Chronicles of Jerahmeel, by M. Gaster , at sacred-texts.com
L. (1) The Lord said to Moses, 'Behold, the time draws near when thou shalt die.' R. Aybo related that Moses addressed God in the following manner, 'Through the very word with which I praised Thee in the law in the presence of sixty myriads of those who sanctify Thy name Thou hast sentenced me to death,' as it is said, 'Behold, thy days draw near for thee to die; all thy gifts and punishments are meted out measure for measure, each one meted out in full, how now evil for good.' And God replied, 'Even this word which I told thee is a mark of goodness, as, e.g., "Behold, I send before thee an angel. Behold, the righteous man will be rewarded in the land."
[paragraph continues] "Behold, I shall send to you Elijah, the prophet," and just as thou hast proclaimed Me before sixty myriads, so shall I, in the future, exalt thee in the midst of fifty-five myriads of perfectly righteous people.' Therefore He used the word 'behold' (###), the numerical value of ### is 50 and 5, viz., ### = 5, and ### = 50.
(2) Rabbi said that the death of Moses is referred to ten times, viz.: 'Behold, the time draws near for thee to die.' 'He died upon the mount.' 'For I am about to die.' 'Thou knowest that after my death.' 'After my death.' 'And before his death.' 'He was one hundred and twenty years old when he died.' 'And Moses, the servant of God, died there.' 'And it came to pass after the death of Moses, the servant of God.' 'Moses My servant is dead.' From all these instances we learn that it was ten times decreed that Moses was not to enter the land of Israel; but this harsh decree was, nevertheless, not sealed until the decision of the Great Tribunal was revealed to him. (3) For God said to him, 'A decree has been passed that thou shalt not pass (into the land of Israel), as it is said, Thou shalt not pass this Jordan.' This decree was, however, lightly felt by Moses, for he said, 'The Israelites have committed many grievous sins; and whenever I interceded for mercy on their behalf my prayer was accepted, as it is said, "Let me alone, that I may destroy them"; yet at the same place it is written, "And the Lord repented of the evil." At the same place it is further written: '"And the Lord said, I have pardoned according to thy word." I, Moses, therefore, who have not sinned from my youth, if I entreat God on my own behalf, how much more will God hear my words?' When God saw that the decree was lightly felt by Moses, and that he did not turn his mind to prayer, He immediately swore by His great name that he would not enter the land, as it is said, 'Therefore thou shalt not bring this congregation.' 'Therefore' means nothing else than an oath, as it is similarly said, 'Therefore, I sware to the house of Eli.' (4) As soon as Moses became aware that the judgment concerning him was finally decreed, he fasted, and drawing
a circle he stood within it and said, 'I shall not move from this place until that decree has been annulled.' Having then clothed himself in sackcloth and scattered ashes upon his head, he prayed and supplicated before God until heaven and earth and the very creation were moved, and said, 'Perhaps the will of God to renew the world is being accomplished.' A Divine voice then went forth, and said, 'It is not God's will to renew the world; in His hand is the soul of every Man, and the spirit of all flesh.' 'Man' is applied to Moses, as it is said, 'And the Man Moses was exceedingly meek.' (5) At that moment God made a proclamation at every gate, and in every firmament, and at every door of the Great Tribunal that they should not accept Moses’ prayer. They, therefore, did not allow his prayer to reach God as the decree had already been sealed. The angel appointed to carry out this decree was named Akhzariel. God forthwith cried out to his ministering angels, 'Hasten to go down and close all those gates of heaven so long as his prayer continues.' For his prayer strove to penetrate the heavens, for like unto a sword it rent and cut, and was not impeded. It drew its strength from the 'Ineffable Name,' which Moses learnt from Zagzagel, his teacher, who is the scribe of all the heavenly host. To this event refers the verse: 'Behind me I heard the sound of a great noise, saying: "Blessed be the Lord from His abode."' The voice was the cry of one supplicating, and the word 'great' can only be applied to Moses, as it is said, 'The man Moses was very great.'
(6) What is the true meaning of the expression, 'Blessed be the glory of the Lord from His abode '? The reply is that when the wheels of the chariot and the seraphim of fire perceived that God said, 'Ye shall not receive Moses’ prayer, nor show him favour, nor grant him life, nor allow him to enter the land of Israel,' they exclaimed, 'Blessed be the glory of the Lord from His abode, who is no respecter of persons either small or great.'
