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Death, Kiss of


Scripture records that "Aaron the priest ascended Mount Hor by the mouth of the Lord and died there" (Num. 33:38); and that "Moses the servant of the Lord died there in the land of Moab by the mouth of the Lord" (Deut. 34:5). The words "by the mouth of the Lord" were interpreted literally by the rabbis; they died there by the kiss of the Lord – which was given after Moses' soul absolutely refused to leave his body (Deut. R. 11:10) – and not through the agency of the Angel of Death, who was not granted dominion over them. Miriam and the three Patriarchs were said to have died in the same manner (bb 17a). Although only these six are named, sudden death after the age of 80 was also regarded as death through the kiss (mk 28a). Further, after his death R. *Naḥman b. Jacob appeared to Rabbah in a dream and told him that his death was as easy as drawing a hair out of milk; this is the way in which the kiss of death is described (ibid.). The description may be compared with that in the Koran (Sura 79:1) in the commentary of al-Bayḍāwī: "When a righteous person dies, the angel of death … makes the soul leave the body like a drop taken out of a bucket of water." The kiss is the easiest of the 903 kinds of death (the numerical value of תוצאות, toẓa'ot, in Ps. 68:21, "to God the Lord belong the issues [toẓa'ot] of death").

[Harry Freedman]

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