Mose’s Last Days

Mose said, O G-d, let me, I pray, cross over and see the good land on the other side of the Jordan, that good hill country, and the Lebanon (Deuteronomy 3:25).

We are taught that Mose was scheduled to die ten times in the Wilderness, and at the end of forty years, as Mose stood on Mt. Nebo gazing at the Promised Land in the distance, he argued his case with G-d.

Mose said, you called me as your servant and I served.
G-d said, no.
Mose said, let me sneak into the Land alone, by the back door, no one has to know.
G-d said, no.
Mose said, let someone carry my bones after my death into the Land, like Joseph.
G-d said, no.
Mose said, Adam disobeyed and you forgave him.
G-d said, no.
Let me enter for two or three years, then I’ll die. . .
G-d said, no. I have resolved that you should not go there.

So Mose went to the Earth. O Earth, speak to G-d for me. Perhaps then G-d will have pity on me and allow me to enter the Land.

The Earth said, I have my own troubles, ‘dust you are and to dust shall you return’, we’re all in the same boat. I, too, grow old and pass away.

Mose went to the Heavens. He went to the Sun and Moon. He went to the Stars and Planets. He went to the Hills and Mountains. He went to Mt. Sinai who told him she was still sore from the fire and smoke during his last visit. He went to the Rivers. He went to the Deserts. He went to the Great Sea who told him that she had been beaten up enough by Mose, when he parted her waters.

Mose recalled all the wonderful things he had done in his youth. In those days I was King of the World, now I’m a beggar for my life. He began to cry.

The angels came and snatched Mose’s tears and words away so that G-d wouldn’t know, but G-d loved Moses like a mother and always knew when something was troubling him.

G-d came to Mose and said, don’t be afraid. It isn’t written that you should enter the Land. It was decreed before I created the World and yours is not to ask why. It just is.
Mose said, I am their leader. I earned it.
G-d said, it is time for Joshua to take over.

Joshua was standing near, crying for Mose, as were the people. In that moment the full weight of their story together had settled into Joshua’s bones, into his blood, and he felt the mantle of leadership pass from Mose.

Joshua walked over to Mose, they held each other in silence for a while, then they walked off together. They spent a time in the distance, sitting low near the ground, talking, holding one another, pointing to the Land in the distance, in sight of all of us who were gathered not far away watching.

When they returned, Joshua and Mose embraced for the last time, Joshua came into the center of the people, and Mose went by himself to the top of Mt. Nebo.

Mose spent his last days on the mountain top, gazing into the Promised Land in the distance, only partially resolved to the fate that had been apportioned him, thinking: it should have been me.

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