Chronicles of Jerahmeel, by M. Gaster , at sacred-texts.com
XLIX. (1) 'Better is a good name than precious oil.' Thus it was with Aaron. God said to Moses, our teacher, 'The time has arrived for Aaron to quit this world. Do thou go and tell him that his life is nearing the end.' Moses then rose and prayed the whole night. He said, 'Lord of the world, how can I say to Aaron, "Thy time has arrived to quit this world"? And God said to Moses, 'Give him
the message of a great thing and of good tidings, that I will not deliver his soul into the hand of the angel of death.'
(2) Moses then determined to change the order of things for that day. It was customary for some of the princes to rise early and wait at the door of Eleazar and Ithamar, and for all the elders to wait on Moses; but on that day the order was reversed, for Moses, Eleazar, and all the princes rose early to wait on Aaron. When Aaron came to the door and saw them all standing, with Moses among them, he asked, 'O my brother, why hast thou changed thy custom to-day?' 'Because God has bidden me to tell thee something to-day,' said Moses. 'But canst thou not tell me privately?' 'No.' 'Speak, I entreat thee!' 'I cannot,' replied Moses, 'until we depart hence.' They then immediately went away. On other occasions Moses, Aaron, and Eleazar used to walk together—Moses in the middle Aaron at his right, Eleazar at his left, and all the Israelites behind them; but on this day Aaron walked in the middle. When the Israelites perceived this they said to each other, 'The Holy Spirit has been removed from Moses, and has been given to Aaron.' They all rejoiced, because they loved Aaron with a greater love than they did Moses, because he loved peace and pursued it.
(3) 'Why,' asked Aaron, 'dost thou confer this great honour upon me to-day?' 'Because God has commanded me to tell thee something.' 'And what is that which thou hast been commanded to tell me?' 'Do thou wait until we are seated.' When they were seated Aaron repeated his question, 'Now tell me, my brother.' 'Wait until we mount the hill.' And he did all this in order not to frighten him too much. The three of them, Moses, Aaron, and Eleazar, then ascended the hill, when Moses said, 'O my brother Aaron, return unto me what God has entrusted thee with.' 'Is it the tent of the congregation with all its vessels which is entrusted to me?' 'Has he handed over a light to thee?' 'Yes,' said Aaron; 'the lamp with its seven lights has been entrusted to my care.' He did not yet understand that Moses referred to his soul, which is compared
to a light, as the verse says, 'The light of God is the soul of man, penetrating the inmost chambers of the heart.' 'Aaron, my brother, why did Abraham, our forefather, die? Was it not because the time had arrived for Isaac's rule? And Isaac, why did he die?—why, do you think? Because of the time having arrived for Jacob's rule, which was then to be transferred to him.' Even yet Aaron did not understand the drift of Moses’ conversation. 'O Aaron, my brother, if one were to ask thee to give twenty years, or ten years, or one year, or even one day of thy life to that person, when that day should arrive wouldst thou deny his claim?'
(4) Aaron then at last understood that the time had come for him to die, and he said to Moses, 'Moses, the time of my death has arrived.' Moses remained silent and did not reply, for he was inwardly weeping. Aaron then, placing his hands upon his head, wept bitterly, saying, What avails me the good name, when I am about to quit this world, in which I have always loved peace and pursued it, and made peace between man and his neighbour, between man and wife?' While they were sitting in that place, the ground suddenly opened, showing them the cave of Machpelah. After entering it, Moses said, 'Aaron, my brother, perhaps this is the cave of Machpelah—that is, the vault of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; thou art clothed in thy priestly garments, and they will become defiled. If now thou art willing, clothe thy son Eleazar with thine own garments, and array thyself in his, then thou and I will enter this vault.' Aaron forthwith stripped himself of his garments and put them upon Eleazar, his son, while he clothed himself in those of Eleazar. When they entered the cave they looked and beheld a burning lamp, a prepared bed, and a table spread. 'Go up, my brother,' said Moses, 'and lie upon this bed. Stretch out thy legs and close thine eyes and mouth.' He did so, and his soul departed.
(5) When Moses saw this he coveted such a death, saying, 'Happy the man that is born to such a death.' And God replied, 'By thy life thou shalt end thy days by
such a death.' At once Moses went out from the cave, and the mouth of it closed up by itself.
(6) Moses and Eleazar then descended the hill. When the Israelites saw Moses and Eleazar without Aaron they said to Moses, 'Where is thy brother Aaron?' 'His time had arrived to die, and he is no more,' answered Moses. Thereupon they sought to stone him, saying, 'Thou hast slain him, because we loved him more than thee.' At this Moses raised his eyes on high and stood in prayer.
(7) At that moment God said to the ministering angels, 'Lift up Aaron's coffin, and suspend it in the air that the Israelites may see it and believe Moses.' Thus they did, and the Israelites believed. They mourned for him thirty days. The ministering angels also lamented his death, saying, 'Wail, ye cypresses, for the cedar has fallen.' Even God himself uttered this verse over him, 'The law of truth was in his mouth, iniquity was never found on his lips; he walked with Me in peace and righteousness, and gave many a place of refuge.' Concerning his death, it is said, 'A good name is better than precious oil, and the day of death better than the day of one's birth.'
[End of the death of Aaron. May the Lord deliver us on the last day. With the help of God, I, Eleazar the Levite, add here the account of the death of Moses, our teacher.]