These days he would be called a professional trouble-maker. He made life exceptionally difficult for Moses and Aaron. Not only did he challenge their right to hold authority, but he asked them questions that poured ridicule on the laws they had put before the people.
For example, a question about a mezuzah. The rule is that every room of every house needs a mezuzah, which of course contains two brief sections from the Torah. “But how about a house filled with Torah scrolls – does that require a mezuzah?” he asked (Midrash Rabba; Tanchuma). Moses gave the right answer: even a house containing scrolls of the Torah still needs a mezuzah.
The Lubavitcher Rebbe asked in one of his d’rashot, “What is the logic of Moses’ reply? If a house is full of Torah scrolls, why is this not good enough?”
The explanation he gave was this: “Although the bookshelves of a house may be filled with Torah scrolls or other holy books, this may not ensure the religious behaviour of its inhabitants. It is the mezuzah on the door which symbolises the active awareness of God’s presence. The mezuzah is placed on the doorpost, where one enters his home and leaves it. Symbolically, he takes its teachings of God with him wherever he goes.
“His Torah is not consigned to a bookshelf, to a place of study alone, to an intellectual exercise. It is a factor in his life at all times, and all his actions are guided by the principle that ‘the Lord our God is One’, as written in the mezuzah (Deut. 6:4).”
There was a person who boasted to his rabbi about all the Torah knowledge he had learned. The rabbi said, “You speak only of the Torah you have learned, but what has the Torah taught you? The question is not how much Torah knowledge you have gained, but how much the Torah has educated and refined you?”
Similarly, a cantor came and boasted to a rabbi just before the High Holydays, “I have been through all the prayers!” The comment of the rabbi was, “You have been through the prayers – but have the prayers been through you?”