The Virtue of our Teacher Moses
As opposed to every other human being, one may ask why it was Moses who actually “ascended to G-d” (Ex 19:3).
If he was able to come so close to the Eternal, it was because he “was exceedingly humble, more than any person on the face of the earth” (Num 12:3). And so when he was accused of having behaved improperly with his wife, he kept quiet and did not at all respond to gossip (Sanhedrin 110a; Shemot Rabba 1:32). This king and chief of the prophets grieved over the assembly of the people of Israel, as it is written, “Moses grew up and went out to his brethren and observed their burdens” (Ex 2:11). He did everything to come to their aid, and, as we have seen, he even had pity for animals (Shemot Rabba 2:2; Zohar II:20b, 21a).
Finally, we know that when Eldad and Medad prophesied in the camp and predicted that Moses would die and that Joshua would replace him, he did not become jealous and did not get angry. On the contrary, he told his servant Joshua, “Would that the entire people of the L-RD could be prophets” (Num 11:29).
Even after his death, Moses demonstrated his humility, as it is written, “No one knows his burial place to this day” (Deut 34:6). There was neither Hilloula nor candles nor known locale. He didn’t even want that people should bother themselves to come and pray at his tomb.
If Moses held such importance in the eyes of the Eternal, why then – despite having prayed 515 prayers (the numerical value of Va’etchanan [Devarim Rabba 11:6]) and asking the heavens and the earth, the mountains and the hills, and even the great ocean to garner Divine mercy in his favor (Tanhuma Va’etchanan 6) – did he not have the merit to enter into Eretz Israel?
It seems to be because he became angry with the Children of Israel when they asked for water: “Listen now, you rebels …” (Num 20:10). He certainly felt mercy towards them, and the Children of Israel no doubt pardoned him for his remarks, however a man of such great stature should not get upset; the Eternal is very strict with the Tzaddikim (Yebamot 121b).
Moreover, as we have seen, if Moses had entered into the Land of Israel, he would have built the holy Temple, and since the atmosphere of Eretz Israel makes a man wise (Bava Batra 158b), he would have built it in such a way that it would never have been destroyed. Since he never succeeded in entering Eretz Israel, no one knows where his gravesite is. With the Temple now destroyed, to merit the Final Redemption the Jews must now rely solely on the Holy One, blessed be He, and not on men (cf. Lev Simcha of the Admor of Ger, section Pinchas, according to one interpretation of the Macharsha).
After the death of Moses, the Children of Israel entered into the Holy Land, but they also began to worship idols and stopped studying Torah. Thus they arrived at speaking ill of and hating one another. They were neither accommodating not easy to get along with, and they didn’t want to comply with the strictures of Torah law concerning the welfare of others (Bava Metzia 30b).
If they had observed the Torah, the Temple would not have been destroyed and the Final Redemption would have occurred. May it happen swiftly in our days! Amen!