Was Moses’ Death Punishment or Reward? https://mosaicmagazine.com/picks/religion-holidays/2015/10/was-moses-death-punishment-or-reward/

October 7, 2015 | James A. Diamond
About the author: James A. Diamond is a professor of Jewish studies at the University of Waterloo. His books include Maimonides and the Shaping of the Jewish Canon (2014) and, most recently, Jewish Theology Unbound (2018).

On the holiday of Simḥat Torah (which fell on Monday in Israel and Tuesday in the Diaspora) the annual cycle of readings from the Pentateuch is concluded with the end of Deuteronomy. Here God instructs Moses to survey the land of Israel from a mountain vantage point, but forbids him from entering. This is generally understood as punishment of the Israelites’ dying leader, but James A. Diamond wonders whether it is really something else:

Should Moses have extended his leadership tenure and guided the people into the land, he would have been faced with . . . more of the same anguish and suffering he had experienced up until this point. It would surely have entailed the wrangling, the complaints, the jealousy, and the power struggles that accompany the burdens of state- building. . . . God does not invite Moses up the mountain to deny him entry into the Promised Land (“I have let you see it with your own eyes, But you shall not cross there”), but rather to preempt the pain of doing so, while assuring him that his vision will inevitably become a reality. The verse reads better as “I have let you see it with your own eyes, and there you need not cross.”

Moses is thus spared being mired in the partisan machinations that—as the historical record of the books of Joshua, [Judges, Samuel, and] Kings (let alone the contemporary history of the modern Jewish state!) evidence—would certainly have ensued. His record then of autonomy and initiative, even in the face of divine obstinacy, is preserved and remains untarnished by the political intrigue that would have inevitably consumed him to the very end.

Read more on Seforim: http://seforim.blogspot.com/2015/10/the-torahs-jewish-sense-of-ending.html