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Title: Last Eight Lines

Major Focus: Burial and Cemeteries

Minor Focus: Grief and Loss

Abstract: Why did God hide Moses' grave so it could never be found? Who wrote the last eight lines of the Torah?

Format: Midrash

"Moses went up from the steppes of Moab to Mount Nebo...and Moses the servant of God died there, in the land of Moab."

Deuteronomy 34:1 and 5

Two angels, Gabriel and Michael, made Moses comfortable as he lay on the ground. God came to Moses and kissed him gently so the soul could depart peacefully. As Moses soul winged its way to heaven, the earth wept and said, "There are no more righteous people!" The angels went around heaven saying wonderful things about Moses, how he had brought the Torah to the earth, how he had taught the priests their jobs, and all the good deeds he had done.

Because God did not want anyone to ever know where Moses' grave was, angels were sent to carry the body to a different location. God was worried that people would come to worship at the place of Moses' grave. God caused Moses' grave to be hidden away forever. Indeed, centuries later a Roman governor sent soldiers and search parties to Mount Nebo to find Moses' grave. God sent angels to Mount Nebo with instructions to create optical illusions all over the place. Everywhere the Romans looked for Moses' grave, they found suspicious clues, which left them confused and exhausted from running around the mountain.

Moses died on the 7th of Adar, his 120th birthday. God's Cloud of Glory did not leave the Sanctuary for thirty days following Moses' death. The camp could never be moved unless the Cloud was lifted. The Israelites stayed in the plains of Moab mourning Moses for the whole thirty days.

After Moses died, the heavenly manna stopped falling, but supplies on hand lasted until they were able to get into the Land of Israel and eat of its rich fruit and produce. Miriam's water rock stopped flowing on the day Moses died. The people had to be very careful about conserving their remaining water supplies until they could march again.

Joshua took over the leadership from his friend and teacher, Moses. According to Rabbi Meir, Moses was not able to write the last eight lines of the Torah. It was simply too painful for him to write of his own death and burial. Rabbi Meir says Moses wrote them out with tears instead of ink. Joshua filled in the last eight lines with ink when Moses was gone.

When the period of mourning was over, the camp packed up and moved forward to conquer the land of Israel, to throw the wicked Canaanites out. For that story, you will have to read the Book of Joshua.

Challenge Questions

  1. Have you ever had to care for a dying person? What did you do to make them physically comfortable? What did you do to comfort them psychologically or help them find spiritual peace? Might that be what the angels did for Moses?
  2. Why didn't God allow anyone to know where Moses' grave is located, not even gentiles like the Romans? What bad things might happen when people come to worship at the place of someone's grave or tomb?
  3. If the Cloud of Glory did not depart from the Tabernacle for thirty days after Moses' death, and the camp mourned during the entire period, how might that relate to traditional Jewish practices following the death of a family member or loved one?
  4. Why does legend say Joshua had to write the last eight lines of the Torah? Could you write your own obituary?