action the power and strength that lies within to pursue the fulfillment of mitzvot.

Without Examining
Rabeinu Bechayai brings further direction for how to approach mitzvot with enthusiasm and zeal. He shows the famous mishna in Pirkei Avot
Be as scrupulous about a light mitzvah as of a weighty one, for you do not know the reward allotted for each mitzvah.
Avot 2:1
We learn from this that we should not hold back or make evaluations about the outcome of mitzvot, but to pursue all opportunities for mitzvot in this life. We do not what the ultimate reward is for any mitzvot, so should approach all with the same enthusiasm and passion.

The Days of our Lives
This approach reminded me of a story I recently read in the sheet put out by the Meorot HaDaf HaYomi organization.

Once, many years ago, somewhere deep in Russia, a lonely Jew wandered from town to town, recording the life of the Jews in their various settlements. In his documentation there remains a story, as follows:

I was on the way, by foot, from Plaishtok to Banlevsel and noticed a small remote town of which I had never heard. I hastened to the town and ater a short while I could see the houses and the cemetery. These people have an interesting custom, I thought, to locate the cemetery at the 
entrance to the town to observe the saying "Know whence you came and where you're going." I approached the cemetery and was shocked. I saw a white gravestone with the following inscription:

Here lies my husband,
Our father, grandfather and brother,
Reb Zanvil ben Reb Pinchas z"l
Passed away at the age of 12
For they are our life

I quickly removed my glasses, rubbed them in the cold snow and realized that I hadn't erred. Under this gravestone lies a grandfather of the age of 12! On the verge of collapse, I looked disbelievingly at the next stone:

Here lies our grandfather
Rav Meshulam ben Reb Zevulun z"l
Passed away at a ripe age at the age of five
For they are our life

I was sure that I had encountered a ghost town ruled by demons and witches. I almost led for my life, but curiosity overcame my fear. I entered the town. No demons and no witches. Good, warm and devoted Jews greeted me and invited me in, while the burning question gave me no rest: What's the secret of the strangest gravestones I'd ever seen? I turned to someone in the street: 'I want to go to the Rabbi.'I'll take you there.'

The Rabbi, with a shining face, sat me on a chair and before he could say shalom aleichem, I blurted out my question. 'What's happening in your town? 'My grandfather, five years old.' Is everything normal by you?' 

The Rabbi smiled. 'Everything's quite alright, couldn't be more normal,' he reassured me. 

'20 years ago,' the Rabbi recounted, 'I was appointed rabbi of the town. The whole congregation came to the synagogue and I used the opportunity to deliver a  derashah about the importance of learning, that that's the most important thing in life, for which we're here in this world.

Don't we say every day '…for they (Torah words) are our life and the length of our days'? In other words, a day on which a person learns is considered a day of life and a day he doesn't learn is considered… 

That night Reb Zanvil and Reb Meshulam, two elderly men who'd been friends all their lives, came to me and deposited their wills. They wrote that as till that day they hadn't learnt Torah and they had decided from then on to participate in  shi'urim, they requested that their gravestones be inscribed with their age according to the number of years in which they would manage to learn! "Because the Rabbi is right. That is life. Everything else is nothing."  'Reb Zanvil passed away 12 years later and Reb Meshulam passed away later five years. I added the words ki heim chayeinu - for they are our life,' smiled the Rabbi.
(From Meorot HaDaf HaYomi כ"ה תמוז-ב' אב Issue #686)

Seize the Day
So the inclusion of the words 'on this day' or 'today' (היום) can come to emphasize on the grand scale where we need to put our focus in this world. On a simpler level, this reminds us that no matter how our lives have been up to now, no matter how much mitzvot or Torah learning we have done, that today we have an opportunity for more. The verse reiterates for us the unique opportunity we have in this world, right down to this moment, and that we need to seize the moment and make this day another time for mitzvot and Torah learning.

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