Amidst all the many quite disparate matters discussed in Parashat Pinchas, is the account of Moses being told by God that he will not be permitted to enter the Promised Land and Moses' request that a leader be appointed in his place. God responds by appointing Joshua as the successor. Moses accepts the choice and agrees to confer upon Joshua "of his glory" so that the entire Jewish people will know that Joshua is now the possessor of the same authority that once belonged to Moses, and they will, therefore, follow the new leader. (Num. 27:13-27) In the plain text of this account, Moses is portrayed as accepting God's decision willingly, and he even transfers authority to Joshua with willingness and generosity. However, a midrash tells a different tale. In its version, Moses knows that he must relinquish the leadership to Joshua, but he does not want to die. He is still fully vigorous at the age of 120 and, more important, he is overwhelmingly eager to live to enter the Promised Land. Moses, therefore, tries to bargain with God. He offers to relinquish the leadership but to continue to live on as an ordinary person, one of the followers of the new leader, Joshua. Adonai seems to agree. Adonai calls Joshua to the Tent of Meeting, where God had had innumerable private encounters with Moses, and Moses now waits outside. When Joshua comes out of the Tent of Meeting, Moses immediately, and inevitably, asks him: "What did God say to you?" Joshua replies that on the many occasions when, as Moses' assistant, he sat outside, he was usually told that Moses could not reveal the content of his privileged communication to anyone who was not there; now Joshua must act in the same way. Moses is shattered because he feels a burning jealousy. He turns to God and says: "Better that I should die than I should live and envy Joshua." And so, Moses ascends the mountain and lies down to be gathered to heaven by God. The exact words of the midrash are: Better that I should die than I should live one day in angry envy of someone else.
The moral of the story is obvious.