(7) At that time Moses said to God, 'O Lord of the universe, it is well known to Thee what cares and troubles
[paragraph continues] I have undergone for Israel until they became "The chosen ones" to observe Thy Law, and how much anxiety I have suffered for them until I established for them the Law and the Commandments. I said, "As I saw their evil, may I also look upon their good;" and now that they have reached that state Thou sagest to me, "Thou shalt not pass over this Jordan," behold Thou makest Thy law a falsity; for it is said, "Thou shalt give him his reward on the day due." Is this the payment for the forty years’ service during which I have toiled, until they (the Israelites) became holy and faithful?' as it is said, 'While Judah was yet rebelling against God, they became a holy and faithful people.'
(8) The angel Samael, the wicked, was the chief of the Satans. Every hour he used to dilate upon the coming death of Moses, saying, 'When will the moment arrive at which Moses is to die, so that I may go and take away his soul?' Concerning this David said, 'The wicked are always watching the righteous, seeking to take their life.' But of all the Satans Samael was the most wicked, while, on the contrary, there was no man so righteous among the prophets as Moses, as it is said, 'There has not yet arisen in Israel a prophet like Moses.' This may be compared to a man who is preparing for a wedding-feast, and who anxiously inquires, 'When will thy festivity begin, that I may participate in the joy?' Thus did the wicked Samael remain on the watch for the soul of Moses, and say, 'When will Michael commence to weep, and when shall I obtain the consummation of my joy?' Michael replied, 'I shall weep when (or while) thou rejoicest.' Some are of opinion that he said, 'Do not rejoice, mine enemy; although I fall, yet I rise again, for I fall at the death of Moses, but I shall rise again at the prosperity of Joshua, when he conquers thirty-one kings. I sit in darkness at the destruction of the first temple, but afterwards the Lord shall be my light, the light of the Messiah.' In the meantime one hour had passed.
(9) Moses then said to God, 'Lord of the universe, if
[paragraph continues] Thou wilt not permit me to enter the land of Israel, allow me to live in this world, and not die.' But the Lord replied, 'If I do not kill thee in this world, how can I bring thee to life in the world to come? And, further, thou wouldst by this falsify My law, for it is written in My law, "None shall deliver (him) from My hand."' Thus far God forbore. Moses added, 'Lord of the universe, if I am not allowed to enter the land of Israel, allow me to remain as one of the beasts of the field, which eat the grass and drink the water, but live and see the world. Let my soul be as one of them.' God replied, 'You ask too much.' Moses continued, 'If not, allow me to remain in this world as a bird that flieth every day to the four corners of the earth, and in the evening returns to its nest. Let me be as' one of them.' God still said, 'You ask too much.' O Lord of the universe, then place one of my eyes behind the door, and let them shut the door upon it three times in each year, that I may live and not die.' 'It is too much.' What dost thou mean, O Lord, when thou sayest, "It is too much"?' And God replied, 'Thou hast spoken too much.' (10) When, at length, Moses perceived that there was no creature that could deliver him from death, he immediately exclaimed, 'The Rock, whose work is perfect.' Then, taking a scroll, he wrote upon it the Ineffable Name, and recited his last 'Song' until the moment arrived for him to die. Then spake the Lord to Gabriel, 'Go thou and bring to Me the soul of Moses.' But he replied, 'How can I look upon the death of him who is worth sixty myriads of creatures? and how can I make him angry who uttereth such words as he?' Then spake God to Michael, 'Go and bring me the soul of Moses.' And he replied, 'Lord of the universe, how can I, who was his instructor, look upon the death of him who was my pupil?'
(11) At length God addressed Samael, the wicked, saying, 'Go thou and bring to idle the soul of Moses.' Then, clothing himself with anger, girding himself with his sword, and enveloping himself with eagerness, he set out to find Moses. When he saw Moses writing the Ineffable Name,
that his brilliancy was like that of the sun, and that he looked like an angel of the Lord of hosts, Samael was seized with a great fear for Moses, and said, 'The angels cannot of a surety take away the soul of Moses.' But before Samael appeared Moses knew that he was coming.
