Sacred Texts  Bible  Index  Previous  Next 

Chronicles of Jerahmeel, by M. Gaster [1899], at

LII. (1) R. Joshua ben Levi said that when Moses ascended on high to receive the Law, a cloud appeared before him in a crouching position, so that he did not know whether to ride upon it or to take hold of it. However, it soon opened, and having entered it, the cloud carried him aloft. Moses then walked along the firmament, just as one walks along the earth, as it is said, 'And Moses went in the midst of the cloud.' Qemuel, the angel appointed over 12,000 other angels of destruction, keeping guard at the gates of heaven, met him. When he saw Moses he rebuked him, saying: 'Thou comest from a place of defilement, and darest walk in this place of purity. What dost thou, who wert born of woman, in this place of fire?' 'I am Moses, the son of Amram, and have come here to receive the law for Israel.'

(2) Moses walked along the firmament just as a man walks

p. 145

along a pathway, until he came to Hadarniel. The sages say of Hadarniel that he stands 60,000 parasangs above his fellow-angels, and that every word he utters is accompanied by 12,000 sparks of fire. On seeing Moses, he in his turn rebuked him, saying, 'What doest thou in this sublime and holy place?' But as soon as Moses heard the voice of Hadarniel, he became frightened, confused, and trembled exceedingly in his presence, and the tears flowed from his eyes. He therefore entreated the cloud to cast him forth; (3) but God's mercy was moved for Moses, and He thus addressed Hadarniel: 'From the very day that I created you, you have striven before Me; when I wished to create man, all of you became his accusers before Me, saying: "What is man, that Thou shouldst remember him, and the son of man, that Thou shouldst visit him?" You gave Me no rest until I consumed many of your companies; and now, seeing that My desire is to give My law to My children, you stand in the way and will not allow My law to descend to My chosen people Israel. Indeed, were it not for Israel, who are to receive My law, there would be no dwelling in the firmament, either for Me or for you,' as it is said, 'If I had not created the day and the night, I would never have decreed the statutes of heaven and earth. '

(4) When Hadarniel heard this he rose and prayed and made supplication before God, saying, 'O Lord of the universe, it is revealed and known before Thee that I did not know that Moses came here with Thy permission. Now that I know it I shall act as a messenger to him, I shall go before him as a pupil before his teacher.' Thus humbling himself, he went before Moses as a pupil before his instructor, until he came to the fire of Saldalphon; (5) and then Hadarniel said: 'Moses, do thou proceed, for I am not able to stand before the fire of Saldalphon. I fear lest he consume me with the breath of his mouth.' When Moses perceived Saldalphon, he was confused and trembled, and the tears flowed from his eyes. He then desired to be thrown from the cloud, and besought the

p. 146

mercy of God. His prayer was answered, for at that moment the Holy One, blessed be He, Himself descended and stood before Moses until he passed the fire of Saldalphon. Concerning this it is said, 'And the Lord passed before him and he exclaimed, "The Lord, the Lord, the God of mercy and kindness."'

(6) Of Saldalphon the sages say that he towers above his fellow-angels a distance that would take 500 years to walk, and that he stands in front of the curtain weaving crowns for his Maker. The ministering angels do not know where God dwells, for it is said, 'Blessed be the Lord from His abode,' and it is not said in, but from, His abode. He (Saldalphon) therefore conjures with the Ineffable Name, and the crown departs to rest by itself on the head of the Almighty. As soon as the crown leaves the hand of Saldalphon, all the heavenly hosts are moved, and the holy creatures, till now silent, roar like lions, and they exclaim with one voice, 'Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord of Hosts, the whole earth is filled with His glory.' When the crown reaches the throne of God, all the wheels of His chariot and throne commence rolling; the sockets of fire blaze forth, and all the heavens are seized with terror. When it passes on to the throne all the heavenly hosts with their own crowns on break forth into glorification of God, saying, 'Blessed be the glory of the Lord from His abode.' Come and see the glory and greatness of God. As soon as the crown reaches His head, He strengthens Himself to receive the prayers of His servants. Then all the Hayoth, Ophanim, Seraphim, the wheels of His chariot, the throne of His glory, and the hosts above and below exalt, glorify, and break forth in words of praise, honour and glory, and all as with one mouth proclaim His Sovereignty, saying, The Lord will reign for ever and ever.'

(7) As soon as Moses passed away from Saldalphon, he came to Rigion, a river of fire, whose flames burn the angels of fire just as the fire which consumes man. Moses, however, was taken across by God. (8) He then met Galisur, an angel to whom is attributed the saying that

p. 147

out of the mouth of the Most High proceedeth evil and good. Why was his name called Galiṣur? Because he reveals the secrets of God. His wings are spread out to receive the fiery breath of the holy creatures, for, were he not to do so, no creature would be able to endure it. Galisur is appointed for another kind of work: he prophesies that this year shall be a good wheat crop; the barley shall ripen, and the wine shall be cheap. And yet another kind of work: taking a thick covering of iron and spreading it on the river Rigion, he places certain people upon it opposite the angels and princes, so that they may prosper, and that their fear shall fall upon the creatures. God took Moses up and brought him across the river.

