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Parashat Beha'alotcha - 5773

My friends,

This Shabbat we read the portion of Beha'alotcha, a portion loaded with all sorts of commandments and events:

The last story in this Parasha is a fascinating one. It reveals something about Moses' personal life and the most important and unique quality of Moses. It begins (Verse 1) with Miriam and Aaron speaking (gossiping) about Moses, their brother, "because of the Cushite woman whom he had married, for he had married a Cushite woman." It continues (Verse 2): "And they said: Has the L-rd spoken only with Moses? Has He not spoken to us also? And the Lord heard it." It then goes on (Verse 3): "Now the man Moses was very humble, above all the men that were upon the face of the earth."

It seems that Miriam and Aaron criticized Moses on two counts:

  1. The fact that he married a Cushite woman.
  2. That he must think that G-d speaks only to him.

This is a very difficult text to understand. Because in the Book of Exodus we learned that Moses married Tziporah the daughter of Jethro, a priest in Midian, and that she bore him two sons. Now, a few years later, we are told that he married a Cushite woman (Cush being Ethiopia). Is this the same woman (Tzipora) which is now described as being a Cushite? Or is this another woman that Moses married in addition to Tzipora the Midianite? There are many commentaries on this subject. The story ends with G-d admonishing Aaron and MIriam for daring to speak against Moses, and Miriam is punished by becoming covered with leprosy.

I would like to concentrate on the testimony the Torah gives us about Moses. From the moment he came into the scene as the protector and the liberator of the children of Israel, the Torah never spoke of Moses' qualifications for the job. Did G-d chose him because he was the the wisest man, the strongest, the most charismatic, or a great politician? What were his strengths?

In this Parasha the Torah reveals something about Moses' personality:

"Now the man Moses was very humble, above all the men that were upon the face of the earth."

What was so special about this quality that the Torah crowns Moses as the most humble person in the world? The fact that the Torah also describes Moses' prophecy, as being above all prophets, that Moses communicated with G-d "Panim el Panim", face to face, "Peh el Peh", mouth to mouth, unlike all other prophets that only saw G-d in a vision, should have given Moses a feelings of superiority and pride. The community and the society in which he lived would understand perfectly, that he was above all humans. On the contrary - The Torah emphasizes that it never went to his head - he was the most humble.

Everyone of us is endowed with unique strengths, talents and qualities. We show humility when we share those talents by helping others. We show humility when we are able to forgive others, even when they slight us, and that we can ask forgiveness from others. We show humility when, even when we are praised, we realize that we could have done better. And we show humility when we are grateful to G-d for whatever skills, talents, gifts or blessings we possess.

Shabbat Shalom,

Avram