The daughters of Tzelafchad stealthily approach Moshe Rabbeinu in this week’s Torah portion of Pinchas, (perek 27), to claim their father’s share in the land of Israel since Tzelafchad did not have any sons to inherit him. Tzelafchad’s identity is unclear; he was either the mekoshesh eitzim, the one who gathered wood on Shabbos, or one of those who acted rashly and died in the second year in the desert. This means his daughters were born in Egypt and waited forty years in the desert before approaching Moshe Rabbeinu and getting married (See Maharz”u on this upcoming medrish).
The Medrish Rabba, with the Matnos Kehuna’s explanation woven inside it, points out that the daughters of Tzelafchad were all righteous because they refused to marry anyone except for those who were appropriate for them. Why then did Hashem orchestrate that they would approach Moshe in the end of the forty years wandering in the desert? So that Moshe won’t observe himself, and become haughty, over the fact that Moshe himself was divorced from his wife for forty years. Hashem therefore informed him about these women, saying, ‘Behold these women who were not commanded in the mitzvah of be fruitful and multiply only married a husband proper for them.’ The Rashash explains a bit more, that the daughters of Tzelafchad were not commanded to marry only a man who is appropriate for each one of them, whereas Moshe was commanded to separate from his wife, either explicitly or through a kal vachomer, fortiori. (Click here for Hebrew text.)
According to this medrish, Hashem purposely created a situation that the daughters of Tzelofchad would only approach Moshe Rabbeinu at the end of his life, in order for him not to be haughty over the fact he was able to last forty years separated from his wife in order to be Hashem’s direct in-between with the Jews. They too were voluntarily single for at least that long until they found the right shidduch and proper time to be married, in spite of the fact that the gemara in Kiddushin 7a and many other times throughout Shas mentions that the attitude that women tell each other is that it’s better to be married than single, טב למיתב טן דו מלמיתב ארמלו, whereas Moshe Rabbeinu was without a wife upon command of Hashem.
Moshe Rabbeinu was known to be the humblest person in history, proclaimed by the Torah from this very episode, which began 38 years before where Miriam criticized Moshe for separating from his wife, as it says there, “And the man, Moshe, was very humble from every person on the face of the earth” (Bamidbar 12:3). Now, this very episode is coming to haunt Moshe Rabbeinu and threatens his humility, for if the daughters of Tzelofchad would not have engaged Moshe at that moment it would seem that the humblest person in history would have felt, albeit most definitely a very minute and miniscule amount of, haughtiness for having been able to last as long as he had without being married.
Why would we think that Moshe Rabbeinu, the humblest person in history, would have felt any level of arrogance for this accomplishment, especially if this feat was the very thing which gave him the title of humblest person on the face of this earth?
Perforce, we are forced to conclude that this is a clear proof that the struggle to do the right thing and to reach and retain perfection is a lifetime accomplish that never ceases until the very end. Even though Moshe Rabbeinu reached the top and the Torah truthfully testifies that he was more humble than anyone else on the face of the earth, if not for the fact that Hashem orchestrated the confrontation between the daughters of Tzelofchad and Moshe at the end of his life, it would seem that Moshe would have felt some tiny level of superiority over everyone else which would have tainted his humble character and only because Hashem intervened and Moshe must have realized the lesson Hashem was trying to teach him, and chose to take it to heart, did Moshe Rabbeinu remain perfect in his ultimate state of humility.