Moshe Rabeinu has been through a lot in the last two years. He’s been Hashem’s shaliach to bring the people out of Egypt, performed miracles, split the sea, not to mention being the conduit for Torah descending from Heaven to Earth.
You might think that he would beyond the reproach of the Jewish people. However, we see that he is the subject of multiple complaints – about water, food, Korach’s rebellion and more. Even his own brother and sister find cause for criticism.
Why did Moshe have to suffer all this at this advanced stage in his life and his spiritual achievements?
Rav Tzadok Hakohen explains that all spiritual growth takes place at the crossroads of challenge. The path to greatness is the direction one take at the critical junctures and crossroads of life. If we choose correctly, we continue the path toward greatness. If we choose wrong we fall away from greatness. Life is full of challenges Reb Tzadok teaches, and when managed correctly we step toward greatness.
What, however, of the person who has achieved the greatest heights in their growth and are at the zenith of their spirituality, so that they’ve overcome every yetzer hara? What challenge does Hashem give them?
He gives a fascinating answer. He says that they are tested to see if they will take all their spiritual achievement and give them to Hashem, or whether they will keep their greatness for themselves.
Reb Tzadok names three people who had this challenge and failed it – Adam HaRishon, the founder of Christianity, and Shabtai Tzvi.
Historically, the wrong choice sends the failed spiritual giant crashing down to the abyss.
Perhaps this was behind Moshe’s challenges in the next few parshas. Moshe has achieved incredible spiritual heights, unparalleled in history. Now Hashem is seeing if he will be touched by pride as a result, if it will become about the ‘I’, or whether his humility will remain as great as his level in spirituality and he will remain selflessly devoted to his G-d, his people, and his cause.
“And Moshe fell on his face”, he remains absolutely humble. His two word epitaph is the simplest yet the greatest possible – Eved Hashem. He remained a servant of G-d.