Part 7 out of 7

was under conditions that enabled him to sin, but controlled
himself, had done a pious deed, not to speak of the pious and
chaste men among you whose pious deeds are legion." [859]

As among those who had been slain in Midian there was a Jewish
apostate, the warriors were polluted, and hence might not enter the
camp, but had to stay without. Moses in his meekness did not,
however, wait for them to come to him, but hastened to them.
When, however, he heard that they had killed only the men but not
the women, his wrath was kindled against the leaders of the army,
for, "Upon the leaders falls the blame for the faults of the people."
He reproached them, pointing out to them that it had been the
women who really had brought disaster upon Israel at Shittim. But
Phinehas replied: "Our teacher Moses, we acted according to thy
instructions, thou didst bid us only 'avenge ourselves of the
Midianites,' but madest not mention of the women of Midian."
[860] Moses then ordered them to execute all the women of the
Midianites that were ripe for marriage, but to spare the young girls.
In order to determine the difference in age, all were led past the
gold plate of the mitre on the high priest's forehead, and this had
the effect of making those who had been doomed to death grow
pale. [861]

In punishment for Moses' outburst of anger God caused him to
forget to communicate to the soldiers outside the camp the laws of
purification. These were then announced by Eleazar, Aaron's son.
It was not, however, proper for him to pronounce a law in the
presence of his teacher Moses, and he was accordingly punished
for his lack of reverence to his teacher Moses. God had previously
said that whenever Joshua wanted to inquire of God, he was "to
stand before Eleazar the priest, and inquire of him by judgement of
the Urim and Tummin." But this did not come about. In all his
long career, Joshua had no need of asking Eleazar's counsel, so
that the latter lost the honor that had been intended from him.

The occasion that led to the war against Midian had been Israel's
seduction by the Midianite women, but these had succeeded only
by having first intoxicated the sinners with wine. Phinehas, to
make sure that this might not be repeated in the future, put the
earthly as well as the heavenly ban upon all those who should
drink the wine of the heathens, for the latter used it only as
libations to their idols and for immoral purposes. In pronouncing
this ban, he called upon the Ineffable Name and upon the holy
writing of the two tables against its transgressors. [863]


God gave three gifts to the world, wisdom, strength and wealth. If
they come from God, they are a blessing, otherwise they bring
ruin. The world had two great sages, Balaam among the Gentiles,
and Ahithophel among the Jews, but both of these, on account of
their wisdom, lost this world as well as the world beyond. There
were two great heroes in the world, Samson in Israel, and Goliath
among the Gentiles, but both met death on account of their
strength. There were two wealthy men in the world, Korah among
the Jews, and Haman among the Gentiles, and both perished on
account of their wealth. A similar fate overtook the two and a half
tribes that stayed on the hither side of the Jordan. These had grown
very rich in cattle through the spoils of the Midianites, and
therefore preferred the pasture land on the hither side of the Jordan
as their inheritance. But later on their wealth brought them
destruction, because, choosing on their brethren, they were
afterwards the first that were driven from their dwelling place into
exile. [864]

How intent these people were upon their possessions is shown in
the words with which they presented their wish to Moses, saying,
"We will build sheepfolds here for our cattle, and cities for our
little ones," showing that they rated the cattle higher than their
children, for they thought of the animals before they considered
their children. Moses did not indeed call them to account for this,
but showed them in unmistakable words that it was their duty first
to consider men and then animals, by saying in his reply to these
tribes, "Build you cities for your little ones, and folds for your
sheep." [865]

The land which these tribes had selected was indeed of great
excellence, as even the names of the cities indicate. One was
called Ataroth, "garlanded with fruits;" a second, Dibon, "flowing
with honey;" a third, Jazer, "help," for its possession was a great
help to those who owned it. These other cities in this region that
were names on account of the excellence of the soil were: Nimrah,
"gaily colored," for the ground of this city was gaily colored with
fruits; Sebam, "perfume," whose fruits scattered a fragrance like
perfume; and Nebo, "produce," because it was distinguished for its
excellent product. [866] This last mentioned city, like Baalmeon,
did not retain its name when it passed into Israel's possession, for
they wanted to have not cities that bore the names of idols, and
therefore gave them new names. [867] Many another town as well
received a new name from the Israelites, just as Nobah gave his
own name to the city of Kenath that he had gained by arms, hoping
in this way to immortalize his name, for he had no children. His
name was, however, not preserved in this way, for after the death
of the conqueror, the old name of Kenath returned again. [868]

It was among the possessions of these two and a half tribes also
that Moses shortly before his death founded the cities of refuge.
Moses in this instance illustrates the proverb, "Whosoever loves
pious deeds, never has enough of them." Although God had told
Moses that he would never cross to the other side of the Jordan, he
still insisted upon at least determining the site for the asylum in the
region of the East Jordan. God gave Moses the law concerning the
cities of refuge in accordance with Israel's wish. For the people
said to God: "Lord of the world! Thou didst promise us a long
course of life as a reward for fulfilling the commandments, but
supposing now that a man hath slain another unintentionally, and
the avenger of the blood slays him, he will die before his time."
God then said to Moses: "As truly as thou livest, they speak wisely.
Appoint therefore several cities for cities of refuge, 'that the
manslayer might flee thither, which slayeth his neighbor
unawares.'" Moses rejoiced greatly at this statute, and instantly set
about its execution, for "he that hath tasted of a food knoweth its
flavor," and Moses who had erstwhile been obliged to flee on
account of having slain an Egyptian, knew the feelings of the man
who is pursued on account of a manslaughter that he had
committed unawares. [869]


When God in wrath against Moses and Aaron vowed, "Therefore
ye shall not bring this assembly into the land which I have given
them," Moses forbore to implore God to do away with this
sentence, acting in accordance with the percept, "Do not attempt to
dissolve thy neighbor's vow in the moment he hath made it."
Moses waited forty years before he approached God with the
request to permit him to enter the promised land with Israel. [870]
This occurred when he had received God's command to appoint
Joshua as his successor, for he now perceived that God had
actually resolved to execute His sentence. [871] For although God
had ten times decreed that Moses was to die in the desert, still
Moses had not troubled much about it, even when the resolution
had been sealed in the heavenly court. He thought: "How often did
Israel sin, and yet, when I prayed for them, He annulled the
punishment He had decreed; surely God should accept my prayer,
if I - a man who never sinned - should pray to Him." [872] Moses
had also a special reason for assuming that God had changed His
determination concerning him, and would not permit him to enter
the promised land, for he had been permitted to enter the part of
Palestine lying on this side of the Jordan, the land of Sihon and of
Og, and from this he reasoned that God had not irrevocably
decreed punishment for him, and that it might therefore now be
recalled [873] He was strengthened in this assumption by the fact
that after the conquest of the east-Jordanic region God revealed to
him the instructions as to how the land was to be divided, and it
seemed to him as if he were in person to carry out these
instructions. He was, however, mistaken, for shortly after these
laws had been revealed to him, God informed him that he was to
look upon the promised land from Mount Abarin, as he should
never enter it. [874]

When God saw that Moses was not much concerned about the
impending punishment, He sealed the command He had issued
against him, and swore by His Ineffable Name that Moses should
not march into the land. Moses thereupon put on sackcloth, threw
himself upon the ashes, and prayed not less than fifteen hundred
prayers for the annulment of the Divine resolve against him. He
drew a circle about himself, stood in the center of it, and said, "I
will not move from this spot until judgement shall have been
suspended." Heaven and earth, as well as all the forms of creation,
trembled and said, "Perhaps it is God's wish to destroy this world,
to create a new universe." But a voice sounded from heaven and
said: "God's wish to destroy the world has not yet come, the
commotion in nature is due to this that 'in God's hand is the soul of
all living things and the spirit of all flesh,' even the spirit of the
man Moses, whose end is not at hand."

God then bade them proclaim in heaven, and in all the celestial
courts of justice, that they should not accept Moses' prayers, and
that no angel was to carry Moses' prayer to Him, because Moses'
doom of death had been sealed by Him. God quickly called before
Him the Angel Akraziel, who is the celestial herald, and bade him
proclaim the following in heaven: "Descend at once and lock every
single gate in heaven, that Moses' prayer may not ascend into it."
Then, at Moses' prayer, trembled heaven and earth, all the
foundations thereof and the creatures therein, for his prayer was
like a sword that slashed and rends, and can in no wise be parried,
for in it was the power of the Ineffable Name that Moses had
learned from his teacher Zagzagel, the teacher and scribe of the
celestial beings. But when the Galgalim and Seraphim saw that
God did not accept Moses' prayer, and without taking
consideration of him did not grant his prayer for longer life, they
all opened their mouths, saying: "Praised be the glory of the Lord
from its place, for there is no injustice before Him, no
forgetfulness, no respect of persons toward the small or the great."


Moses began his long but fruitless prayer by saying: "Lord of the
world! Consider how much I had to bear for the sake of Israel until
they became the people of Thy claim and of Thy possession. I
suffered with them, shall I not then take part in their rejoicing?
Look Thou, by forbidding me to enter the promised land, Thou
givest the lie to Thy Torah, for it says, 'In his day thou shalt give
the laborer his hire.' Where, then, is my hire for the forty years
during which I labored for the sake of Thy children, and for their
sake suffered much sorrow in Egypt, in the desert, and at the
giving of the Torah and the commandments? With them I suffered
pain, shall not I behold their good fortune as well? But Thou tellest
me that I may not cross the Jordan! All the time that we were in
the desert I could not sit quietly in the academy, teaching and
pronouncing judgement, but not that I should be able to do so,
Thou tellest me that I may not." [876]

He continued: "May the mercy in Thee precede Thy justice, so that
my prayer may be answered, for I well know that 'there is no mercy
in justice,' [877] Thou Thyself didst tell me when I asked Thee
how Thou didst conduct the world, 'I owe nothing to any creature,
and what I do for them is a free gift on My part,' therefore as a free
gift, grant now my prayer to me. [878] Thou Thyself didst point
out to me that it is Thy desire that people should pray to Thee to
cancel punishment that was laid upon them. When Israel
committed that terrible sin, the worship of the Golden Calf, Thou
didst say to me, 'Let Me alone, that I may destroy them, and blot
out their name from under heaven.' I then thought, 'Who can
restrain God, that He should say, "Let Me?" It is plain that He
desires me to pray for His children;' and I prayed, and was
answered. The prayer of the individual for the community was
answered, but not so the prayer of the community for the one
individual! Is it because I called Israel, 'rebels?' But in this I only
followed Thy example, for Thou too didst call them, 'the sons of
rebellion.' [879]

"Thou didst call me, as well as Leviathan, thy servant; I sent up
prayers to Thee, and Leviathan likewise, and him didst Thou
answer, for Thou madest a covenant with him that Thou keepest,
but the covenant that Thou madest with me Thou breakest, for
Thou didst say, 'Die in the mount whither thou goest up.' In the
Torah Thy words are: 'If the servant shall plainly say, I love my
master, my wife, and my children; I will not go out free: then his
master shall bring him unto the judges; and he shall serve him for
ever.' I implore Thee now, 'hear my cry, O God; attend unto my
prayer.' [880] Thou are not in the position of a judge of flesh and
blood who, when granting a prayer, has to consider that he may be
compelled by his superior to repeal his answer, Thou canst do
what Thou wilt, for where on earth or in heaven is there one so
mighty that he can do such deed as Thine in Egypt, or who can
perform such mighty deeds as Thou didst at the Red Sea? [881] I
pray Thee, therefore, let me behold the land that, in spite of the
slander of the spies, I praised, and Jerusalem and the Temple also.

