The Spiritual Summit
Moshe Rabeinu, into his eighties, has been through a lot in the last two years. He’s been G-d’s messenger to bring the people out of Egypt, he performed miracles, he split the sea, he was the conduit for Torah descending from Heaven to Earth. By this point, you might think, he was beyond the reproach of the Jewish people. However we see that he is the subject of multiple complaints. The people began to complain about water, food, the integrity and leadership style of Moshe and even his loyalty. His own brother and sister spoke Lashon HaRa about him. He struggled through the breakaway prophecies of Eldad and Meidad, Korach’s rebellion and more.
Why did Moshe have to suffer all this at this advanced stage in his life and his spiritual growth?
Rav Tzadok Hakohen in an unrelated essay makes a global observation on the spiritual growth of every Jew. Growth, he points out work in stages – like climbing a mountain that seems to touch the sky. He notes that at critical junctures of spiritual growth people there are plateau’s. Places where we stop, take a deep breath while getting ready for the next big climb. Everyone of these plateau’s represent a new spiritual challenge; a challenge that we have never before encountered. Embracing this new challenge will move us forward. Without them we will tragically fall backward – possibly to the bottom of the mountain. We keep going. (analogy mine)
What, however, of the person who has achieved the summit? What is the challenge for the person that has arrived at fantastic heights in and are at the zenith of their spirituality? What challenge does G-d give them?
Their challenge, teaches Reb Tzadok, is to discover what they will do with their new found height. What will they do at the summit? Will they take all their spiritual achievement and use it for the honor of G-d, or will they will keep it for themselves. Reb Tzadok names three people who had this challenge and failed it – Adam, Yeshu the founder of Christianity, and Shabtai Tzvi! “Because of their high state of other wordiness their imagination let them think that they themselves were G-d! From the highest summit they fell to the deepest depth” (Machshavos Charutz 1)
This ultimate test is not something which can be simply tried again and again. if it is failed, the failed spiritual giant crashes down to the abyss.
Perhaps this was behind Moshe’s challenges. Moshe has achieved incredible spiritual heights, unparalleled in history. Now G-d is seeing if Moshe will be touched by pride. Will it become the ‘I’, or whether his humility will remain as great as his level in spirituality and he will remain entirely for G-d and His people. In fact, as we see, he remains absolutely humble, as the Torah itself testifies. The highest of all men must be the humblest of all men. The two word epitaph the end of Moshe’s life is Eved Hashem. He remained a servant of the Almighty.
The lesson: The ultimate test of greatness is humility. If we see greatness with personal pride we are perhaps witnessing the highest point of greatness to the lowest point of growth. If we see humility – follow that greatness for he is walking in the path of Moshe Rabeinu.