Chronicles of Jerahmeel, by M. Gaster , at sacred-texts.com
LI. (1) Now, what was the special merit of Moses, that God Himself should attend on his burial? It was for the following reason. When he went down to Egypt and the time for the redemption of Israel had arrived, all the Israelites busied themselves with the silver and gold, while Moses, for three days and three nights, wearied himself by walking round the city silently searching for Joseph's coffin, since they could not depart from Egypt without Joseph, for he had made them promise him before his death and swear that they would do it, as it is said, 'And Joseph made the children of Israel swear.'
(2) When Moses was already exceedingly tired, a woman, Seraḥ, the daughter of Asher, met him, and, seeing him very faint and weary, she said to him, 'My lord Moses, why art thou faint?' 'Because,' said he, 'I have been wandering round the city for three days and three nights in search of Joseph's coffin, but have not yet been able to find it.' 'Come with me, and I will show thee where it is.' Leading him to a brook in that place, she then related to him that the magicians and wizards of Pharaoh had made a coffin of lead for Joseph, weighing 500 talents, and cast it into the brook. They thus spoke to Pharaoh, 'If it please the king, this nation will now not be able to go forth from this place as it cannot discover Joseph's coffin.'
(3) Standing by the edge of the brook, Moses exclaimed, 'Joseph, Joseph, thou knowest how thou didst cause Israel to swear, saying, "The Lord will surely visit you," Now bestow glory upon the God of Israel, and do not prevent their redemption. Beseech, I pray thee, thy Creator that thou mayest rise from these depths.' Immediately after this the coffin ascended from the depths, preceded by a bubbling of the waters, floating as lightly as a reed. Lifting it upon his shoulders, he carried it along, followed by all the Israelites. They carried the silver and the gold which they took from Egypt, whilst Moses carried the coffin. Then said the Lord to Moses, 'Thou sayest that thou hast in this done a small thing; by thy life, the
mercy which thou hast shown is great, since thou didst not think of the silver and the gold. I shall, therefore, show thee the same mercy when thou departest this life. I shall with My glory bestow kindness on thee.'
(4) Thus, when the time had arrived for Moses to quit this world, and God said to him, 'Behold, the time approaches for thee to die,' he exclaimed, 'O Lord of the universe, after having received the law, and having suffered such weariness, dost Thou tell me, "The day of thy death draws near "? I shall not die, but will live.' Thou canst not, for this is the way of man.' 'Lord of the universe,' entreated Moses, 'I beseech thee before my death to allow me to enter and search all the gates of the heavens and the depths of the earth, that they may see there is none besides Thee, as it is said, "And thou shalt know this day, and lay it up in thy,heart that the Lord is God and no one else."' God said, 'Thou hast written of Me: "and no one else." I say of thee there has not yet arisen in Israel any one like Moses, who knew the Lord face to face.' What is the meaning of the words, 'Behold, thy day draws near to its end '? R. Simon said, The very day appeared before God, and said, "Lord of the universe, I shall not move nor end, so that Moses may continue to live."'
(5) The sages asked, 'What did Moses do as soon as he knew the day on which he was to die? R. Janai said, that on that day he wrote thirteen scrolls, twelve for the tribes, and one he placed in the Ark. In the event of their seeking to falsify a word, they might refer to the one in the Ark. Then said Moses, 'While I have been occupying myself with the Torah which is living, the day has set and the decree is thus annulled.' God then forthwith made a sign to the heavens, and the day remained at a standstill, saying, 'I will not set, so that Moses shall live.' Therefore Job uttered, 'Did not I weep for him that was in trouble (whose day was fixed), that is, the day was hardened (fixed) for him?' What is the meaning of the words, 'Behold, thy day draws near '? Just as One man
says to his neighbour, 'Behold, someone has sued thee before the King.'
(6) He called Joshua, and addressed God thus, 'Lord of the universe, let Joshua, my servant, be the ruler, and I shall live.' God replied, 'Serve thou him as he did serve thee.' Moses then rose up and hastened to the house of Joshua, who was greatly afraid, and said, 'Moses, my teacher, has come to me.' When he went out Moses walked on Joshua's left side. When they entered the tent of the congregation, the pillar of cloud descended and separated them; as soon as it departed Moses went up to Joshua, and asked, 'What did the Word say to thee?' And Joshua replied, 'When the Word was revealed to thee, I knew what was said to thee.' Moses then wept, saying, Better one hundred deaths, than one jealousy.' Solomon explains it thus, that love was as strong as death, and jealousy as Sheol, i.e., the love which Moses bare Joshua, and the jealousy which he showed towards him. When Moses was about to die, God tried to appease him, saying, 'By thy life, as thou hast guarded My children in this world, so will I in the future world make thee the leader of My children,' as it is said, 'And He will remember the days of old.'
(7) This is the blessing with which Moses blessed the children of Israel before his death. What is the meaning of the expression, 'Before his death '? The sages say that Moses took hold of the angel of death, and compelled him to go before him while he blessed each one of the twelve tribes. R. Meir says that the angel of death approached Moses, and said to him, 'The Lord has sent me to thee, because thou must depart on this day.' Moses said, 'I seek to praise God, as it is said, "I shall not die, but live to tell of the works of God."' 'But why,' said the angel, 'art thou so boastful? for there are others who praise Him; the heavens and the earth glorify Him every hour, as it is said, "The heavens declare the glory of God." But I will silence them,' continued Moses, 'as it is said, "Listen, O heavens, while I speak."' For the second time the angel
of death approached him, but as soon as Moses uttered the 'Shem Hammeforash' (Ineffable Name), he fled, as it is said, 'When I call upon the name of the Lord, bring ye greatness to our God.' When the angel of death approached him the third time, Moses said, 'It is now necessary for me to justify the Divine judgment upon me,' for it is said, The Rock, whose work is perfect.'
(8) R. Isaac said that the soul of Moses refused to depart from him, so that Moses communed with it, saying, 'Dost thou aver that the angel of death tried to overcome thee?' 'God will not do this,' it replied, 'for "thou hast delivered my soul from death."' 'Has he caused thee to see them crying, and made thee weep with them?' 'No, for "(thou hast delivered) my eye from tears."' 'But did he try to make me fall among them (the people)?' '"Thou hast prevented my foot,"' said it, '"from slipping."' 'And where wilt thou in the future walk?' The soul replied, 'I shall walk before the Lord in the lands of the living.' As soon as Moses heard this, he exclaimed, 'Return, O my soul, to thy rest.' R. Abin said that as soon as they departed the mortals glorified God, saying, 'Moses has commanded us a law, an everlasting inheritance to the congregation of Jacob.'