In days of yore, Bible commentary was not done by the person who did the translation. Thus, both the Hertz and Plaut commentaries used the translation of another. Recently, some scholars have done both, and Commentary on the Torah (Richard Elliot Friedman, HarperCollins, 2000) is a splendid example. It covers the entire Humash (5 Books of Moses).
Those of you familiar with him as the author of Who Wrote the Bible? may be surprised that, with rare exceptions, the question of the origins of the Bible does not arise. He is solely concerned with what the text means. Indeed, he repeatedly views the Humash as a unified whole, tracing the development of themes across books, and emphasizing how language in one book is meant to reflect language used in another. His gaze is so fixed on the text itself that midrashic elaboration (seen frequently in Plaut) and defenses of the text (seen so much in Hertz) are largely absent. He wants the text understood in its own terms, as seen, for example, by his repeated efforts to show how the Bible distinguishes between offenses in the sacred and non-sacred zones.
This is in one sense a personal commentary. While his views are informed by much scholarship, he clearly speaks in his own voice; you seldom see "Tradition says..." or "Rashi explains ... " (and even then, it's done generally to distinguish his views from earlier ones). Indeed, sometimes he uses the first person "I", which is uncommon in serious Torah commentary. This is also reflected in what he chooses to write about. Not as full a commentary as Hertz; sometimes dozens of verses can go by without comment. But when he has points to make, (e.g. in the first three verses of Deuteronomy) then he takes the space needed.
This commentary isn't really designed for beginners; the short introductions and scene-setting remarks that Hertz does so well are largely absent. And it doesn't have the depth that some scholars would want. But in the midrange --- where so many of us are --- this book really sparkles. Again and again there are remarkable insights, often drawn from literary analysis, close attention to detail, points raised of the I-never-noticed-that-before type. There's a fine theory about why Moses was not allowed into the promised land, a startling and comprehensive explanation of Sotah, a good discussion of "impure" and "pure", a convincing critique of some proposed explanations of the dietary laws, a careful explanation of his translation choices for Genesis 1: 1-2, an intriguing explanation as to why the ban on homosexual conduct is written just for males (including a rare bit of editorializing), and many more gems. Further, his writing is marked by a combination of clarity and precision that is a pleasure to read and adds to its engaging character.
The book has a few essays, my favorites being a vigorous defense of the unity of Numbers (as opposed to the standard view of it being a "hodgepodge") and a discussion of the decisions that a translator must make. Alas: no index. For example, there's an informative discussion of the evolution of the control of miracles at Numbers 20:11, but how would you ever find this? The Hebrew text seems easier to read than the Plaut or Hertz.
This book is essential to anyone who seeks new insights into the meaning of the 5 Books of Moses.