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." 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." 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 commandments."
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.
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.
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. 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.
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."
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."
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 garment.'"
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.'"
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."
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." 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."
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.
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.
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. 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. 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."
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. 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." 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."
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. 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. 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.
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.
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.' '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."
"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."
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."
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. 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.
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."
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.
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.'"
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, and with daughters that preserved the charms of youth in their old age.
As Moses uttered eleven benedictions, so likewise did he compose eleven psalms, corresponding to the eleven tribes blessed by him. 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. 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.
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, "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."
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. '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."
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 heavens.
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!"
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. 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."
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!" 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."
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.
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." 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." God thereupon took Moses' soul by kissing him upon the mouth.
Moses activity did not, however, cease with his death, for in heaven he is one of the servants of the Lord. 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. Although Moses' body lies dead in its grave, it is still as fresh as when he was alive.
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. 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.'"
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."
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 living."
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 me."
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." 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.
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?"
The special distinction that God granted to Moses at his death was well merited, for Moses outweighed all other pious men. 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 Calf."
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 desert."
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."
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."
The degree 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. Moses was justly called, "the man of God," for he was half man and half God.
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.
Legends of the Jews [Table of Contents]
Answering Islam Home Page