Pisqa’ 305

Pisqa’ 3051


“Then HASHEM said to Moses:

Take for yourself Joshua b. Nun, a man with spirit” (Nu.27:18)—

take for yourself a virile type,2 like yourself!3

Take for yourself” (Nu.27:18)—

this phrase actually implies an act of seizure4,

for a study partner can be acquired5 only with great difficulty.

On this basis they taught:

A person should acquire for himself a study partner—

to declaim Scripture with him,

to repeat oral traditions with him,

to eat and drink with him,

and to whom he can reveal his secrets.

And, so He says:

“Two are better than one” (Ecc.4:9), and

“A three-ply rope will not soon be severed” (Ecc.4:12).6


The Blessed Holy One replied to Moses,

saying to him:

Provide Joshua with an interpreter7

so that he may inquire and expound,

and teach [practical] instructions

while you are alive.

Then, when you pass from the world,

Israel will not observe to him:

You never spoke during your Master’s life,

But now you’re speaking? 8

Some report:

Moses picked [Joshua] off the ground

and sat him between his knees,

while Moses and Israel lifted their faces

to hear Joshua’s teachings.

What, exactly, did he say?

Blessed is the Holy Name,

Who gave Torah to Israel

through the medium of Moses, our Master—

such were the teachings of Joshua.9


R. Nathan says:

Moses was pained in his heart that

none of his own sons rose [to the occasion].

Said to him the Blessed Holy One:

Why eat your heart out—

because none of your own sons rose to the occasion?

Aren’t the sons of your brother, Aaron,

like your own sons?

What’s more—

the person I appoint over Israel,

will need to [humble himself]

by standing at the Priest, Elazar’s, door

[awaiting the priestly ruling]!

There is an analogy—

to a king of flesh and blood.

He had a son who was unworthy to rule the kingdom.

So he took the kingdom from him

and gave it to the son of his friend.

The king said to the friend’s son:

Even though I have exalted you,

go and stand at my son’s door.

This is what the Blessed Holy One said to Joshua:

Even though I have exalted you,

go and stand at the door of Elazar,

As it is stated:

“And before Elazar the Priest shall he stand” (Nu.27:21).

At that moment,

Moses recovered his powers.

He emboldened Joshua in the view of all Israel,

as it is stated:

“And Moses called to Joshua, and he said to him in the view of all Israel

be strong and courageous!” (Dt.31:7)

He said to him:

This people whom I am entrusting to you,

they are still kid-goats, even nurslings.

Don’t criticize everything they do,

for even their Master did not criticize everything they did!10

and so He says:

“When Israel was a child, then I loved him” (Hos.11:1).


Rabbi Nehemiah says:

[Said Moses:] I haven’t the right, but if I did, I would bring them

in beside the shepherds’ tents to dwell there (cf. Song 1:8).11

The story is told:

Concerning Rabban Yohanan b. Zakkai.

He was riding on an ass,

And his disciples trailed after him.

He saw a certain young girl gathering barley kernels

from [the droppings] beneath the legs of cattle

tended by some Arabian bedouin.

When she saw Rabban Yohanan b. Zakkai,

she wrapped herself in her hair

and stood before him.

She begged:

My Master! Provide for me!

He replied to her:

Whose daughter are you?

She said:

The daughter of Naqdimon b. Gurion am I!


She continued:

My Master! Do you recall signing my marriage contract?

Said Rabban Yohanan b. Zakkai to his disciples:

I signed this one’s marriage contract.

Moreover, I read in it of a dowry

of a million gold dinars

from her father-in-law’s household

and the young girl’s household.

These families would hardly have time

to enter and prostrate themselves

on the Mount of the Abode

before others would spread fine carpets beneath their feet.

Then they would enter, prostrate themselves,

and return to their homes with joy.


Now, all my days,

I sought [the import] of this verse:

“If you are not aware of it, oh most beautiful of women,

get yourself to the footsteps of the flock, and tend your kids by the shepherds’ tents” (Song1:8)—

and finally I have the solution:

Don’t declaim the text as “your kids” (gediyotayikh);

Rather, declaim it as “your corpses” (geviyotayikh)!


For, insofar as Israel performs the will of the All-Present,

no nation or kingdom can dominate them.

But, insofar as Israel does not perform the will of the All-Present,

he hands them over to a benighted nation.

And not merely into the hands of a benighted nation,

but even beneath the legs of

the cattle of a benighted nation!12


In a single year, three of the Righteous died:

Moses, Aaron and Miriam.

After the death of Moses,

Israel could never again find peace of mind,

for it is stated:

“And I cut off the three shepherds in one month” (Zekh.11:8)


Now, did they really all die in a single month?

Didn’t they all die in a single year?

