One of the many customs of the Chag of Succot is the reading of Megillat Kohelet, a rather cynical guide to life. Near the end of the Megillah, Shlomo HaMelech writes (12:10), “Bikesh Kohelet Limtzo Divrei Cheifetz, V’katuv Yosher Divrei Emet.” “Kohelet (Shlomo) sought to find delightful words, and properly recorded words of truth.” The Gemara (Rosh Hashana 27) explains the first half of the pasuk Midrashically as referring to an attempt by Shlomo to be like Moshe. A Bat Kol came out and told him, “There has never arisen in Israel a prophet like Moshe” (a direct quote from Devarim 34:10).
At first, Shlomo’s intent appears to be perfectly acceptable. He wanted to achieve a very high level of Nevu’ah, like that of Moshe. He certainly had Ruach HaKodesh and had several prophecies in his lifetime, so why did the Bat Kol object to what he was doing?
The Likutei Bisamim answers that Shlomo had an entirely different goal in mind. He cannot have been striving for Moshe’s level of prophecy, as the Torah states specifically in Devarim exactly what the Bat Kol said, namely that such a level is impossible. Rather, Shlomo wanted to imitate a different aspect of Moshe: his dual role. Shlomo HaMelech, who was one of the greatest kings in our history, wanted to be an outstanding Navi at the same time. The Gemara does not say his aspiration was “to be a Navi like Moshe,” but rather, “to be like Moshe.” Thus, his precedent was Moshe Rabbeinu, who served both roles at once. Hashem, however, had other ideas, saying, “There has never arisen in Israel a prophet like Moshe” – Moshe was the only one who could meld the two jobs. Shlomo’s attempt would fail, simply because of the incompatibility of the positions. The job of the king is to provide for the day-to-day lives of his kingdom’s inhabitants, dealing with the practical and the political. A Navi, on the other hand, engages almost exclusively in spiritual dealings, having little to do with the details of everyday life. Therefore, Shlomo could not possibly have performed both duties simultaneously. Only for Moshe was Hashem willing to grant the special gift of a dual position, but since his death no prophet has ever been “like Moshe,” who combined both leadership aspects. (This is the reason why even righteous kings who had Ruach Hakodesh, such as David Hamelech, had personal Nevi’im serving them: they needed the Nevi’im to serve as the other half of the nation’s leadership.)
This Midrash provides an valuable lesson in reality. It was one thing for Shlomo to want to be a great leader, but another thing entirely to try to be a Moshe. Realistic ambitions are key to actually accomplishing them; no one ever got anywhere by intending to sprout wings and fly. We, like Shlomo, must first learn the inescapable limitations which exist in some areas before becoming great in other areas, which, as we all know, Shlomo eventually did.