"When, in answer to the proposition Thou madest me to go into
Egypt and deliver Israel, I said, 'I can not do it, for I made a vow to
Jethro never to leave him,' Thou didst release me from that vow. O
Lord of the world! As then Thou didst absolve me of my vow,
saying, 'Go, return into Egypt,' so do Thou now absolve Thyself
from Thy vow, and permit me to enter the land of Israel." Then
God answered: "Thou hast a master to absolve thee from thy vow,
but I have no master." [883] Moses then said: "Thy judgement
against me reads that I shall not as king enter the promised land,
for to me and to Aaron Thou didst say, "Ye shall not bring this
assembly into the land which I have given them.' Permit me then,
at least, to enter it as a common citizen." "That," said the Lord, "is
impossible. The king shall not enter it degraded to the rank of a
common citizen." "Well, then," said Moses, "if I may not even go
into the land as a common citizen, let me at least enter into the
promised land by the Paneas Grotto, that runs from the east bank
to the west bank of the Jordan." But this request, too, God denied
him, saying, "Thou shalt not go from this bank of the Jordan to the
other." "If this request also is to be denied me," begged Moses,
"grant me at least that after my death my bones may be carried to
the other side of the Jordan." But God said, "Nay, not even thy
bones shall cross the Jordan." [884] "O Lord of the world!"
exclaimed Moses, "If Joseph's bones were permitted to be carried
into the promised land, why not mine?" God replied, "Whosoever
acknowledges his country shall be buried therein, but whosoever
does not acknowledge his country shall not be buried therein.
Joseph pledged allegiance to his country when he said, 'For indeed
I was stolen away out of the land of the Hebrews,' and therefore
also does he deserve to have his bones brought to the land of
Israel, but thou didst in silence hear the daughters of Jethro say to
their father, 'An Egyptian delivered us out of the hands of the
shepherds,' without correcting them by saying, 'I am a Hebrew;'
and therefore shall not even thy bones be brought into the land of
Israel." [885]

Moses furthermore said to God: "O Lord of the world! With the
word, 'Behold' did I begin Thy praise, saying, 'Behold, the heaven
and the heaven of heavens is the Lord's' and with that very world,
'Behold,' dost thou seal my death, saying, 'Behold, thy days
approach that thou must die.'" God replied to this: "A wicked man
in his envy sees only the profits, but not the expenditures of his
neighbor. Dost thou not recall that when I wanted to send thee to
Egypt, thou didst also decline My request with the word, 'Behold,'
saying, 'Behold, they will not believe me.' Therefore did I say,
'Behold, thy days approach that thou must die.'" [886] "As
furthermore," continued God, "thou didst say to the sons of Levi
when they asked thy forgiveness, 'Enough, ye take too much upon
ye, ye sons of Levi,' so too shall I answer thy prayer for
forgiveness, 'Let it suffice thee; speak no more unto Me of this

"O Lord of the world!" again pleaded Moses, "Wilt not Thou recall
the time when thou didst say to me, 'Come now, therefore, and I
will send thee unto Pharaoh, that thou mayest bring forth My
people the children of Israel out of Egypt.' Let them be led by me
into their land as I led them out of the land of bondage." But to this
also God found a reply: "Moses, wilt not thou recall the time when
thou didst say to Me, 'O my Lord, send, I pray Thee by the hand of
him whom Thou wild send?' 'With the measure that a man uses,
shall measure be given him.' [887] I announce death to thee with
the word, 'Behold,' saying 'Behold, thy days approach that thou
must die,' because I wanted to point out to thee that thou diest only
because thou are a descendant of Adam, upon whose sons I had
pronounced death with the word, 'Behold,' saying to the angels:
'Behold, the man is become as one of us, to know good and evil;
and now, lest he put forth his hand, and take also of the tree of life,
and eat, and live forever.'" [888]

Moses then said, "O Lord of the world! To the first man didst Thou
give a command that could easily be obeyed, and yet he disobeyed
it, and thereby merited death; but I have not transgressed any of
Thy commandments." God: "Behold, Abraham also, who
sanctified My name in the world, died." Moses: "Yea, but from
Abraham issued Ishmael, whose descendants arouse thy anger."
God: "Isaac, also, who laid his neck upon the altar to be offered as
a sacrifice to Me, died." Moses: "But from Isaac issued Esau who
will destroy the Temple and burn Thy house." God: "From Jacob
issued twelve tribes that did not anger Me, and ye he died." Moses:
"But he did not ascend into heaven, his feet did not tread the
clouds, Thou didst not speak with him face to face, and he did not
receive the Torah out of Thy hand." God: "'Let it suffice thee;
speak no more unto Me of this matter,' speak not many words, for
only 'a fool multiplieth words.'" Moses: "O Lord of the world!
Future generations will perchance say, 'Had not God found evil in
Moses, He would not have taking him out of the world.'" God: "I
have already written in My Torah, 'And there hath not arisen since
a prophet in Israel like unto Moses.'" Moses: "Future generations
will perhaps say that I had probably acted in accordance with Thy
will in my youth, while I was active as a prophet, but that in my
old age, when my prophetic activities ceased, I no longer did Thy

Moses: "Lord of the world! Let me, I pray, enter into the Land, live
there two or three years, and then die." God: "I have resolved that
thou shalt not go there." Moses: "If I may not enter it in my
lifetime, let me reach it after my death." God: "Nay, neither dead
nor alive shalt thou go into the land." Moses: "Why this wrath
against me?" God: "Because ye sanctified Me not in the midst of
the children of Israel." Moses: "With all Thy creatures dost Thou
deal according to Thy quality of mercy, forgiving them their sins,
once, twice, and thrice, but me Thou wilt not forgive even one
single sin!" God: "Outside of this sin of which thou are aware, thou
hast committed six other sins with which I have not until now
reproached thee. At the very first, when I appeared to thee, thou
didst say, 'O my Lord, send I pray Thee, by the hand of him whom
Thou wilt send,' and didst refuse to obey My command to go to
Egypt. Secondly thou didst say, 'For since I came to Pharaoh to
speak in Thy name, he hath evil entreated this people; neither hast
Thou delivered Thy people at all,' accusing Me thereby of having
only harmed Israel, instead of aiding them. Thirdly didst thou say,
'If these men die the common death of all men, then the Lord hath
not sent me,' so that thou didst arouse doubts among Israel if thou
wert really My ambassador. Fourthly didst thou say, 'But if the
Lord make a new thing,' doubting if God could do so. Fifthly didst
thou say to Israel, 'Hear now, ye rebels,' and in this way didst insult
My children. Sixthly didst thou say, 'And behold, ye are risen up in
your fathers' stead, an increase of sinful men.' Were Abraham,
Isaac, and Jacob, Israel's fathers, perchance sinful men, that thou
didst thus address their children?" Moses: "I only followed Thy
example, for Thou, too, didst say, 'The censers of these sinners.'"
God: "But I did not characterize their fathers as sinners."

Moses: "O Lord of the world! How often did Israel sin before
Thee, and when I begged and implored mercy for them, Thou
forgavest them, but me Thou wilt not forgive! For my sake Thou
forgavest the sins of sixty myriads, and not thou wilt not forgive
my sin?" God: "The punishment that is laid upon the community is
different from the punishment that is laid upon the individual, for I
am not so severe in my treatment of the community as I am in
dealing with an individual. But know, furthermore, that until now
fate had been in thy power, but now fate is no longer in thy
power."[889] Moses: "O Lord of the world! Rise up from the
Throne of Justice, and seat Thyself upon the Throne of Mercy, so
that in Thy mercy, Thou mayest grant me life, during which I may
atone for my sins by suffering that Thou shalt bring upon me.
Hand me not over to the sword of the Angel of Death. If Thou wild
grant my prayer, then shall I sound Thy praises to all the
inhabitants of the earth; I do not wish to die, 'but live and declare
the works of the Lord.'" God replied: "'This is the gate of the Lord;
the righteous shall enter into it,' this is the gate into which the
righteous must enter as well as other creatures, for death had been
decreed for man since the beginning of the world." [890]

Moses, however, continued to importune God, saying: "With
justice and with mercy hast Thou created the world and mankind,
may mercy now conquer justice. In my youth Thou didst begin by
showing me Thy power in the bush of thorns, and now, in my old
age, I beseech Thee, treat me not as an earthly king treats his
servant. When a king of flesh and blood had a servant, he loves
him as long as he is young and strong, but casts him off when he is
grown old. But Thou, 'cast me not off in the time of old age.' Thou
didst show Thy power at the revelation of the Ten
Commandments, and thy strong hand in the ten plagues that Thou
didst bring upon Egypt. Thou didst create everything, and in Thy
hand doth it lie to kill and to give life, there is none who can do
these works, nor is there strength like Thine in the future world.
Let me then proclaim Thy majesty to the coming generations, and
tell them that through me Thou didst cleave the Red Sea, and give
the Torah to Israel, that throughout forty years Thou didst cause
manna to rain from heaven for Israel, and water to rise from the
well." For Moses thought that if his life were spared, he should be
able everlastingly to restrain Israel from sin and to hold them
forever in faith to the one God. But God said: "' Let it suffice thee.'
If thy life were to be spared, men should mistake thee, and make a
god of thee, and worship thee." "Lord of the world!" replied
Moses, "Thou didst already test me at the time when the Golden
Calf was made and I destroyed it. Why then should I die?" God:
"Whose son art thou?" Moses: "Amram's son." God: "And whose
son was Amram?" Moses: "Izhar's son." God: "And whose son was
he?" Moses: "Kohath's son." God: "And whose son was he?"
Moses: "Levi's son." God: "And from whom did all of these
descend?" Moses: "From Adam." God: "Was the life of any one of
these spared?" Moses: "They all died." God: "And thou wishest to
live on?" Moses: "Lord of the world! Adam stole the forbidden
fruit and ate of it, and it was on this account that Thou didst punish
him with death, but did I ever steal aught from Thee? Thou
Thyself didst write of me, 'My servant Moses, who is faithful in all
Mine house.'" God: "Art thou worthier than Noah?" Moses: "Yes;
when Thou sentest the flood over his generation he did not beg
Thy mercy for them, but I did say to Thee, 'Yet now, if Thou wilt
forgive their sin; and if not, blot me, I pray Thee, out of Thy book
which Thou hast written.'"

God: "Was it I perchance, that counseled thee to slay the
Egyptian?" Moses: "Thou didst slay all the firstborn of Egypt, and
shall I die on account of one single Egyptian that I slew?" God:
"Art thou perchance My equal? I slay and restore to life, but canst
thou perchance revive the dead?" [891]


That Moses might not take his approaching end too much to heart,
God tried to comfort him by pointing out to him that in his lifetime
he had received such distinctions from his Creator as no man
before him, and that still greater distinctions awaited him in the
future world. God said: "Dost not thou remember the great honor I
showed thee? Thou didst say to Me, 'Arise,' and I arose; thou
saidst, 'Turn about,' and I turned about; for thy sake too did I invert
the order of heaven and earth, for the order of heaven it is to send
down dew and rain, and earth's order is it to produce bread, but
thou didst say to Me, 'I do not wish it so, but bid heaven to send
down bread, and earth to bring forth water,' and I acted in
accordance with thy wish; I caused bread to rain from heaven, and
the well 'sprung up.' Thou didst say, 'If the Lord make a new thing,
and the ground open her mouth, and swallow them up, then ye
shall understand that the Lord hath sent me,' and I fulfilled thy
wish, and it swallowed them. I had also spoken, 'He that sacrificeth
unto any god, save unto the Lord only, shall be utterly destroyed,'
but when Israel sinned with the Golden Calf and I meant to deal
with them according to My words, thou wouldst not let Me, saying:
'Pardon, I pray Thee, the iniquity of this people,' and I forgave
them as thou didst ask Me. More than this, the Torah is named
after Me, it is the Torah of the Lord, but I named it after Thy
name, saying, 'It is the Torah of My servant Moses.' The children
of Israel also are named after Me, 'for unto Me the children of
Israel are servants; they are My servants,' but I called them after
thy name. I distinguished thee still more, for just as there is neither
food nor drink for Me, so also didst thou stay in heaven forty days
and forty nights, and in all that time, 'didst neither eat bread, nor
drink water.' I am God, and see, 'I made thee a god to Pharaoh;' I
have prophets, and thou hast a prophet, for I said to thee, 'and
Aaron, thy brother, shall be thy prophet.' Again, no being may see
Me, and thee too did I make so that 'the people were afraid to
come nigh thee,' and as I said to thee, 'thou shalt see My back: but
My face shall not be seen,' so too did the people see the back of
thee. I glorified the Torah with twenty-two letters, and with all
these letters did I glorify thee. I sent thee to Pharaoh, and thou
didst lead Israel out of Egypt; through thee did I bestow the
Sabbath upon Israel, and the law of circumcision; I gave thee the
Ten Commandments, I covered thee with the cloud, I gave thee the
two tables of stone, which thou didst break; I made thee unique in
the world; I gave thee the Torah as an inheritance, and honored
thee more than all the seventy elders."

