In this week's Parsha Moshe delineates further to Klal Yisrael the laws and the path they should follow for the future. Among that which he teaches the nation is the concept of prophecy.
Moshe relates, "A prophet from your midst... shall HaShem, your G-d, establish for you... According to all you asked of HaShem, your G-d, in Horeb (Har Sinai) on the day of the congregation, saying 'I can no longer hear the voice of HaShem, my G-d, and this great fire I can no longer see, so that I should not die.'" Moshe tells the nation that the reason they will receive prophets to guide them, is that they asked Moshe to tell them the laws when receiving the Torah, as opposed to HaShem telling them Himself, for they could not endure HaShem's greatness.
The simple reading of the verse seems to indicate that the giving of the prophets is a reward for us asking for a prophet at Sinai. Yet it also seems that when the nation asked for Moshe to speak instead of HaShem, it was phrased as a complaint: "that I should not die." Why are we being rewarded for what appears to be a complaint?
From here we can learn a tremendous lesson. Perhaps the nation was not complaining, rather it was making a statement of self-realization. Klal Yisrael came to the important understanding that all human beings have limitations, that they cannot fathom the overpowering greatness of HaShem, that in comparison to Him we are miniscule. This realization is directly opposed to the nature of human beings; we all tend to 'bite off more than we can chew" and assume that we are flawless. However, when we each individually come to a humble perspective, we see that it can open up for us possibilities we never had before. It is no coincidence that such a breakthrough came specifically at the time of our nation's greatest spiritual peak, and that it merited them a reward of a new level of connection with Hashem.
According to this explanation we can now fully understand Moshe's mentioning of the statement at Kabbalat Hatorah as the reason for the receiving of prophets. A prophet is a spiritual guide for the nation. He is someone who is able to discern the particular needs of the people and to tell them how to act accordingly. However, this guidance can only be given to those who realize that they don't have all the answers themselves. Therefore, in order for the people to fully receive that guidance, they must come to this realization of human limitations. Moshe, in his reference to this episode, imparts to us this important lesson.
This lesson is fitting for the month of Elul and the upcoming days Rosh HaShana and Yom Kippur. This month is m'sugal for Cheshbon Hanefesh and thoughts of repentance. When we become aware of our shortcomings, let us not feel discouraged, but rather motivated by the fact that this recognition is what will ultimately bring us closer to Hashem.