As it is stated:

“The well dug by princes, excavated by nobles” (Nu.21:18)—

[this alludes to the leadership of Moses, Aaron, and Miriam]. 13


Actually, Miriam’s death caused the well to run dry,

but it returned due to the merit of Moses and Aaron.

When Aaron died [later that year],

the pillar of cloud dispersed,

but both [of these]returned due to the merit of Moses.

When Moses died [later that year],

all three vanished, never to return.14    


Now, at that moment,

Israel was scattered, denuded of commandments.

So all Israel gathered together around Moses,

and they said to him:

Where is Aaron, your brother?

He replied:

God has hidden him away

for life in the coming eon!

But they didn’t believe Moses.

They said:

We know you to be an intemperate man!

Could he have spoken to you out of turn,

and you sentenced him to death?

What did the Blessed Holy One do then?

He brought Aaron’s bier and suspended it

in the heights of the Heavens.

Then the Blessed Holy One stood to eulogize him,

with the angelic servants responding in kind.15

Now, what did they say?

“The Torah of truth was in his mouth,

and no perversity was found on his lips.

He walked with me in peace and honor,

turning many from sinfulness” (Mal.2:6)


Now, at that moment,

the Blessed Holy One said to the Death-messenger:

Go and bring me the soul of Moses!

The messenger left, and stood before Moses,

saying before him:

Moses! Give me your soul!

Moses said:

Where I sit, you have no business standing!

And, now you tell me to give you my soul?

So did Moses rebuke him,

and so, in shame, he left.


Then the Death-messenger went

to relate these things to the Mighty One.

Again, the Blessed Holy One said:

Go and bring me the soul of Moses!

He went to Moses’ place,

sought him, but could not find him.


He went to the sea and said:

Have you seen Moses?

The sea replied:

I haven’t seen him since the day

that he brought Israel through me!


He went to the hills and mountains and said:

Have you seen Moses?

They replied:

We haven’t seen him since the day

Israel received the Torah on Mt. Sinai!


He went to Gehenna and said:

have you seen Moses?

She replied:

I’ve heard the name, but I can’t place the face!


He went to the angelic servants and said:

Have you seen Moses?

They replied:

Go and check among the descendants of Adam!


So, he went to Israel and said:

Have you seen Moses?

They replied:

Only God intuits His ways!

God has hidden him away for life in the coming eon,

but no creature knows a thing about him!

as it is stated:

“And He buried him in a valley . . . and until this very day,

no one knows his burial place” (Dt.34:6).16


Now, when Moses died,

Joshua would weep, cry out,

and mourn bitterly for him, saying:

My Father, my Father! My Master, my Master!

You are my Father, who raised me,

And my Master, who taught me Torah!

Now, he mourned for Moses many days,

until the Blessed Holy One said to him:


How long are you planning to mourn?

Has Moses died only for you?

And hasn’t he died also for Me?

Now, since the day he died,

Great mourning has befallen Me!

As it is stated:

“And HASHEM God declared that day

Set aside for weeping and eulogies” (Is.22:12).

Nevertheless, he was guaranteed

to inherit the coming eon,

for it is stated:

“And HASHEM said to Moses:

Now you lie among your ancestors—but you shall arise!”17 (Dt.31:16)18

  1. H:294-297;JN2:291-294. On the text of Pisqa’ 305.1, see H:488, Pisqa’ 305, n. 1 and F:323-324, l.11.
  2. Heb: gaveratan; literally, “manly.” This glosses the verse’s description of Joshua as ‘ish ‘asher ruakh bo, “a man with spirit.”
  3. Cf. ARNA:17
  4. Heb: leqikhah, “taking;” Built on the same root as qakh (“take,” l-q-kh).
  5. Heb: niqneh; from root q-n-h, “acquire.”
  6. //ARNA:8; Cf. M.Av.1:6)
  7. Heb: turgeman; spokesman, declaimer. See Jastrow, p.1657.
  8. // ARNA:17; //Sifre Nu.140.
  9. Cf. Sifre Nu, 140.
  10. Cf. ARNA:17.
  11. For an interpretation of this difficult comment, see H:489, Pisqa’ 305, ns. 10-11.
  12. //ARNA:17; cf. T.Ket.5:9-10
  13. //T. Sotah 11:10. For comments on interpretation of this midrash, see H:489, Pisqa’ 305, n.14
  14. cf. T.Sota.11:1-2.
  15. Cf. ARNB:25.
  16. Cf. ARNA:12, ARNB:25.
  17. The verse continues: . . . “and this people will whore after the alien gods.” This truncation of the verse is clearly a tendentious proof for Moses’ share in the resurrected life.The truncated citation is attested in the citation of the baraita at B. San.90b, ARNA:12, RH, TA, and Ish-Shalom, but many others cite the complete verse (e.g.,the first Venice edition of 1546, Pardo; see Finkelstein, p. 327, critical apparatus, l.11).
  18. Cf. ARNA:12.