Moses had to acknowledge that extraordinary marks of honor had
been his. He said: "Lord of the world! Thou didst set me on high,
and didst bestow upon me so many benefits that I cannot
enumerate one of a thousand, and all the world knows how Thou
didst exalt me and honor me, and all the world knows as well that
Thou art the One God, the only One in Thy world, that there is
none beside Thee, and that there is nothing like Thee. Thou didst
create those above and those below, Thou art the beginning and
the end. Who can enumerate Thy deeds of glory? Do one of these,
I beseech Thee, that I may pass over the Jordan." God said: "'Let it
suffice, speak no more unto Me of this matter.' [892] It is better for
thee to die here, than that thou shouldst cross the Jordan and die in
the land of Israel. There in a tomb fashioned by men, on a bier
made by men, and by the hands of men wouldst thou be buried; but
now shalt thou be buried in a tomb fashioned by God, on a bier
made by God, and shalt be buried by the hands of God. [893] O
My son Moses, much honor had been stored up for thee in the
future world, for thou wilt take part in all the delights of Paradise,
where are prepared three hundred and ten worlds, which I have
created for every pious man that through love of Me devoted
himself to the Torah. And as in this world I appointed thee over
the sixty myriads of Israel, so in the future world shall I appoint
thee over the fifty-five myriads of pious men. Thy days, O Moses,
will pass, when thou art dead, but thy light will not fade, for thou
wilt never have need of the light of sun or moon or stars, nor wilt
thou require raiment or shelter, or oil for thy head, or shoes for thy
feet, for My majesty will shine before thee, My radiance will make
thy face beam, My sweetness will delight thy palate, the carriages
of My equipage shall serve as vehicles for thee, and one of My
many scepters upon which is engraved the Ineffable Name, one
that I had employed in the creation of the world, shall I give to
thee, the image of which I had already given thee in this world."


When Moses saw that God lent no ear to his prayers, he sought to
invoke God's mercy through the pleadings of others. "To
everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the
heaven." So long as the course of Moses' days had not yet been
run, everything was in his power, but when his time was over, he
sought for some one to appeal to God's mercy for him. He now
betook himself to Earth and said: "O Earth, I pray thee, implore
God's mercy for me. Perhaps for thy sake will He take pity upon
me and let me enter into the land of Israel." Earth, however,
replied: "I am 'without form and void,' and then too I shall son 'wax
old like a garment.' How then should I venture to appear before the
King of kings? Nay, thy fate is like mine, for 'dust thou art, and
unto dust shalt thou return.'"

Moses hastened to Sun and Moon, and implored them to intercede
for him with God, but they replied: "Before we pray to God for
thee, we must pray for ourselves, for 'the moon shall be
confounded, and the sun ashamed.'"

Moses then took his request to the Stars and the Planets, but these,
too, replied: "Before we venture to plead for thee, we must plead
for ourselves, for 'all the host of heaven shall be dissolved.'"

Moses then went to the Hills and the Mountains, beseeching them,
"Pray appeal to God's mercy for me," and they, too, replied: "We
too have to implore God's mercy for ourselves, for He said, 'The
mountains shall depart, and the hills be removed.'"

He then laid his plea before Mount Sinai, but the latter said: "Didst
thou not see with thine eyes and record in the Torah that, 'Mount
Sinai was altogether in smoke, because the Lord descended upon it
in a fire?' How then shall I approach the Lord?"

He then went to the Rivers, and sought their intercession before
the Lord, but they replied: "'The Lord made a way in the sea, and a
path in the mighty waters.' We cannot save ourselves out of His
hand, and how then should we aid thee?"

Then he went to the Deserts, and to all the Elements of Nature, but
in vain sought to secure their aid. Their answer was : "All go unto
one place; all are of the dust, and turn to dust again."

The Great Sea was the last to which he brought his request, but it
replied: "Son of Amram, what ails thee today? Art not thou the son
of Amram that erstwhile came to me with a staff, beat me, and
clove me into twelve parts, while I was powerless against thee,
because the Shekinah accompanied thee at thy right hand? What
has happened, then, that thou comest before me now pleading?"
Upon being reminded of the miracles that he had accomplished in
his youth, Moses burst into tears and said, "Oh, that I were as in
months past, as in the days when God preserved me!" And turning
to the sea, he made answer: "In those days, when I stood beside
thee, I was king of the world, and I commanded, but not I am a
suppliant, whose prayers are unanswered." [895]

When Moses perceived the Heaven and Earth, Sun and Moon,
Stars and Planets, Mountains and Rivers turned a deaf ear to his
prayers, he tried to implore mankind to intercede for him before
God. He went first to his disciple Joshua, saying: "O my son, be
mindful of the love with which I treated thee by day and by night,
teaching thee mishnah and halakah, and all arts and sciences, and
implore now for my sake God's mercy, for perhaps through thee
He may take pity upon me, and permit me to enter the land of
Israel." Joshua began to weep bitterly, and beat his palms in
sorrow, but when he wanted to begin to pray, Samael appeared and
stopped his mouth, saying, "Why dost thou seek to oppose the
command of God, who is 'the Rock, whose work is perfect, and all
whose ways are judgement?'" Joshua then went to Moses and said,
"Master, Samael will not let me pray." At these words Moses burst
into loud sobs, and Joshua, too, wept bitterly.

Moses then went to his brother's son, Eleazar, to whom he said: "O
my son, be mindful of the days when God was angry with thy
father on account of the making of the Golden Calf, and I save him
through my prayer. Pray now thou to God for me, and perhaps God
will take pity upon me, and let me enter into the land of Israel."
But when Eleazar, in accordance with Moses' wish, began to pray,
Samael appeared and stopped his mouth, saying to him, "How
canst thou think of disregarding God's command?" Then Eleazar
reported to Moses that he could not pray for him.

He now tried to invoke Caleb's aid, but him, too, Samael prevented
from praying to God. Moses then went to the seventy elders and
the other leaders of the people, he even implored every single man
among Israel to pray for him, saying: "Remember the wrath which
the Lord nursed against your fathers, but I brought it to pass that
God relinquished His plan to destroy Israel, and forgave Israel
their sins. Now, I pray ye, betake yourselves to the sanctuary of
God and exhort His pity for me, that He may permit me to enter
into the land of Israel, for 'God never rejects the prayer of the

When the people and their leaders heard these words of Moses,
they broke out into mournful weeping, and in the Tabernacle with
bitter tears they entreated God to answer Moses' prayer, so that
their cries rose even to the Throne of Glory. But then one hundred
and eighty four myriads of angels under the leadership of the great
angels Zakun and Lahash descended and snatched away the words
of the suppliants, that they might not reach God. The angel Lahash
indeed tried to restore to their place the words which the other
angels had snatched away, so that they might reach God, but when
Samael learned of this, he fettered Lahash with chains of fire and
brought him before God, where he received sixty blows of fire and
was expelled from the inner chamber of God because, contrary to
God's wish, he had attempted to aid Moses in the fulfillment of his
desire. When Israel now saw how the angels dealt with their
prayers, they went to Moses and said, "The angels will not let us
pray for thee." [896]

When Moses saw that neither the world nor mankind could aid
him, he betook himself to the Angel of the Face, to whom he said,
"Pray for me, that God may take pity upon me, and that I may not
die." But the angel replied: "Why, Moses, dost thou exert thyself in
vain? Standing behind the curtain that is drawn before the Lord, I
heard that thy prayer in this instance is not to be answered." Moses
now laid his hand upon his head and wept bitterly, saying, "To
whom shall I now go, that he might implore God's mercy for me?"

God was now very angry with Moses because he would not resign
himself to the doom that had been sealed, but His wrath vanished
as soon as Moses spoke the words: "The Lord, the Lord, a God full
of compassion and gracious, slow to anger, and plenteous in mercy
and truth; keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and
transgression and sin." God now said kindly to Moses: "I have
registered two vows, one that thou are to die, and the second that
Israel is to perish. I cannot cancel both vows, if therefore thou
choosest to live, Israel must be ruined." "Lord of the world!"
replied Moses, "Thou approachest me artfully; Thou seizest the
rope at both ends, so that I myself must now say, 'Rather shall
Moses and a thousand of his kind perish, than a single soul out of
Israel!' But will not all men exclaim, 'Alas! The feet that trod the
heavens, the face that beheld the Face of the Shekinah, and the
hands that received the Torah, shall not be covered with dust!'"
God replied: "Nay, the people will say: ' If a man like Moses, who
ascended into heaven, who was peer of the angels, with whom God
spoke face to face, and to whom He gave the Torah - if such a man
cannot justify himself before God, how much less can an ordinary
mortal of flesh and blood, who appears before God without having
done good deeds or studied the Torah, justify himself?' I want to
know," He added, "why thou are so much aggrieved at thy
impending death." Moses: "I am afraid of the sword of the Angel
of Death." God: "If this is the reason then speak no more in this
matter, for I will not deliver thee into his hand." Moses, however,
would not yield, but furthermore said, "Shall my mother Jochebed,
to whom my life brought so much grief, suffer sorrow after my
death also?" God: "So was it in My mind even before I created the
world, and so is the course of the world; every generation has its
learned men, every generation has its leaders, every generation has
its guides. Up to now it was thy duty to guide the people, but not
the time it ripe for thy disciple Joshua to relieve thee of the office
destined for him." [897]


Moses now said to himself: "If God has determined that I may not
enter the land of Israel, and I am thus to lose the reward for the
many precepts that may be observed only in the Holy Land, for no
other reason than because the time has come for my disciple
Joshua to go to the front of Israel and lead them into the land, then
were it better for me to remain alive, to enter the land, and
relinquish to Joshua the leadership of the people." What now did
Moses do? From the first day of Shebat to the sixth of Adar, the
day before his death, he went and served Joshua from morning
until evening, as a disciple his mater. These thirty-six days during
which Moses served his former disciple corresponded to the equal
number of years during which he had been served by Joshua.

The way in which Moses ministered to Joshua was as follows.
During the period he arose at midnight, went to Joshua's door,
opened it with a key, and taking a shirt from which he shook out
the dust, laid it near to Joshua's pillow. He then cleaned Joshua's
shoes and placed them beside the bed. Then he took his
undergarment, his cloak, his turban, his golden helmet, and his
crown of pearls, examined them to see if they were in good
condition, cleaned and polished them, arranged them aright, and
laid them on a golden chair. He then fetched a pitcher of water and
a golden basin and placed them before the golden chair, so to wash
himself. He then caused Joshua's rooms, which he furnished like
his own, to be swept and put into order, the ordered the golden
throne to be brought in, which he covered with a linen and a
woolen cloth, and with other beautiful and costly garments, as in
the custom with kings. After all these preparations had been made,
he bade the herald proclaim: "Moses stands at Joshua's gate and
announces that whosoever wishes to hear God's word should
betake himself to Joshua, for he, according to God's word, is the
leader of Israel."

When the people heard the herald, they trembled and shook, and
pretended to have a headache, so that they might not have to go to
Joshua. Every one of them said, in tears, "Woe to thee, O land,
when thy king is a child!" But a voice from heaven resounded,
crying, "When Israel was a child, then I loved him," and Earth, too,
opened her mouth, and said, "I have been young, and now am old,
yet have I not seen the righteous forsaken."
While the people refused to lend ear to the herald's summons, the
elders of Israel, the leaders of the troops, the princes of the tribes,
and the captains of thousands, of hundreds, and of tens appeared at
Joshua's tent, and Moses assigned to each his place according to
his rank.

In the meantime approached the hour when Joshua was wont to
arise, whereupon Moses entered his room and extended his hand to
him. When Joshua saw that Moses served him, he was ashamed to
have his master minister to him, and taking the shirt out of Moses'
hand, and dressing himself, trembling, he cast himself to Moses'
feet and said: "O my master, be not the cause wherefore I should
die before half my time is done, owing to the sovereignty God has
imposed upon me." But Moses replied: "Fear not, my son, thou
sinnest not if thou are served by me. With the measure wherewith
thou didst mete out to me, do I mete out to thee; as with a pleasant
face thou didst serve me, so shall I serve thee. It was I that taught
thee, 'Love thy neighbor as thyself,' and also, 'Let thy pupil's honor
be as dear to thee as thine own.'" Moses did not rest until Joshua
seated himself upon the golden chair, and then Moses served
Joshua, who still resisted, in every needful way. After he was
through with all this, he laid upon Joshua, who still resisted, his
rays of majesty, which he had received from his celestial teacher
Zagzagel, scribe of the angels, at the close of his instruction in all
the secrets of the Torah.

