Moshe stood on Har Nevo on the Eastside of the Jordan. He wanted to enter the Land of Israel. He was only steps away but he was refused entry.
He looked at Eretz Yisroel. The Torah records that from that point he was able to see across Israel all the way to the Mediterranean. He looked north all the way to Lebanon and south to the Negev.
Yesterday, on a trip to Northern Israel, I stared at Har Nevo wondering how Moshe could have seen anything but desert?
But a miracle took place and Moshe actually saw everything. He saw Yerushalayim. He saw the place of the Bais HaMikdash he saw the beautiful waterfalls of the Banias. He saw the hot springs of Tiberius. According to the Midrash he saw the future. He saw the greening of the desert, the skyscrapers, the hotels along the Kinneret, the Borsa in Tel Aviv, the Yeshivos of Bnei Brak and Ramot – he saw it all and he prayed. He prayed 515 different ways looking for an angle that would perhaps change G-d’s mind and allow him to walk the Land of Israel. “Let me become a bird, a stone, a wind current, a dog, I don’t care! I just want to enter Israel!”
Moshe did not want to leave this earth until he became everything he could possibly become. Moshe had already distinguished himself as the greatest leader of all time and as the greatest prophet. Yet, as great as Moshe Rabeinu was, he knew Eretz Yisroel could bring him yet a step higher, greater and closer to Hashem. He wouldn’t give up.
There is only one reason Moshe was so obsessed with entering Israel? He saw an opportunity for spiritual growth. He saw that he could rise to an even higher level of fulfillment.
Yet, Hashem replied: “Rav loch!” It’s enough for you. You have climbed high enough and you have grown enough spiritually. Why would G-d deny Moshe such a noble request and say “Rav Loch – enough?!”
The Talmud explains that just a while back, Korach and his followers came to Moshe and complained. “True”, they said, “we are Levites and it’s true that we are privileged to do G-d’s work in the Mishkan, but we want more! We want to be Kohanim! We want to have prophecy just like you! We want to be leaders like you! We want to have Torah just like you!”
Moshe responded strangely. “Rav lochem! – You have enough!” he said. “You already have a holy and important job, why do you ask for more?”
Hashem said to Moshe, “You told them they don’t have to grow anymore, you told them they have enough. Now that you want to go to Israel and become that much greater I’ll give you back your same words, ‘Rav loch – enough’”. (Talmud Sotah13)
G-d sets a very high and difficult standard for our accomplishments in life. The minimum excepted performance is the maximum possible. Settling for anything less than the full actualization of one’s potential is not doing our job. There is no such thing as ‘good enough.’
Moshe understood this for himself but somehow he felt that it was ‘good enough’ for Korach. So to Korach he said, ‘Good enough!’
One can never stop yearning for growth. One must never deny another the opportunity for growth.
I have often told the story of my visit, a few years ago, to Rav Eliezer Shach of blessed memory. He was around one hundred years old at the time. After our discussion he asked me what sefer I was holding in my hand. I showed him the sefer; it happened to be one of the classic volumes of Rav Tzadok HaKohein.
The Rosh Yeshiva told me that he never learned any of the works of Rav Tzadok and as he spoke he began to cry. He explained that he no longer had the strength to study anything new and that made him cry.
At one hundred years old, after mastering most of Torah, after studying for five generations with the greatest Gedolim and after building one of the greatest Yeshivot on the face of the earth, he cried because he didn’t have the strength for something new.
As long as we are alive we have to grow. We have to become greater, higher, kinder, holier and a greater asset to society. This was the lesson, the yearning, the frustration and the prayer of Moshe.