The passuk states “ואשב בהר ארבעים יום וארבעים לילה לחם לא אכלתי ומים לא שתיתי, and I dwelled on the mountain for 40 days and 40 nights, I did not eat bread and I did not drink water.” What is the significance that Moshe did not eat or drink?
The Gemara brings, a person should not change from doing as the custom of the place where he is. We find this by Moshe Rabeinu who went up above, and he did not eat or drink for 40 days and 40 nights, just as angels don’t eat or drink in the heavens. Also, we find by Avraham Avinu an opposite example; he invited guests who were angels that came down to our territory, and it looked as though they ate bread and drank. Tosfos brings b’shem the Seder Eliyahu Raba that they actually ate and drank for the honor of Avraham.
The Midrash Rabah brings another reason why Moshe did not eat or drink. There is a mashal with a king who granted his cherished watchman who guarded his treasures, the opportunity to measure out gold coins for himself. Out of his happiness of the occasion, he did not request to eat or drink. And when he became tired, he said “if I sleep, I will lose all these special coins.” So too was with Moshe; he measured the Torah, and he forgot to eat or drink. When he became tired, he said, “if I sleep, I will lose out.” Because of his tremendous joy, he said, “I will not eat or drink, I will measure all the Torah I can.” The nimshal is with a person in this world. He is compared to the cherished guardian who is granted an allotted time in olam hazeh, while in this world, to be able accomplish and collect gold coins, which refer to Torah, mitzvos, and chesed. Whatever the person leaves behind, and doesn’t take advantage of the opportunity, he actively loses and will regret and be in pain about it afterwards, forever. The Midrash Tanchuma says that in the future world one who wasted time and was lazy will remain with the title of “a lazy person” forever. What terrible embarrassment this will cause him. And so too is with all the mitzvos and maasim tovim that he was able to fulfill, and expected to do, but didn’t.
The Chafeitz Chaim brings a mashal: a person traveled to a faraway country that had precious stones and pearls scattered around the streets. There were delicious smelling foods, with an aroma that attracted him and compelled him to take. He packed up his suitcases with this delicious smelling food and filled up his boat to bring them back, and left the precious jewels behind. During the trip home, he notices that his food smells bad, and is spoiling. He has no choice but to throw all the food into the sea. He spots one small bag of coins, only but a handful, that he brought back with him from which he became rich. He then started crying, and said to himself, “I had such a great opportunity to bring back precious jewels which are important and honorable, and I could have become so wealthy. Yet I wasted my time, I spent my valuable time doing other unimportant, worthless things, and achieved so little. The nimshal is with a person’s actions and accomplishments in the world. Olam hazeh is compared to the temptations and desires one has, whereas olam habah is compared to the precious jewels. We are in a temporary world for the purpose of learning Torah, performing mitzvos, and doing chesed. We are meant to pack up our suitcases with provisions to bring and accompany us to the everlasting world, of eternal life.
Let us not be fooled by the false glitter and shine of temporary pleasures, and may we pay attention to the true everlasting values.