When Joshua was completely dressed and ready to go out, they
reported to him and to Moses that all Israel awaited them. Moses
thereupon laid his hand upon Joshua to lead him out of the tent,
and quite against Joshua's wish insisted upon giving precedence to
him as they stepped forth. When Israel saw Joshua precede Moses,
they all trembled, arose, and made room for these two to proceed
to the place of the great, where stood the golden throne, upon
which Moses seated Joshua against his will. All Israel burst into
tears when they saw Joshua upon the golden throne, and he said
amid tears, "why all this greatness and honor to me?" [898]

In this way did Moses spend the time from the first day of Shebat
to the sixth of Adar, during which time he expounded the Torah to
the sixty myriads of Israel in seventy languages.


On the seventh day of Adar, Moses knew that on this day he
should have to die, for a heavenly voice resounded, saying, "Take
heed to thyself, O Moses, for thou hast only one more day to live."
[899] What did Moses now do? On this day he wrote thirteen
scrolls of the Torah, twelve for the twelve tribes, and one he put
into the Holy Ark, so that, if they wished to falsify the Torah, the
one in the Ark might remain untouched. Moses thought, "If I
occupy myself with the Torah, which is the tree of life, this day
will draw to a close, and the impending doom will be as naught."
God, however, beckoned to the sun, which firmly opposed itself to
Moses, saying, "I will not set, so long as Moses lives." [900] When
Moses had completed writing the scrolls of the Torah, not even
half the day was over. He then bade the tribes come to him, and
from his hand receive the scrolls of the Torah, admonishing the
men and women separately to obey the Torah and its commands.
The most excellent among the thirteen scrolls was fetched by
Gabriel, who brought it to the highest heavenly court to show the
piety of Moses, who had fulfilled all that is written in the Torah.
Gabriel passed with it through all the heavens, so that all might
witness Moses' piety. It is this scroll of the Torah out of which the
souls of the pious read on Monday and Thursday, as well as on the
Sabbath and holy days.

Moses on this day showed great honor and distinction to his
disciple Joshua in the sight of all Israel. A herald passed before
Joshua through all the camp, proclaiming, "Come and hear the
words of the new prophet that hath arisen for us to-day!" All Israel
approached to honor Joshua. Moses then gave the command to
fetch hither a golden throne, a crown of pearls, a royal helmet, and
a robe of purple. He himself set up the rows of benches for the
Sanhedrin, for the heads of the army, and for the priests. Then
Moses betook himself to Joshua, dressed him, put the crown on his
head, and bade him be seated upon the golden throne to deliver
from it a speech to the people. Joshua then spoke the following
words which he first whispered to Caleb, who then announced it in
a loud voice to the people. He said: "Awaken, rejoice, heavens of
heavens, ye above; sound joyously, foundations of earth, ye below.
Awaken and proclaim aloud, ye orders of creation; awaken and
sing, ye mountains everlasting. Exult and shout in joy, ye hills of
earth, awaken and burst into songs of triumph, ye hosts of heaven.
Sing and relate, ye tents of Jacob, sing, ye dwelling place of Israel.
Sing and hearken to all the words that come from your King,
incline you heart to all His words, and gladly take upon yourselves
and your souls the commandments of your God. Open your mouth,
let your tongue speak, and give honor to the Lord that is your
Helper, give thanks to your Lord and put your trust in Him. For He
is One, and hath no second, there is none like Him among the
gods, not one among the angels is like Him, and beside Him is
there none that is your Lord. To His praise there are no bounds; to
His fame no limit, no end; to His miracles no fathoming; to His
works no number. He kept the oath that He swore to the Patriarchs,
through our teacher Moses. He fulfilled the covenant with them,
and the love and the vow He had made them, for He delivered us
through many miracles, led us from bondage to freedom, clove for
us the sea, and bestowed upon us six hundred and thirteen

When Joshua had completed his discourse, a voice resounded from
heaven, and said to Moses, "Thou hast only five hours more of
life." Moses called out to Joshua, "Stay seated like a king before
the people!" Then both began to speak before all Israel; Moses
read out the text and Joshua expounded. There was no difference
of opinion between them, and the words of the two matched like
the pearls in a royal crown. But Moses' countenance shone like the
sun, and Joshua's like the moon.

While Joshua and all Israel still sat before Moses, a voice from
heaven became audible and said, "Moses, thou hast now only four
hours of life." Now Moses began to implore God anew: "O Lord of
the world! If I must die only for my disciple's sake, consider that I
am willing to conduct myself as if I were his pupil; let it be as if he
were high priest, and I a common priest; he is king, and I his
servant." God replied: "I have sworn by My great name, which ' the
heaven and heaven of heavens cannot contain,' that thou shalt not
cross the Jordan." Moses: "Lord of the world! Let me at least, by
the power of the Ineffable Name, fly like a bird in the air; or make
me like a fish transform my two arms to fins and my hair to scales,
that like a fish I may leap over the Jordan and see the land of
Israel." God: "If I comply with thy wish, I shall break My vow."
Moses: "Lord of the world! Lead me upon the pinions of the clouds
about three parasangs high beyond the Jordan, so that the clouds
be below me, and I from above may see the land." God replied:
"This, too, seems to Me like a breaking of My vow." Moses: "Lord
of the world! Cut me up, limb by limb, throw me over the Jordan,
and then revive me, so that I may see the land." God: "That, too,
would be as if I had broken My vow." Moses: "Let me skim the
land with my glance." God: "In this point will I comply with thy
wish. 'Thou shalt see the land before thee; but thou shalt not go
thither.'" God thereupon showed him all the land of Israel, and
although it was a square of four hundred parasangs, still God
imparted such strength to Moses' eyes that he could oversee all the
land. What lay in the deep appeared to him above, the hidden was
plainly in view, the distant was close at hand, and he saw
everything. [901]


Pointing to the land, God said: "'This is the land which I sware
unto Abraham, unto Isaac, and unto Jacob, saying, I will give it
unto thy seed;' to them did I promise it, but to thee do I show it."
But he saw not only the land. God pointed with His finger to every
part of the Holy Land, and accurately described it to Moses,
saying, "This is Judah's share, this Ephraim's," and in this way
instructed him about the division of the land. Moses learned from
God the history of the whole land, and the history of every part of
it. God showed it to him as it would appear in its glory, and how it
would appear under the rule of strangers. God revealed to him not
only the complete history of Israel that was to take place in the
Holy Land, but also revealed to him all its creation to the Day of
Judgement, when the resurrection of the dead will take place.
Joshua's war with the Canaanites, Israel's deliverance from the
Philistines through Samson, the glory of Israel in David's reign, the
building of the Temple under Solomon, and its destruction, the
line of kings from the house of David, and the line of prophets
from the house of Rahab, the destruction of Gog and Magog on the
plain of Jericho, all this and much more, was it given Moses to
see. And as God showed him the events in the world, so too did he
show him Paradise with its dwellers of piety, and hell with the
wicked men that fill it. [902]

The place whence Moses looked upon the Holy Land was a
mountain that bore four names: Nebo, Abarim, Hor, and Pisgah.
The different appellations are due to the fact that the kingdoms
accounted it as a special honor to themselves if they had
possessions in the Holy Land. This mountain was divided among
four kingdoms, and each kingdom had a special name for its parts.
[903] The most appropriate name seems to be Nebo, for upon it
died three sinless nebi'im, "prophets," Moses, Aaron and Miriam.

To this mountain, upon God's command, Moses betook himself at
noon of the day on which he died. On this occasion, as upon two
others, God had His commands executed at noon to show mankind
that they could not hinder the execution of God's orders, even if
they chose to do so. Had Moses gone to die on Mount Nebo at
night, Israel would have said: "He could well do so in the night
when we knew of nothing. Had we known that he should go to
Nebo to his death, we should not have let him go. Verily, we
should not have permitted him to die, who led us out of Egypt,
who clove the sea for us, who caused manna to rain down and the
well to spring up, who bade the quails to fly to us, and performed
many other great miracles." God therefore bade Moses go to his
grave on mount Nebo in bright daylight, at noon hour, saying, "Let
him who wishes to prevent it try to do so."

For a similar reason did Israel's exodus from Egypt take place in
the noon hour, for, had they departed at night, the Egyptians would
have said: "They were able to do this in the darkness of the night
because we knew nothing of it. Had we known, we should not
have permitted them to depart, but should have compelled them by
force of arms to stay in Egypt." God therefore said: "I shall lead
out Israel to the noon hour. Let him who wishes to prevent it try to
do so."

Noah, too, entered the ark at the noon hour for a similar reason.
God said: "If Noah enters the ark at night, his generation will
declare: 'He could do so because we were not aware of it, or we
should not have permitted him to enter the ark alone, but should
have taken our hammers and axes, and crushed the ark.'
Therefore," said God, "do I wish him to enter the ark at the noon
hour. Let him who wishes to prevent it try to do so."

God's command to Moses to betake himself to Mount Nebo, and
there to die, was couched in the following words: means not
destruction, but elevation. 'Die in the mount whither thou goest
up;' go up all alone, and let no one accompany thee. Aaron's son
Eleazar accompanied him to his tomb, but no man shall witness
the distinction and reward that await thee at thy death. There shalt
thou be gather to thy people, to the fathers of Israel, Abraham,
Isaac, and Jacob, and to thy fathers, Kohath and Amram, as well as
to thy brother Aaron and thy sister Miriam, just as Aaron thy
brother died in mount Hor, and was gathered unto his people." For
when Aaron was to die, Moses drew off one by one his garments,
with which he invested Aaron's son Eleazar, and after he had taken
off all his garments, he clothed him in his death robe. Then he said
to Aaron: "Aaron, my brother, enter the cave," and he entered. "Get
upon the couch," said Moses, and Aaron did so. "Close thine eyes,"
and he closed them. "Stretch out thy feet," and Aaron did so, and
expired. At sight of this painless and peaceful death, Moses said:
"Blessed is the man that dies such a death!" When therefore Moses'
end drew nigh, God said: "Thou shalt die the death that thou didst
wish, as peacefully and with as little pain as thy brother Aaron."


Moses received still another special distinction on the day of his
death, for on that day God permitted him to ascend to the lofty
place of heaven, and showed him the reward that awaited him in
heaven, and the future. The Divine attribute of Mercy appeared
there before him and said to him: "I bring glad tidings to thee, at
which thou wilt rejoice. Turn to the Throne of Mercy and behold!"
Moses turned to the Throne of Mercy and saw God build the
Temple of jewels and pearls, while between the separate gems and
pearls shimmered the radiance of the Shekinah, brighter than all
jewels. And in this Temple he beheld the Messiah, David's son,
and his own brother Aaron, standing erect, and dressed in the robe
of the high priest. Aaron then said to Moses: "Do not draw near,
for this is the place where the Shekinah dwells, and know that no
one may enter here before he have tasted of death and his soul
have been delivered to the Angel of Death."

Moses now fell upon his face before God, saying, "Permit me to
speak to Thy Messiah before I die." God then said to Moses:
"Come, I shall teach thee My great name, that the flames of the
Shekinah consume thee not." When the Messiah, David's son, and
Aaron beheld Moses approach them, they knew that God had
taught him the great name, so they went to meet him and saluted
him with the greeting: "Blessed be he that cometh in the name of
the Lord." Moses thereupon said to Messiah: "God told me that
Israel was to erect a Temple to Him upon earth, and I now see Him
build His own Temple, and that, too, in heaven!" The Messiah
replied: "Thy father Jacob saw the Temple that will be erected on
earth, and also the Temple that God rears with His own hand in
heaven, and he clearly understood that it was the Temple God
constructed with His own hand in heaven as house of jewels, of
pearls, and of the light of the Shekinah, that was to be preserved
for Israel to all eternity, to the end of all generations. This was in
the night when Jacob slept upon a stone, and in his dream beheld
one Jerusalem upon earth, and another in heaven. God then said to
Jacob, 'My son Jacob, to-day I stand above thee as in the future thy
children will stand before Me.' At the sight of these two
Jerusalems, the earthly and the heavenly, Jacob said: 'The
Jerusalem on earth is nothing, this is not the house that will be
preserved for my children in all generations, but in truth that other
house of God, that He builds with His own hands.' But if thou
sayest," continued the Messiah, "that God with His own hands
builds Himself a Temple in heaven, know then that with His hands
also He will build the Temple upon earth."

