The Death of Moses:
Divine Desuscitation

The Death of Moses: Divine Desuscitation
Type: Painted Ceramic Plate
Dimensions: Diameter (in inches) 11.5
Year: 2008

This painted ceramic plate visualizes the death of Moses as described in the final chapter of the Torah. Like all men, Moses is a mere mortal. But unlike everyone else, he achieved proximity to, and intimacy with the divine, like none before or after him. Hence the mechanism of his death was similar but not identical to that of all humanity. His keen prophetic powers were insufficient to abolish death, but helped soften it.

The final chapter of Deuteronomy begins with Moses ascending Mount Nebo, the highest elevation amidst the vast mountain range bordering Jericho, city of date palms, soon to be conquered by Joshua. This mountain is portrayed in this painting’s background.

Swirling clouds with inner Hebrew Quotations from this chapter float circumferentially around the outer rim of this plate. Written in the relative center of this rim are the words “And Moses ascended Mount ‘Navee’ (‘NBYA’; in Hebrew ‘Prophet’)”, a slight variation to the original text, Mount ‘Nebo’ (‘NBV’). The Hebrew word root of both “Nebo” and “Navi” are identical, and hence the meaning of the text implies that Moses ascended the “Mountain of The Prophet” and was buried within it. It also implies that in death he was ascendent.

At this elevated height God allows Moses to see the length and breadth of the entire Land of Israel that was promised to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.

“I have shown it to you with your eyes, but there you will not tread”.

No sooner than Israel’s geography is visually imprinted upon Moses’ mind, does he instantaneously expire with the knowledge that his life’s journey of delivering his people to the gates of Israel is fulfilled. The remainder of the mission is entrusted to Joshua who inherited the mantle of Mosaic succession and leadership.

“There Moses died… Al pee Hashem”.

These last three Hebrew words are typically translated to mean “according to the will of God”. However the literal Hebrew interpretation of these words is rendered “Upon the mouth of God”. This understanding is the basis for the Medrashic interpretation that Moses’ life was physically extracted from him by God’s inhalational kiss (the kiss of Death). This is the exact opposite process (desuscitation) of the resuscitative breath which God exhaled into the nostrils of the lifeless lump of clay, Adam, rendering him animate with a divine spark of breath.

The above three words are also the visual inspiration for this painting. Illustrated atop Mount Nebo are the mountain’s lips symbolizing the mouth of God. Written in Hebrew on these lips are the words “There Moses died …by the mouth of God”.

Moses is illustrated in this painting buried at the bottom of the mountain and encased by it. Emanating from the mountain’s (God’s) mouth is an umbilical cord which had nourished Moses with exhaled holy words throughout his life. Now the mouth of God uses the umbilical cord as a straw to inhale Moses’ last dying breath returning his soul to its original source which resides within the mountain (Tzur/ Rock) of God.

Moses is illustrated in his mountainous sepulcher wearing his Head Tefillin (phylacteries) and embracing the two tablets. The ancient Hebrew letters “aleph” and “samech” are written on the tablets symbolizing the “Ein Sof” …infinity… God.

The sun above the mountain, portrayed as a radiant all-seeing eye, is setting concurrent with the setting of Moses’ buried soul.

Written circumferentially within the floating clouds on the outer rim of this plate in Hebrew is the quotation:

“And he was buried in the valley of the land of ‘Me- Av’ (‘from-the father’, i.e. God, a variation of the actual scriptural word ‘Moab’) on the boundary of the house of ‘Peh ohr’ (‘Mouth of light’, a variation of the actual scriptural place name ‘Peor’, consistent with the theme of this painting), and no man knows of his burial spot until this very day”.

The humanity i.e. mortality of Moses is emphasized by having his burial place specifically hidden so that his remains would never become the object of paganistic deification which would have negated all of Moses’ teachings.

Written circumferentially in blue Hebrew on the inner upper rim of this plate are the Hebrew words:

“And there has not risen another Prophet since, in Israel, (like Moses) who knew God (written in ancient Hebrew) face to face”.

“Chazak, Chazak Vetizchazek” (“Be strong, Be even stronger, and you shall Be further strengthened”; always chanted at the end of the reading of each of the Five Books of Moses).