Moses' marriage, and why racism is like leprosy

At a time when politicians and demagogues are stoking fears of this country being overwhelmed by a swarm of marauding migrants, with different skin colours, different religions and speaking different languages, I hope we all learn it.

“Do we not all have one Father? Did not one God create us?” (Malachi 2:10).

To be fair, much of the concern over the Syrian migrants is more to do with their religion and culture then their race, per se. Note that some of the Christian leaders who spoke out about this are willing to take in Christian migrants.

Also, a nitpick about whether the marriage of Moses to a Cushite woman was an example of polygamy, as stated by the author of this article; it may well have been, but other than the “Zipporah was the Cushite woman” theory, I’ve also read the theory that Moses’s first wife Zipporah may have died during the Exodus, leaving him free to marry the “Cushite woman”.

Interestingly, the “Prince of Egypt” film and many other popular modern depictions of Zipporah do depict her as dark-skinned. And there actually is a plausible reason Miriam and Aaron might have spoken out against Moses’s marriage so long after it actually took place. Moses met and married Zipporah during his initial exile from Egypt. She did accompany him partway back to Egypt, but then he sent her (and their children) back to her father. She later re-united with Moses after he led the Israelites out of Egypt into the wilderness. So, Miriam and Aaron did not actually lay eyes on Moses’s wife until then.

Though I agree that even if Moses was a polygamist, this doesn’t undermine the point.

BTW, while I do NOT buy into these beliefs, I’ve also recalled attempts by those who oppose inter-racial marriage to explain this passage away, by stating that God punished Miriam for insubordination, or merely for gossip, and that the fact that He did so, says nothing about whether he approves of inter-racial marriage or not. (It reminds me of the “God struck Onan down for refusing his duty to provide descendants for his brother’s line, not for masturbation or contraception” arguments…)

Well, this article put me off from the first few lines where he displays a shocking disrespect for the Biblical patriarchs and righteous kings. But that’s another discussion.

As far as I have seen, the Talmud and traditional Jewish commentators unanimously reject his reading of the verses. The Talmud and many commentators state the exact opposite: That Aaron and Miriam are criticizing Moses for separating from his wife. They did not realize that he had to do this because he had to be ready to receive God’s word at any moment, and he had to be ritually pure in order to do that. That explains God’s response: That He speaks directly to Moses with unmatched clarity and at all times, unlike any other prophet. The ancient Aramaic Targum renders Cushite as “shapirta,” meaning “beautiful”. Rashi even finds the word “Cushite” numerically equivalent to the phrase “of beautiful appearance.”

So it’s not a discussion about racism. Think about it: Miriam is a prophetess. Aaron is the High Priest. The author imagines them as gossiping about Moses’ scandalous interracial marriage. To mind mind, it’s an interpretation that’s beyond belief.

From the article:

*“Numbers 12 tells the story of the opposition of his brother Aaron and sister Miriam to Moses on the grounds that he had married a Cushite wife.”

*Yes I think that’s a good lesson from the scriptures!

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