When Moses heard these words from the mouth of the Messiah, he
rejoiced greatly, and lifting up his face to God, he said, "O Lord of
the world! When will this Temple built here in heaven come down
to earth below?" God replied: "I have made known the time of the
event to no creature, either to the earlier ones or to the later, how
then should I tell thee?" Moses said: "Give me a sign, so that out of
the happenings in the world I may gather when that time will
approach," God: "I shall first scatter Israel as with a shovel over all
the earth, so that they may be scattered among all nations in the
four corners of the earth, and then shall I "set My hand again the
second time,' and gather them in that migrated with Jonah, the son
of Amittai, to the land of Pathros, and those that dwell in the land
of Shinar, Hamath, Elam, and the islands of the sea."

When Moses had heard this, he departed from heaven with a
joyous spirit. The Angel of Death followed him to earth, but could
not possess himself of Moses' soul, for he refused to give it up to
him, delivering it to none but God Himself. [905]


When Moses had finished looking upon the land and the future, he
was one hour nearer to death. A voice sounded from heaven and
said, "Make no fruitless endeavors to live." Moses, however, did
not desist from prayer, saying to God: "Lord of the world! Let me
stay on this side of the Jordan with the sons of Reuben and the
sons of God, that I may be as one of them, while Joshua as king at
the head of Israel shall enter into the land beyond the Jordan." God
replied: "Dost thou wish Me to make as naught the words in the
Torah that read, 'Three times in the year all thy males shall appear
before the Lord God?' If Israel sees that thou dost not make a
pilgrimage to the sanctuary, they will say, 'If Moses, through
whom the Torah and the laws were given to us, does not make the
pilgrimage to the sanctuary, how much less do we need to do so!'
Thou wouldst then cause nonobservance of My commandments. I
have, furthermore, written in the Torah through thee, 'At the end of
every seven years, in the set time of the year of release, when all
Israel is come to appear before the Lord thy God, in the place
which He shall choose, thou shalt read this law before all Israel in
their hearing.' If thou wert to live thou shouldst put Joshua's
authority in the eyes of all Israel to naught, for they would say,
'Instead of learning the Torah and hearing it from the mouth of the
disciple, let us rather go to the teacher and learn from him.' Israel
will then abandon Joshua and go to thee, so that thou wouldst
cause rebellion against My Torah, in which is written that the king
shall read before all Israel the Torah in the set time of the year of
release." [906]

In the meanwhile still another hour had passed, and a voice
sounded from heaven and said: "How long wilt thou endeavor in
vain to avert the sentence? Thou has not only two hours more of
life." The wicked Samael, head of evil spirits, had eagerly awaited
the moment of Moses' death, for he hoped to take his soul like that
of all other mortals, and he said continually, "When will the
moment be at hand when Michael shall weep and I shall triumph?"
When now only two hours remained before Moses' death, Michael,
Israel's guardian angel, began to weep, and Samael was jubilant,
for now the moment he had awaited so long was very close. But
Michael said to Samael: "'Rejoice not against me, mine enemy:
when I fall, I shall arise; when I sit in darkness, the Lord shall be a
light unto me.' Even if I fell on account of Moses's death, I shall
arise again through Joshua when he will conquer the one and thirty
kings of Palestine. Even if I sit in darkness owing to the
destruction of the first and second Temples, the Lord shall be my
light on the day of the Messiah."

In the meanwhile still another hour had passed, and a voice
resounded from heaven and said, "Moses, thou hast only one hour
more of life!" Moses thereupon said: "O Lord of the world! Even if
Thou wilt not let me enter into the land of Israel, leave me at least
in this world, that I may live, and not die." God replied, "If I should
not let thee die in this world, how then can I revive thee hereafter
for the future world? Thou wouldst, moreover, then give the lie to
the Torah, for through thee I wrote therein, 'neither is there any
that can deliver out of My hand.'" Moses continued to pray: "O
Lord of the world! If thou dost not permit me to enter into the land
of Israel, let me live like the beasts of the field, and feed on herbs,
and drink water, let me live and see the world: let me be as one of
these." But God said, "Let it suffice thee!" Still Moses continued:
"If Thou wilt not grant me this, let me at least live in this world
like a bird that flies in the four directions of the world, and each
day gathers its food from the ground, drinks water out of the
streams, and at eve returns to its nest." But even this last prayer of
his was denied, for God said, "Thou hast already made too many
words." [907]

Moses now raised up his voice in weeping, and said, "To whom
shall I go that will now implore mercy to me?" He went to every
work of creation and said, "Implore mercy for me." But all replied:
"We cannot even implore mercy for ourselves, for God 'hath made
everything beautiful in its time,' but afterward, 'all go unto one
place, all are of the dust, and all turn to dust again,' 'for the heaven
shall vanish away like smoke, and the earth shall wax old like a

When Moses saw that none of the works of creation could aid him,
he said: "He is 'the Rock, His work is perfect, for all His ways are
judgement: A God of faithfulness and without iniquity, just and
right is He.'"

When Moses saw that he could not escape death, he called Joshua,
and in the presence of all Israel addressed him as follows: "Behold,
my son, the people that I deliver into thy hands, is the people of the
Lord. It is still in its youth, and hence is inexperienced in the
observance of its commandments; beware, therefore, lest thou
speak harshly to them, for they are the children of the Holy One,
who called them, 'My firstborn son, Israel'; and He loved them
before all other nations." But God, on the other hand, at once said
to Joshua: "Joshua, thy teacher Moses has transferred his office to
thee. Follow now in his footsteps, take a rod and hit upon the head,
'Israel is a child, hence I love him,' and 'withhold not correction
from the child.'" [908]

Joshua now said to Moses: "O my teacher Moses, what will
become of me? If I give to the one a share upon a mountain, he
will be sure to want one in the valley, and he to whom I give his
share in the valley will wish it to be upon a mountain." Moses,
however, quieted him, saying, "Be not afraid, for God hath assured
me that there will be peace at the distribution of the land." Then
Moses said: "Question me regarding all the laws that are not quite
clear to thee, for I shall be taken from thee, and thou shalt see me
no more." Joshua replied, "When, O my master, by night or by day,
have I ever left thee, that I should be in doubt concerning anything
that thou hast taught me?" Moses said, "Even if thou hast no
questions to ask to me, come hither, that I may kiss thee." Joshua
went to Moses, who kissed him and wept upon his neck, and a
second time blessed him, saying, "Mayest thou be at peace, and
Israel be at peace with thee." [909]


The people now came to Moses and said, "The hour of thy death is
at hand," and he replied: "Wait until I have blessed Israel. All my
life long they had no pleasant experiences with me, for I constantly
rebuked them and admonished them to fear God and fulfil the
commandments, therefore do I not now wish to depart out of this
world before I have blessed them." [910] Moses had indeed always
cherished the desire of blessing Israel, but the Angel of Death had
never permitted him to satisfy his wish, so shortly before dying, he
enchained the Angel of Death, cast him beneath his feet, and
blessed Israel in spite of their enemy, saying, "Save Thy people,
and bless Thine inheritance: feed them also, and bear them up for
ever." [911]

Moses was not the first to bestow blessings, as former generations
had also done so, but no blessing was as effective as his. Noah
blessed his sons, but it was a divided blessing, being intended for
Shem, whereas Ham, instead of being blessed, was cursed. Isaac
blessed his sons, but his blessings led to a dispute, for Esau envied
Jacob his blessings. Jacob blessed his sons, but even his blessing
was not without a blemish, for in blessing he rebuked Reuben and
called him to account for the sins he had committed. Even the
number of Moses' blessings excelled that of his predecessors. For
when God created the world, He blessed Adam and Eve, and this
blessing remained upon the world until the flood, when it ceased.
When Noah left the ark, God appeared before him and bestowed
upon him anew the blessing that had vanished during the flood,
and this blessing rested upon the world until Abraham came into
the world and received a second blessing from God, who said,
"And I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless them that
bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee." God then said to
Abraham: "Henceforth it no longer behooves Me to bless My
creatures in person, but I shall leave the blessings to thee: he
whom thou blessest, shall be blessed by Me." Abraham did not,
however, bless his own son Isaac, in order that the villain Esau
might not have a share in that blessing. Jacob, however, received
not only two blessings from his father, but one other besides from
the angel with whom he wrestled, and one from God; and the
blessing also that had been Abraham's to bestow upon his house
went to Jacob. When Jacob blessed his sons, he passed on to them
the five blessings he had received, and added one other. Balaam
should really have blessed Israel with seven benedictions,
corresponding to the seven altars he had erected, but he envied
Israel greatly, and blessed them with only three blessings. God
thereupon said: "Thou villain that begrudgest Israel their blessings!
I shall not permit thee to bestow upon Israel all the blessing that
are their due. Moses, who had 'a benevolent eye,' shall bless
Israel." And so, too, it came to pass. Moses added a seventh
blessing to the six benedictions with which Jacob had blessed his
twelve sons. This was not, however, the first time that Moses
blessed the people. He blessed them at the erection of the
Tabernacle, then at its consecration, a third time at the installation
of the judges, and a fourth time on the day of his death. [912]

Before bestowing his blessing upon Israel, however, Moses
intoned a song in God's praise, for it is fitting to glorify God's
name before asking a favor of Him, and as Moses was about to ask
God to bless Israel, he first proclaimed His grandeur and His
majesty. [913]

He said: "When God first revealed Himself to Israel to bestow the
Torah upon them, He appeared to them not from one direction, but
from all four at once. He 'came from Sinai,' which is in the South,
'and rose from Seir unto them,' that is in the East; 'He shined forth
from mount Paran,' that is in the North, 'and he came from the ten
thousands of holy' angels that dwell in the West. [914] He
proclaimed the Torah not only in the language of Sinai, that is
Hebrew, but also in the tongue of Seir, that is Roman, as well as in
Paran's speech, that is Arabic, and in the speech of Kadesh, that is
Aramaic, for He offered the Torah not to Israel alone, but to all the
nations of the earth. These, however, did not want to accept it,
hence His wrath against them, and His especial love for Israel
who, despite their awed fear and trembling upon God's appearance
on Sinai, still accepted the Torah. [915] Lord of the World!"
continued Moses, "When Israel shall have been driven out of their
land, be mindful still of the merits of their Patriarchs and stand by
them, deliver them in Thy mercy from 'the yoke of the nations,'
and from death, and guide them in the future world as Thou didst
lead them in the desert." [916]

At these words Israel exclaimed, "The Torah that Moses brought to
us at the risk of his life is our bride, and no other nation may lay
claim to it. [917] Moses was our king when the seventy elders
assembled, and in the future the Messiah will be our king,
surrounded by seven shepherds, and he will gather together once
more the scattered tribes of Israel." [918] Then Moses said: "God
first appeared in Egypt to deliver His people, then at Sinai to give
them the Torah, and He will appear a third time to take vengeance
at Edom, and will finally appear to destroy Gog." [919]

After Moses had praised and glorified God, he began to implore
His blessing for the tribes. His first prayer to God concerned
Reuben, for whom he implored forgiveness for his sin with Bilhah.
He said: "May Reuben come to life again in the future world for
his good deed in saving Joseph, and may he not remain forever
dead on account of his sin with Bilhah. May Reuben's descendants
also be heroes in war, and heroes in their knowledge of the Torah."
God granted this prayer and forgave Reuben's sin in accordance
with the wish of the other tribes, who begged God to grant
forgiveness to their eldest brother. [920] Moses at once perceived
that God had granted his prayer, for all the twelve stones in the
high priest's breastplate began to gleam forth, whereas formerly
Reuben's stone had given forth no light. [921]
When Moses saw that God had forgiven Reuben's sin, he at once
set about trying to obtain God's pardon for Judah, saying, "Was it
not Judah that through his penitent confession of his sin with his
daughter-in-law Tamar induced Reuben, too, to seek atonement
and repentance!" The sin for which Moses asked God to forgive
Judah was that he had never redeemed his promise to bring
Benjamin back to his father. Owing to this sin, his corpse fell to
pieces, so that its bones rolled about in their coffin during the forty
years' march in the desert. But as soon as Moses prayed to God,
saying, "Hear, Lord, the voice of Judah," the bones joined together
once more, but his sin was not quite forgiven, for he was not yet
admitted to the heavenly academy. Therefore Moses continued to
pray: "Bring him in unto his people," and he was admitted. It did
not, indeed, benefit him, for in punishment of his sin, God brought
it to pass that he could not follow the discussion of the scholars in
heaven, much less take part in them, whereupon Moses prayed:
"Let his hands be sufficient for him," and them he no longer sat as
one dumb in the heavenly academy. But still his sin was not quite
forgiven, for Judah could not succeed in being victorious in the
disputes of the learned, hence Moses prayed, "And Thou shalt be
an help against his adversaries." It was only then that Judah's sin
was quite forgiven, and that he succeeded in disputes with his
antagonists in the heavenly academy. [922]

As Moses prayed for Judah, so too did he pray for his seed, and
especially for David and the royal dynasty of David. He said:
"When David, king of Israel, shall be in need, and shall pray to
Thee, then, 'Hear, Lord, his voice, and Thou shalt be an help
against his adversaries,' 'bring him' then back 'to his people' in
peace; and when alone he shall set out into battle against Goliath,
'let his hands be sufficient for him, and Thou shalt be an help
against his adversaries.'" Moses at the same time prayed God to
stand by the tribe of Judah, whose chief weapon in war was the
bow, that their 'hands might be sufficient,' that they might
vigorously and with good aim speed the arrow.