(9) After this, Moses met a troop of angels of terror that surround the Throne of Glory, and that are mightier and stronger than all the ministering angels. As soon as they espied Moses, they tried to consume him with the breath of their mouths, saying, 'What doest thou in this place of glory?' But God immediately spread the glory of His throne round about him, as it is said, 'He closeth in the face of His throne and spreadeth His cloud upon it.' Moses, thereby strengthened, returned the following answer: 'What avails the Torah to you? The Exodus from Egypt does not apply to you, nor the worshipping of strange gods, nor the taking of oaths.' At this they immediately rendered their thanksgiving to God, as it is said, 'Our Lord, how mighty is Thy name in all the earth! Thou whose majesty extends over the heavens.' From that moment every one became Moses’ friend; every one handed over to him a secret cure, and even the angel of death revealed to him his secret, as it is said, 'And he gave the frankincense and atoned for the people.' (10) Then, opening the seven firmaments, God showed him the heavenly temple and the four different hues in which the tabernacle was made, as it is said, 'And thou shalt erect the tabernacle according to the plan which thou sawest on the mount.' 'O Lord of the universe,' said

p. 148

[paragraph continues] Moses, 'I do not know its form.' Then spake God to him, 'Turn to the right.' He did so, and seeing angels clothed in a colour like that of the sea, God said, 'This is blue.' 'Now turn to the left,' said God. He did so, and seeing angels clothed in white, God said, 'This is the fine linen.' Then turning in front of him and seeing angels clothed in red, God said, 'This is scarlet.' 'Now turn behind thee.' Turning behind, he saw angels clothed neither in red nor green, and God said, 'This is purple.'

(11) The Lord then opened the seven doors of the seven heavens, and revealed Himself to Israel face to face in His glory and with His crown. As soon as the Israelites heard the words, 'I am the Lord thy God' from God's own mouth, their souls departed forthwith, as it is said, 'The souls of the Israelites departed when He spoke.' The Law went forth to Israel and found them all dead. Returning to God, it said, 'Lord of the universe, to whom hast Thou given me, to the living or to the dead?' 'To the living,' said He. 'Hast thou not applied to me the verse, "It shall be thy life and the length of thy days"? and yet here are they all dead.' 'Then for thy sake I shall restore their souls;' and causing that dew to descend which is destined to revive the dead, He thus brought them to life, as it is said, 'Thou, O God, didst send a plentiful rain; Thou didst confirm Thine inheritance when it was weary.' He then restored their souls, as it is said, 'The law of God is perfect, refreshing the soul.'

(12) There then descended, at the command of God, 120 myriads of ministering angels, of whom a pair went to each of the Israelites, one to place his hand upon his heart to prevent his soul from departing, and the other to straighten his neck that he might behold God. But why did God reveal Himself to them face to face? Because He said to them, 'Know that I reveal Myself to you in My glory and in My majesty, so that in the event of one of you leading others astray and saying to them, "Forsake your God and let us go and serve other gods," you may then say to him, "Is there anyone who, after beholding his

p. 149

[paragraph continues] Creator in His glory and in His majesty and upon the throne of His glory, would go and serve other gods?"'

(13) Then said the Lord to Moses, 'My angels are afraid of thee because the fire of thy lightnings is stronger than theirs. Let Michael My archangel go before thee, for My great name is engraved upon his heart, as it is said, "For My name is within him." The glory of the heights is on thy right hand, and the image of Jacob thy forefather on thy left.' Moses was inwardly pleased when he saw the Most High condescending to argue with him. All the inhabitants of the world were confused; the inhabitants of every country were astonished when they saw Moses the son of Amram, who had captured the King's daughter (the Law), descending in great exultation, as it is written, 'Thou didst ascend on high; thou didst take captive and receive presents for man.' It is further written, A wise man scaleth the city of the mighty, and bringeth down the strength of the confidence thereof.' The mountains and hills skipped like rams when they saw the canopy erected, and the daughter of God as a bride decked with precious stones. The daughter of God is the Torah (Law), and the precious stones represent the twelve tribes, who said, 'All that the Lord has spoken we shall do and hearken thereunto.' As soon as they exclaimed, 'We shall do and we shall obey,' there descended 120 myriads of ministering angels, who placed two crowns upon every one of the Israelites: one because they said, 'We shall do,' and the other because they exclaimed, 'We shall obey.' And the glory of the Lord was revealed from heaven, from the habitation of His holiness. He gave the Torah to the children of Jacob, His chosen one, and gave them righteous judgments, a true law, statutes and commandments for their good, by which to prolong the life, to obliterate the sins, and to sow the seeds of righteousness.

Next: LIII