Five Reasons? Five???

Just in the Rashi, there are 5 reasons given why “Moshe’s wife” in Bamidbar 12:1 (אִשָּׁה הַכֻּשִׁית) could NOT have been the Kushi (usually translated as Ethiopian, therefore black) woman that the pshat (literal interpretation of the Torah) says outright she was:

  1. Rashi #1:  It was Tzipporah all along:  Miriam overheard Tzipporah (already established as a Midianite woman) complaining about her husband’s separation and this is what she and Aharon are referring to.
  2. Rashi #2:  Tzipporah (Moshe’s first, only, and Midianite wife) was widely-known to be as beautiful as a Kushi woman.  A common misunderstanding.
  3. Rashi #3:  Kushis (כֻּשִׁית) is a top-secret gematria (numerical equivalence) of yefas mar’eh (יְפַתמַרְאֶה), “beautiful of appearance,” a descriptor also used about Sarai in parshas Lech Lecha.  Because the Torah always says what it wants to say in code.
  4. Rashi #4:  Some women look great but are really unpleasant, some look awful but are very sweet, but Tzipporah (again, his first, only, and non-Egyptian, semitic wife), was both… so she was called “Kushi.”  Awww… those amazing, gorgeous Ethiopian women!  (just don’t read the next explanation)
  5. Rashi #5:  Just like you’d call your wonderful, handsome kid “ugly” to ward off the evil eye, so, too, you can call your wife “Ethiopian” to, in effect, spit three times into the wind and avoid bringing down a curse onto her gorgeous semitic head.  Um, okay.  Maybe I’m reading it wrong.

But then, in case all of this hasn’t convinced you yet, there’s…

  1. (oops – can’t control the numbering here) Rashi #6:  Oh, yeah, one midrash [Tanchuma Tzav 13] says he DID marry an Ethiopian woman, but they’re divorced now, so don’t worry about it.


  1. So he married an Ethiopian. So what?

  2. Of *course*! To us, no big deal.
    That's why it's so amusing that chazal (as represented by Rashi, who brings their arguments to every day-school classroom in the world) are bending over backwards to "prove" he didn't. (Only, ultimately, they can't.)
    Or rather, it would be amusing if some yeshiva settings were not so racist - there are probably more than a few classrooms where it's "of course" that you'd want to find reasons why he didn't marry a Kushi woman.
    So - amusing, and yet still, in some places, very much the state of affairs today.
    Hope that makes sense.


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