As Moses had never forgiven Simeon their sin with the daughters
of Moab, he bestowed upon them no blessing, but this tribe also
was not quite forgotten, for he included this tribe in his blessing
for Judah, praying to God, that He might hear Judah's voice
whenever he should pray for the tribe of Simeon when they should
be in distress, and that furthermore He should give them their
possession in the Holy Land beside Judah's. [923]

Simeon and Levi "drank out of the same cup," for both together in
their wrath slew the inhabitants of Shechem, but whereas Levi
made amends for his sin, Simeon added another new one. It was
the Levites who, in their zeal for God, slew those that worshipped
the Golden Calf; it was a Levite, Phinehas, moreover, who in his
zeal for God slew the wicked prince of the tribe of Simeon, and his
mistress. Hence Moses praised and blessed the tribe of Levi,
whereas he did not even consider Simeon with a word.

His words first referred to Aaron, prince of the tribe of Levi. He
said: "Well may Thy Urim and Tummim belong to Aaron, who
ministered services of love to Thy children, who stood every test
that Thou didst put upon him, and who at the 'waters of rebellion'
became the victim of a wrong accusation." God had then decreed
against Aaron that he was to die in the desert, although not he, but
Moses had trespassed against Him, saying to Israel, "Hear now, ye
rebels." As Aaron, prince of the tribe of Levi, when Israel was still
in Egypt, declaimed passionately against the people because they
worshipped idols, so too all the tribe of Levi stood up by God's
standard when Israel worshipped the Golden Calf in the desert, and
slew the idolaters, even if they were their half-brothers or their
daughters sons. The Levites also were the only ones who, in Egypt
as in the desert, remained true to God and His teachings, did not
abandon the token of the covenant, and were not tempted to
rebellion by the spies. "Hence," continued Moses, "shall the
Levites be the only ones from whose mouth shall issue judgement
and instruction for Israel. 'Thy shall put incense' in the Holy of
Holies, 'and whole burnt offerings upon His altar.' Their sacrifices
shall reconcile Israel with God, and they themselves shall be
blessed with earthly goods. Thou, Lord, 'smitest through the loins
of them that rise up against them' that dispute the priestly rights of
this tribe, Thou didst destroy Korah, and they 'that hated them' like
king Uzziah, 'shall not rise again.' [924] 'Bless, Lord, the substance
of the Levites who give from the tithes that they receive one-tenth
to the priests. Mayest Thou accept sacrifice from the hands of the
priest Elijah upon mount Carmel, 'smite the loins' of his enemy
Ahab, break the neck of the latter's false prophets, and may the
enemies of the high priest Johanan rise not again." [925]

"Benjamin," said Moses, "is the beloved of the Lord, whom he will
always shield, and in whose possession the sanctuary shall stand,
in this world as well as in the time of the Messiah, and in the
future world." [926]

Moses blessed Joseph's tribe with the blessing that their possession
might be the most fruitful and blessed land on earth; dew shall
ever be there, and many wells spring up. It shall constantly be
exposed to the gentle influences of sun and moon, that the fruits
may ripen early. "I wish him," said Moses, "that the blessings
given him by the Patriarchs and the wives of the Patriarchs may be
fulfilled." And so, too, it came to pass, for the land of the tribe of
Joseph possessed everything, and nothing within it was lacking.
This was the reward to Joseph for having fulfilled the will of God
that was revealed to Moses in the bush of thorns; and also because
as king of Egypt he treated his brothers with high honors although
they had thrust him from their midst. Moses furthermore blessed
Joseph by promising him that, as he had been the first of Jacob's
sons to come to Egypt, he was also to be the first in the future
world to appear in the Holy Land. Moses proclaimed the heroism
of Joseph's seed in the words: "As it is a vain thing to try to force
the firstling bullock to labor, so little shall Joseph's sons be yoked
into service by the empires; as the unicorn with his horns pushes
away all other animals, so, too, shall Joseph's sons rule the nations,
even to the ends of the earth. The Ephraimite Joshua shall destroy
myriads of heathens, and the Manassite Gideon thousands of
them." [927]

Zebulun was the tribe that before all the other tribes devoted itself
to commerce, and in this way acted as the agent between Israel and
the other nations, selling the products of Palestine to the latter, and
foreign wares to the former. Hence the blessing that Moses
bestowed upon them. "'Rejoice, Zebulun, in thy going out' on
commercial enterprises; at thy instance shall many nations pray
upon the sacred mountain of the Temple and offer their sacrifices."
For the people that came into Zebulun's realms on matters of
business used to go from thence to Jerusalem to look upon the
sanctuary of the Jews, and many of them were converted through
the grand impression that the life in the holy city made upon them.
Moses furthermore blessed this tribe by giving them an estate by
the sea, which might yield them costly fish and the purple shell,
and the sand of whose shores might furnish them the material for
glass. The other tribes were therefore dependent upon Zebulun for
these articles, which they could not obtain from any one else, for
whosoever attempted to rob Zebulun of them, was doomed to bad
luck in business. It is the "Sea of Chaifa" also, within Zebulun's
territory, where all the treasures of the ocean were brought to
shore; for whenever a ship is wrecked at sea, the ocean sends it
and its treasures to the sea of Chaifa, where it is hoarded for the
pious until the Judgement Day. [928] One other blessing of
Zebulun was that it would always be victorious in battle, whereas
the tribe of Issachar, closely bound up with it, was blessed by its
distinction in the "tents of learning." For Issachar was "the tribe of
scholars and of judges," wherefore Moses blessed them, saying
that in "the future time," Israel's great house of instruction as well
as the great Sanhedrin would be located in this tribe. [929]

The tribe of Gad, dwelling on the boundary of the land of Israel,
received the benediction that in "the future time" it would be as
strong in battle as it had been at the first conquest of Palestine, and
would hereafter stand at the head of Israel on their return to the
Holy Land, as it had done on their first entrance into the land.
Moses praised this tribe for choosing its site on this side the Jordan
because that place had been chosen to hold Moses' tomb. Moses
indeed died on mount Nebo, which is Reuben's possession, but his
body was taken from Nebo by the pinions of the Shekinah, and
brought to Gad's territory, a distance of four miles, amid the
lamentations of the angels, who said, "He shall enter into peace
and rest in his bed." [930]

Dan, who like Gad had his territory on the boundary of the land,
was also blessed with strength and might, that he might ward off
the attacks of Israel's enemies. He was also blessed in receiving his
territory in the Holy Land in two different sections of it. [931]

Naphtali's blessing read: "O Naphtali, satisfied with favor, and full
with the blessing of the Lord: possess thou the west and the south."
This blessing was verified, for the tribe of Naphtali had in its
possession an abundance of fish and mushrooms, so that they
could maintain themselves without much labor; and the valley of
Gennesaret furthermore was their possession, whose fruits were
renowned for their extraordinary sweetness. But Naphtali was
blessed not with material blessings only, but also with spiritual; for
it was the great house of instruction at Tiberias to which Moses
alluded when he said of Naphtali, "he is 'full with the blessings of
the Lord.'" [932]

Moses called Asher the favorite of his brethren, for it was this tribe
that in the years of release provided nourishment for all Israel, as
its soil was so productive that what grew of its own accord
sufficed to sustain all. But Moses blessed Asher in particular with
a land rich in olives, so that oil flowed in streams through Asher's
land. Hence Moses blessed him the words: "The treasures of all
lands shall flow to thee, for the nations shall give thee gold and
silver for thine oil." He blessed Asher moreover with many sons,
[933] and with daughters that preserved the charms of youth in
their old age. [934]

As Moses uttered eleven benedictions, so likewise did he compose
eleven psalms, corresponding to the eleven tribes blessed by him.
[935] These psalms of Moses were later received into David's
Psalter, where the psalms of Adam, Melchizedek, Abraham,
Solomon, Asaph, and the three sons of Korah also found their
place. [936] Moses' first psalms says, "'Thou turnest man to
destruction; and sayest, Return, ye children of men,' and forgivest
the forefather of the tribe of Reuben who sinned, but returned
again to God." Another one of Moses' psalms reads, "He that
dwelleth in the secret place of the most High shall abide under the
shadow of the Almighty," which corresponds to the tribe of Levi
that dwelled in the sanctuary, the shadow of the Almighty. To the
tribe of Judah, whose name signifies, "Praise the Lord," belongs
the psalm, "It is a good thing to give thanks unto the Lord." The
psalm: "The Lord is apparelled with majesty," is Benjamin's, for
the sanctuary stood in his possession, hence this psalm closes with
the words, "Holiness becometh Thine house, O Lord,
forevermore." The psalm: "O Lord, Thou God to whom vengeance
belongeth; Thou God to whom vengeance belongeth, shine forth,"
was composed by Moses for the tribe of Gad; for Elijah, a member
of this tribe, was to destroy the foundations of the heathens, and to
wreak upon them the vengeance of the Lord. To the tribe of
learned men, Issachar, goes the psalm: "O come, let us sing unto
the Lord: let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation,"
for it is this tribe that occupy themselves with the Torah, the book
of praise. [937]


Moses still had many other blessings for every single tribe, but
when he perceived that his time had drawn to a close, he included
them all in one blessing, saying, [938] "Happy art thou, O Israel:
Who is like unto thee, a people saved by the Lord, the shield of thy
help, and that is the sword of thy excellency!" With these words he
at the same time answered a question that Israel had put to him,
saying, "O tell us, our teacher Moses, what is the blessing that God
will bestow upon us in the future world?" He replied: "I cannot
describe it to you, but all I can say is, happy ye that such is decreed
for ye!" Moses at the same time begged God that in the future
world He might restore to Israel the heavenly weapon that He had
taken from them after the worship of the Golden Calf. God said, "I
swear that I shall restore it to them." [939]

When Moses had finished his blessing, he asked Israel to forgive
his sternness toward them, saying: "Ye have had much to bear
from me in regard to the fulfillment of the Torah and its
commandments, but forgive me now." They replied: "Our teacher,
our lord, it is forgiven." It was not their turn to ask his forgiveness,
which they did in these words: "We have often kindled thine anger
and have laid many burdens upon thee, but forgive us now." He
said, "It is forgiven."