(12) When he (again) looked on Moses he was exceedingly terrified, and trembled as a woman in travail, so that he could find no courage to speak to Moses, until Moses himself said, 'Samael, "There is no peace for the wicked," saith the Lord. What dost thou here?' 'I have come here to take away thy life.' 'But who sent thee?' 'He who formed all creatures,' replied Samael. 'Thou shalt not take my life,' added Moses. 'But the souls of all living beings are entrusted to me.' 'And I am,' said Moses, 'the son of Amram, who was born circumcised. On the day of my birth I found speech; I walked on my feet, and spoke to my parents; even the milk I did not suck. When I was three months old, I prophesied that I would in the future receive the Law on this day, from the midst of the flames of fire. When I went abroad I entered the king's palace and took the crown from off the king's head. When I was eighty years old, I performed signs and wonders in Egypt, and brought out thence sixty myriads under the very eyes of the Egyptians. I also rent the sea into twelve parts; I made the bitter waters sweet; I went up to heaven and trod its path; in the wars of the kings I conquered them; I received the law of fire from the fiery throne, and I was hidden behind a cloud; and I spake face to face to God, and I conquered the host of heaven, and I revealed hidden mysteries to mankind; I received the law from the right hand of God, and taught it to the Israelites; I went to war with Sihon and 'Og, the two mightiest warriors of the world, for even at the time of the flood the waters would not reach their knees on account of their enormous height; I caused the sun and the moon to stand still in the horizon, while I smote those two kings with the staff that is in my hand and killed them. Who is there in the world that can do like this? Away hence,
thou wicked one. Thou hast not the permission to stay here. Depart from me, for I shall not give thee my soul.'
(13) Samael accordingly returned and brought back word to God, who again said, 'Go forth and bring to Me the soul of Moses.' Samael immediately drew his sword from its sheath and thus stood over Moses. But Moses’ anger was kindled against him, and he took the staff of God in his hand, on which the Ineffable Name was engraved, and beat Samael with all his might until he fled before him. Moses ran after him, took away the horn of his glory from him, and deprived him of his sight. Thus far did Moses’ power prevail. The last moment of Moses’ life had then drawn near, when a voice (Bath Kol) was heard to say: Thy last moment, the time of thy death, has arrived.' But Moses entreated thus, 'O Lord God of the world, remember the day on which thou didst reveal Thyself to me in the bush, when Thou didst say, "Go forth and I will send thee to Pharaoh." Remember (O Lord) the day when I stood upon Mount Sinai, where I remained forty days and forty nights. I entreat Thee not to deliver me into the hand of the angel of death.' A voice (Bath Kol) then went forth and said, 'Do not be afraid, for I myself will attend to thy burial.'
(14) At that moment Moses stood up, and having sanctified himself just as one of the Seraphim, the Holy One, blessed be He, descended from the highest heavens together with Michael, Gabriel, and Zagzael. Michael arranged Moses’ bed, Gabriel spread a garment of fine linen at his head and Zagzael a rug at his feet; Michael stood on one side and Gabriel on the other. Then spake the Lord to Moses, 'Close thy eyes one after the other, and gather up thy feet.' Then, addressing the soul of Moses from the midst of his body, He said to it, 'My daughter, after I have placed thee in Moses’ body for 120 successive years, the time has now arrived for thee to go forth from it; therefore depart and do not delay.' The soul of Moses said: 'O Lord of the universe, I know that Thou art the
[paragraph continues] Lord God of the spirits of all flesh, and that all souls, both of life and death, are delivered into Thy hand. Thou it was who createdst me; Thou it was who formedst me and didst place me in the body of Moses for 120 years; and no human body has ever been purer than the body of Moses, in which no evil germ was seen, no worm or insect, wherein there never was any over-estimation. On account of all this I love him, and do not wish to depart from him.' 'O soul,' added God, 'depart and do not delay. I shall then carry thee up into the highest heavens, and place thee beneath the throne of My glory, with the Cherubim, Seraphim and Gedudim' (troops of angels).
(15) Once more entreating the Lord, it said: 'Lord of the universe, from Thy Divine Presence on high there once descended two angels, ‘Azah and ‘Azazel, who in their desire for the daughters of the earth, corrupted their way upon the earth, until Thou didst suspend them between heaven and earth. But from the very day on which Thou didst reveal Thyself in the bush, the son of Amram did not approach his wife, as it is said, "And Miriam and Aaron spoke against Moses on account of his wife." I entreat Thee, O Lord, allow me to remain in the body of Moses.' At that moment, by a kiss of God, the soul of Moses was taken from him, and, as if weeping, God exclaimed, 'Who will now rise up to correct the evil-doers? who will now stand up for the workers of iniquity?' The Spirit of God then wept and said, 'There has never yet arisen in Israel a prophet like Moses.' The heavens wept and said, 'A pious man has perished from the earth.' The earth wept, saying, 'There is no upright man left on the earth.' When Joshua had sought for his master and could not find him, he also wept, saying, 'Save me, O Lord, for the pious one is no more, and the faithful have ceased from among men.' The Israelites then wept, saying, 'He performed the righteousness of God.' And the angels of every heaven exclaimed, 'His judgments are with Israel: the remembrance of the righteous is for a blessing, and his soul returns to everlasting life.'