In the meanwhile people came to him and said, "The hour has
come in which thou departest from the world." Moses said,
"Blessed be His name that liveth and endureth in all eternity!"
Turning to Israel, he then said, "I pray ye, when ye shall have
entered into the land of Israel, remember me still, and my bones,
and say, 'Woe to the son of Amram that ran before us like a horse,
but whose bones remained in the desert.'" Israel said to Moses: "O
our teacher, what will become of us when thou art gone?" He
replied: "While I was with ye, God was with ye; yet think not that
all the signs and miracles that He wrought through me were
performed for my sake, for much rather were they done for your
sake, and for His love and mercy, and if ye have faith in Him, He
will work your desires. [940] 'Put not your trust in princes, nor in
the son of man, in whom there is no help,' for how could ye expect
help from a man, a creature of flesh and blood, that cannot shield
himself from death? Put, therefore, your trust in Him through
whose word arose the world, for He liveth and endureth in all
eternity. Whether ye be laden with sin, or not, 'pour your heart
before Him,' and turn to Him." Israel said: "'The Lord, He is God;
the Lord, He is God.' God is our strength and our refuge." [941]

Then a voice sounded from heaven and said, "Why, Moses, dost
thou strive in vain? Thou had but one-half hour more of life in the
world." Moses, to whom God had now shown the reward of the
pious in the future world, and the gates of salvation and of
consolation that He would hereafter open to Israel, now said:
"Happy art thou, O Israel: who is like unto thee, a people saved by
the Lord!" He then bade farewell to the people, weeping aloud. He
said: "Dwell in peace, I shall see ye again at the Resurrection," and
so he went forth from them, weeping aloud. Israel, too, broke into
loud lamentations, so that their weeping ascended to the highest

Moses took off his outer garment, rent his shirt, strewed dust upon
his head, covered it like a mourner, and in this condition betook
himself to his tent amid tears and lamentations, saying: "Woe to
my feet that may not enter the land of Israel, woe to my hands that
may not pluck of its fruits! Woe to my palate that may not taste the
fruits of the land that flows with milk and honey!" [942]

Moses then took a scroll, wrote upon it the Ineffable Name, and
the book of the song, and betook himself to Joshua's tent to deliver
it to him. [943] When he arrived at Joshua's tent, Joshua was
seated, and Moses remained standing before him in a bowed
attitude without being noticed by Joshua. For God brought this to
pass in order that Moses, on account of this disrespectful
treatment, might himself wish for death. For when Moses had
prayed to God to let him live, were it only as a private citizen, God
granted his prayer, saying to him, "If thou hast no objection to
subordinating thyself to Joshua, then mayest thou live," and in
accordance with this agreement, Moses had betaken himself to
hear Joshua's discourse.

The people who had gathered as usual before Moses' tent to hear
from him the word of God, failed to find him there, and hearing
that he had gone to Joshua, went there likewise, where they found
Moses standing and Joshua seated. "What art thou thinking of,"
they called out to Joshua, "that thou art seated, while thy teacher
Moses stands before thee in a bowed attitude and with folded
hands?" In their anger and indignation against Joshua, they would
instantly have slain him, had not a cloud descended and interposed
itself between the people and Joshua. When Joshua noticed that
Moses stood before him, he instantly arose, and cried in tears: "O
my father and teacher Moses, that like a father didst rear me from
my youth, and that didst instruct me in wisdom, why dost thou do
such a thing as will bring upon me Divine punishment?" The
people now besought Moses as usual to instruct them in the Torah,
but he replied, "I have no permission to do so." They did not,
however, cease importuning him, until a voice sounded from
heaven and said, "Learn from Joshua." The people now consented
to acknowledge Joshua as their teacher, and seated themselves
before him to hear his discourse. Joshua now began his discourse
with Moses sitting at his right, and Aaron's sons, Eleazar and
Ithamar, at this left. But hardly had Joshua begun his lecture with
the words, "Praised be God that taketh delight in the pious and
their teachings," when the treasures of wisdom vanished from
Moses and passed over into Joshua's possession, so that Moses was
not even able to follow his disciple Joshua's discourse. When
Joshua had finished his lecture, Israel requested Moses to review
with them what Joshua had taught, but he said, "I know not how to
reply to your request!" He began to expound Joshua's lecture to
them, but could not, for he had not understood it. He now said to
God: "Lord of the world! Until not I wished for life, but now I long
to die. Rather a hundred deaths, than one jealousy." [944]


When God perceived that Moses was prepared to die, He said to
the angel Gabriel, "Go, fetch Me Moses' soul." But he replied,
"How should I presume to approach and take the soul of him that
outweighs sixty myriads of mortals!" God then commissioned the
angel Michael to fetch Moses' soul, but he amid tears refused on
the same grounds as Gabriel. God then said to the angel Zagzagel,
"Fetch Me Moses' soul!" He replied, "Lord of the world! I was his
teacher and he my disciple, how then should I take his soul!" [945]
Then Samael appeared before God and said: "Lord of the world! Is
Moses, Israel's teacher, indeed greater than Adam whom thou didst
create in Thine image and Thy likeness? Is Moses greater,
perchance, than Thy friend Abraham, who to glorify Thy name
cast himself into the fiery furnace? Is Moses greater, perchance,
than Isaac, who permitted himself to be bound upon the altar as a
sacrifice to Thee? Or is he greater than Thy firstborn Jacob, or
than his twelve sons, Thy saplings? Not one of them escaped me,
give me therefore permission to fetch Moses' soul." God replied:
"Not one of all these equals him. How, too, wouldst thou take his
soul? From his face? How couldst thou approach his face that had
looked upon My Face! From his hands? Those hands received the
Torah, how then shouldst thou be able to approach them! From his
feet? His feet touched My clouds, how then shouldst thou be able
to approach them! Nay, thou canst not approach him at all." But
Samael said, "However it be, I pray Thee, permit me to fetch his
soul! " God said, "Thou had My consent." [946]

Samael now went forth from God in great glee, took his sword,
girded himself with cruelty, wrapped himself in wrath, and in a
great rage betook himself to Moses. When Samael perceived
Moses, he was occupied in writing the Ineffable Name. Dart of fire
shot from his mouth, the radiance of his face and of his eyes shone
like the sun, so that he seemed like an angel of the hosts of the
Lord, and Samael in fear and trembling thought, "It was true when
the other angels declared that they could not seize Moses' soul!"

Moses who had known that Samael would come, even before his
arrival, now lifted his eyes and looked upon Samael, whereupon
Samael's eyes grew dim before the radiance of Moses'
countenance. He fell upon his face, and was seized with the woes
of a woman giving birth, so that in his terror he could not open his
mouth. Moses therefore addressed him, saying: "Samael, Samael!
'There is no peace, saith my God, to the wicked!' Why dost thou
stand before me? Get thee hence at once, or I shall cut off thy
head." In fear and trembling Samael replied: "Why art thou angry
with me, my master, give me thy soul, for thy time to depart from
the world is at hand." Moses: "Who sent thee to me?" Samael: "He
that created the world and the souls." Moses: "I will not give thee
my soul." Samael: "All souls since the creation of the world were
delivered into my hands." Moses: "I am greater than all others that
came into the world, I have had a greater communion with the
spirit of God than thee and thou together." Samael: "Wherein lies
thy preeminence?" Moses: "Dost thou not know that I am the son
of Amram, that came circumcised out of my mother's womb, that
at the age of three days not only walked, but even talked with my
parents, that took no milk from my mother until she received her
pay from Pharaoh's daughter? When I was three months old, my
wisdom was so great that I made prophecies and said, 'I shall
hereafter from God's right hand receive the Torah.' At the age of
six months I entered Pharaoh's palace and took off the crown from
his head. When I was eighty years old, I brought the ten plagues
upon Pharaoh and the Egyptians, slew their guardian angel, and led
the sixty myriads of Israel out of Egypt. I then clove the sea into
twelve parts, led Israel through the midst of them, and drowned the
Egyptians in the same, and it was not thou that took their souls, but
I. It was I, too, that turned the bitter water into sweet, that mounted
into heaven, and there spoke face to face with God! I hewed out
two tables of stone, upon which God at my request wrote the
Torah. One hundred and twenty days and as many nights did I
dwell in heaven, where I dwelled under the Throne of Glory; like
an angel during all this time I ate no bread and drank no water. I
conquered the inhabitants of heaven, made known there secrets to
mankind, received the Torah from God's right hand, and at His
command wrote six hundred and thirteen commandments, which I
then taught to Israel. I furthermore waged war against the heroes of
Sihon and Og, that had been created before the flood and were so
tall that the waters of the flood did not even reach their ankles. In
battle with them I bade sun and moon to stand still, and with my
staff slew the two heroes. Where, perchance, is there in the world a
mortal who could do all this? How darest thou, wicked one,
presume to wish to seize my pure soul that was given me in
holiness and purity by the Lord of holiness and purity? Thou hast
no power to sit where I sit, or to stand where I stand. Get thee
hence, I will not give thee my soul."

Samael now in terror returned to God and reported Moses' words
to Him. God's wrath against Samael was now kindled, and He said
to him: "Go, fetch Me Moses soul, for if thou dost not do so, I shall
discharge thee from thine office of taking men's souls, and shall
invest another with it." Samael implored God, saying: "O Lord of
the world, whose deed are terrible, bid me go to Gehenna and there
turn uppermost to undermost, and undermost to uppermost, and I
shall at once do so without a moment's hesitation, but I cannot
appear before Moses." God: "Why not, pray?" Samael: "I cannot do
it because he is like the princes in thy great chariot.
Lightning-flashes and fiery darts issue from his mouth when he
speaks with me, just as it is with the Seraphim when they laud,
praise and glorify Thee. I pray Thee, therefore, send me not to him,
for I cannot appear before him." But God in wrath said to Samael:
"Go, fetch Me Moses' soul," and while he set about to execute
God's command, the Lord furthermore said: "Wicked one! Out of
the fire of Hell was thou created, and to the fire of Hell shalt thou
eventually return. First in great joy didst thou set out to kill Moses,
but when thou didst perceive his grandeur and his greatness, thou
didst say, 'I cannot undertake anything against him.' It is clear and
manifest before Me that thou wilt now return from him a second
time in shame and humiliation."

Samael now drew his sword out of its sheath and in a towering
fury betook himself to Moses, saying, "Either I shall kill him or he
shall kill me." When Moses perceived him he arose in anger, and
with his staff in his hand, upon which was engraved the Ineffable
Name, set about to drive Samael away. Samael fled in fear, but
Moses pursued him, and when he reached him, he struck him with
his staff, blinded him with the radiance of his face, and then let
him run on, covered with shame and confusion. He was not far
from killing him, but a voice resounded from heaven and said, "Let
him live, Moses, for the world is in need of him," so Moses had to
content himself with Samael's chastisement. [947]


In the meanwhile Moses' time was at an end. A voice from heaven
resounded, saying: "Why, Moses, dost thou strive in vain? Thy last
second is at hand." Moses instantly stood up for prayer, and said:
"Lord of the world! Be mindful of the day on which Thou didst
reveal Thyself to me in the bush of thorns, and be mindful also of
the day when I ascended into heaven and during forty days partook
of neither food nor drink. Thou, Gracious and Merciful, deliver me
not into the hand of Samael." God replied: "I have heard thy
prayer. I Myself shall attend to thee and bury thee." Moses now
sanctified himself as do the Seraphim that surround the Divine
Majesty, whereupon God from the highest heavens revealed
Himself to receive Moses' soul. When Moses beheld the Holy One,
blessed he His Name, he fell upon his face and said: "Lord of the
world! In love didst Thou create the world, and in love Thou
guidest it. Treat me also with love, and deliver me not into the
hands of the Angel of Death." A heavenly voice sounded and said:
"Moses, be not afraid. 'Thy righteousness shall go before thee; the
glory of the Lord shall be thy reward.'"

With God descended from heaven three angels, Michael, Gabriel,
and Zagzagel. Gabriel arranged Moses' couch, Michael spread
upon it a purple garment, and Zagzagel laid down a woolen pillow.
God stationed Himself over Moses' head, Michael to his right,
Gabriel to his left, and Zagzagel at his feet, whereupon God
addressed Moses: "Cross thy feet," and Moses did so. He then said,
"Fold thy hands and lay them upon thy breast," and Moses did so.
Then God said, "Close thine eyes," and Moses did so. Then God
spake to Moses' soul: "My daughter, one hundred and twenty years
had I decreed that thou shouldst dwell in this righteous man's body,
but hesitate not now to leave it, for thy time is run." The soul
replied: "I know that Thou art the God of spirits and of souls, and
that in Thy hand are the souls of the living and of the dead. Thou
didst create me and put me into the body of this righteous man. Is
there anywhere in the world a body so pure and holy as this it?
Never a fly rested upon it, never did leprosy show itself upon it.
Therefore do I love it, and do not wish to leave it." God replied:
"Hesitate not, my daughter! Thine end hath come. I Myself shall
take thee to the highest heavens and let thee dwell under the
Throne of My Glory, like the Seraphim, Ofannim, Cherubim, and
other angels." But the soul replied: "Lord of the world! I desire to
remain with this righteous man; for whereas the two angels Azza
and Azazel when they descended from heaven to earth, corrupted
their way of life and loved the daughters of the earth, so that in
punishment Thou didst suspend them between heaven and earth,
the son of Amram, a creature of flesh and blood, from the day
upon which Thou didst reveal Thyself from the bush of thorns, has
lived apart from his wife. Let me therefore remain where I am."
[948] When Moses saw that his soul refused to leave him, he said
to her: "Is this because the Angel of Death wished to show his
power over thee?" The soul replied: "Nay, God doth not wish to
deliver me into the hands of death." Moses: "Wilt thou, perchance,
weep when the others will weep at my departure?" The soul: "The
Lord 'hath delivered mine eyes from tears.'" Moses: "Wilt thou,
perchance, go into Hell when I am dead?" The soul: "I will walk
before the Lord in the land of the living." When Moses heard these
words, he permitted his soul to leave him, saying to her: "Return
unto thy rest, O my soul; for the Lord hath dealt bountifully with
thee." [949] God thereupon took Moses' soul by kissing him upon
the mouth. [950]

Moses activity did not, however, cease with his death, for in
heaven he is one of the servants of the Lord. [951] God buried
Moses' body in a spot that remained unknown even to Moses
himself. Only this is know concerning it, that a subterranean
passage connects it with the graves of the Patriarchs. [952]
Although Moses' body lies dead in its grave, it is still as fresh as
when he was alive. [953]


When Moses died, a voice resounded from heaven throughout all
the camp of Israel, which measured twelve miles in length by
twelve in width, and said, "Woe! Moses is dead. Woe! Moses is
dead." All Israel who, throughout thirty days before Moses'
decease, had wept his impending death now arranged a three
months' time of mourning for him. [954] But Israel were not the
only mourners for Moses, God himself wept for Moses, saying,
"Who will rise up for Me against the evil-doers? Who will stand up
for Me against the workers of iniquity?" Metatron appeared before
God and said: "Moses was thine when he lived, and he is Thine in
his death." God replied: "I weep not for Moses' sake, but for the
loss Israel suffered through his death. How often had they angered
Me, but he prayed for them and appeased My wrath." The angels
wept with God, saying, "But where shall wisdom be found?" The
heavens lamented: "The godly man is perished out of the earth."
The earth wept: "And there is none upright among men." Stars,
planets, sun, and moon wailed: "The righteous perisheth, and no
man layeth it to heart," and God praised Moses' excellence in the
words: "Thou hast said of Me, 'The Lord He is God: there is none
else,' and therefore shall I say of thee, 'And there arose not a
prophet in Israel like unto Moses.'" [955]

Among mortals, it was particularly Jochebed, Moses' mother, and
Joshua, his disciple, that deeply mourned Moses' death. They were
not indeed certain if Moses were dead, hence they sought him
everywhere. Jochebed went first to Egypt and said to that land,
"Mizraim, Mizraim, hast thou perchance seen Moses?" But
Mizraim replied, "As truly as thou livest, Jochebed, I have not seen
him since the day when he slew all the firstborn here." Jochebed
then betook herself to the Nile, saying, "Nile, Nile, hast thou
perchance seen Moses?" But Nile replied, "As truly as thou livest,
Jochebed, I have not seen Moses since the day when he turned my
water to blood." Then Jochebed went to the sea and said, "Sea, sea,
hast thou perchance seen Moses?" The sea replied, "As truly as
thou livest, Jochebed, I have not seen him since the day when he
led the twelve tribes through me." Jochebed thereupon went to the
desert and said, "Desert, desert, hast thou perchance seen Moses?"
The desert replied, "As truly as thou livest, Jochebed, I have not
seen him since the day whereupon he caused manna to rain down
upon me." Then Jochebed went to Sinai, and said, "Sinai, Sinai,
hast thou perchance seen Moses?" Sinai said, "As truly as thou
livest, Jochebed, I have not seen him since the day whereon he
descended from me with the two tables of the law." Jochebed
finally went to the rock and said, "Rock, rock, hast thou perchance
seen Moses?" The rock replied, "As truly as thou livest, I have not
seen him since the day when with his staff he twice smote me."

Joshua, too, sought his teacher Moses in vain, and in his grief for
Moses' disappearance he rent his garments, and crying aloud,
called ceaselessly, "'My father, my father, the chariot of Israel and
the horsemen thereof.' 'But where shall wisdom be found?'" But
God said to Joshua: "How long wilt thou continue to seek Moses in
vain? He is dead, but indeed it is I that have lost him, and not
thou." [957]


Samael, the Angel of Death, had not heard that God had taken
Moses' soul from his body and received it under the Throne of
Glory. Believing that Moses was still among the living, he betook
himself to Moses' house in order to seize his soul, for he feared to
return before God without having executed His command to take
Moses' soul. He did not, however, find Moses in his accustomed
place, so he hastened into the land of Israel, thinking, "Long did
Moses pray to be permitted to enter this land, and perhaps he is
there." He said to the land of Israel, "Is Moses perchance with
thee?" But the land replied, "Nay, he is not found in the land of the

Samael then thought: "I know that God once said to Moses, 'Lift up
thy rod and divide the sea,' so perhaps he is by the sea." He
hastened to the sea and said, "Is Moses here?" The sea replied: "He
is not here, and I have not seen him since the day when he clove
me into twelve parts, and with the twelve tribes passed through

Samael then betook himself to Gehenna asking, "Hast thou seen
Moses, the son of Amram?" Gehenna replied, "With mine ears
have I heard the cry, but I have not seen him."

He betook himself to Sheol, Abaddon, and Tit-ha-Yawen, to whom
he said, "Have ye seen the son of Amram?" They replied: "Through
Pharaoh, king of Egypt, have we heard his call, but we have not
seen him."

He betook himself to the Abyss and asked, "Hast thou seen the son
of Amram?" The answer arose, "I have not seen him, but heard
indeed his call."

He asked Korah's sons, that dwell with the Abyss, "Have ye seen
the son of Amram?" They replied. "We have not seen him since
the day upon which at Moses' bidding the earth opened its mouth
and swallowed us."

He betook himself to the clouds of glory and asked, "Is Moses
perchance with you?" They answered, "He is his from the eyes of
all living."

He went to the heavens and asked, "Have ye seen the son of
Amram?" The answer was, "We have not seen him since at God
command he mounted to us to receive the Torah."

He hastened to Paradise, but when the angels that guard its gates
beheld Samael, they drove him away and said, "Wicked one!
Wicked one! 'This is the gate of the Lord; the righteous shall enter
into it.'" Samael thereupon flew over the gates of Paradise and
asked Paradise, "Hast thou perchance seen Moses?" Paradise
answered, "Since in Gabriel's company he visited me to look upon
the reward of the pious, I have not seen him."

He went to the tree of life, but even at the distance of three
hundred parasangs, it cried out to him: "Approach me not." He
therefore asked from afar, "Hast thou seen the son of Amram?"
The tree replied, "Since the day on which he came to me to cut
him a staff, I have not seen him."

He betook himself to the tree of the knowledge of good and evil,
and said, "Hast thou seen the son of Amram?" The tree replied,
"Since the day on which he came to me to get a writing reed,
wherewith to write the Torah, I have not seen him."

He betook himself to the mountains with his query. These replied,
"Since he hewed the two tables out of us, we have not seen him."

He went to the deserts and asked, "Have ye seen the son of
Amram?" These replied, "Since he has ceased to lead Israel to
pasture upon us, we have not seen him."

He betook himself to mount Sinai, for he thought God had
formerly commanded Moses to ascend it, and that he might now
be there. He asked Sinai, "Hast thou seen the son of Amram?"
Sinai said, "Since the day on which out of God's right hand he
received the Torah upon me, I have not seen him."

He betook himself to the birds and said, "Have ye seen Moses?"
They replied, "Since the say whereupon he separated the birds into
clean and unclean we have not seen him."
He went to the quadrupeds and asked: "Have ye seen Moses?"
They answered: "Since the day on which he determined which
beasts might be eaten, and which might not, we have not seen
him." [958] The answer of the birds and beasts referred to the day
on which God assembled all the species of animals, led them
before Moses, and instructed him which of these were clean and
which were not, which might, and which might not be eaten. [959]

Samael then betook himself to the "Court of the Dead," where the
angel Dumah guards the souls of the deceased, and asked the
angel, "Hast thou seen the son of Amram?" He replied: "I heard the
words of lamentation for him in heaven, but I have not seen him."

He betook himself to the angels and asked, "Have ye seen the son
of Amram?" These made the same reply as Dumah, and advised
him to go to the mortals, who might possibly give him information
concerning Moses' whereabouts.

He betook himself to the mortals and asked, "Where is Moses?"
These replied: "Our teacher Moses is not like human beings. He is
the peer of the angels of ministry, for he ascended into heaven and
dwelt in heaven like the angels, 'he hath gathered the wind in his
fists' like an angel, and God took his soul to Himself in the place of
His sanctity. What connection then hast thou with the son of
Amram?" [960]


The special distinction that God granted to Moses at his death was
well merited, for Moses outweighed all other pious men. [961]
When Moses died, Adam appeared and said, "I am greater than
thou, for I was created in God's image." But Moses replied: "I am
nevertheless superior to thee, for the glory that thou didst receive
from God was taken from thee, whereas I retained the radiance of
my face forever."

Noah then said to Moses: "I am greater than thou, for I was
preserved out of the generation of the flood." Moses replied: "I am
superior to thee, for thou didst save thyself alone, and hadst not the
power to save thy generations, but I saved myself and also saved
my generation at the time when they transgressed with the Golden

Abraham said to Moses, "I am greater than thou, for I fed the
wanderers." Moses: "I am superior to thee, for thou didst feed the
uncircumcised whereas I fed the circumcised; and thou, moreover,
didst feed them in a land of habitations, whereas I fed Israel in the

Isaac said to Moses: "I am greater than thou, for I bared my neck
upon the altar and beheld the Face of the Shekinah." Moses
replied: "Still am I superior to thee, for thou didst indeed behold
the Face of the Shekihah, but thine eyes grew dim, whereas I
talked with the Shekinah face to face, and yet neither did mine
eyes grow dim nor my strength wane."

Jacob said, "I am greater than thou, for I wrestled with the angel
and conquered him." Moses replied: "Thou didst wrestle with the
angel upon thy territory, but I mounted to the angels into their own
territory, and still they feared me." [962]

Joseph said to Moses, "I am greater than thou, for my master's wife
could not tempt me to sin." Moses replied: "Still am I superior to
thee, for thou didst restrain thyself from a strange woman, whereas
I abstained from intercourse with my own wife." [963]

The degreed of Moses' superiority over the other pious men can be
seen by following. Adam died because he has been seduced by the
serpent, whereas Moses fashioned a serpent out of brass at sight of
which everyone that had been bitten by a snake recovered. Noah
offered a sacrifice to God that was accepted, but he himself was
not admitted to God's presence. When Moses, on the other hand,
offered a sacrifice in Israel's name, God said to him, "Know that
twice daily I shall dwell with ye." Abraham had been the cause for
Israel's bondage in Egypt, for that was the punishment for his
words, "'Whereby shall I know that I shall inherit 'the land?"
Moses, on the other hand, it was that delivered Israel out of
Egyptian bondage. Jacob indeed conquered in his struggle with the
angel, but the blow that the angel dealt him put Jacob's thigh out of
joint forever, whereas Moses inspired the angels with such fear
that as soon as they beheld him in heaven, they fled.

But Moses not only surpassed all other human beings, he surpassed
also the entire creation that God had brought forth in six days. On
the first day God created light, but Moses mounted into heaven and
seized the spiritual light, the Torah. On the second day God
created the firmament, whereby He decreed that the earth was not
to enter the realm of the firmament, nor the firmament the realm
of the earth, but Moses scaled the firmament even though he
belonged to earth. On the third day God created the sea, but as
soon as the sea caught sight of Moses, it retreated before him
affrighted. On the fourth day God created the sun and the moon to
illuminate the earth, but Moses said to God: "I do not wish sun and
moon to give light to Israel, Thou Thyself shalt do so," and God
granted his prayer. On the fifth day God created the animals, but
Moses slaughtered whatever animals he wanted for Israel's needs.
When, therefore, God laid all the objects of creation on one side of
the scales, and Moses upon the other, Moses outweighed them.
[964] Moses was justly called, "the man of God," for he was half
man and half God. [965]

But not in this world alone was Moses the great leader and teacher
of his people, he shall be the same in the future world, in
accordance with the promise God made him shortly before his
death. God said: "Thou that didst lead My children in this world,
shalt also lead them in the future world. [966]


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