Moshe cried to Adonai, "Oh God, I beg you, please, heal her!"
(Num 12:13 CJB)
In this parasha we have the element that could have ended the whole redemptive process of the Exodus: criticism, gossip, what is called in Hebrew: לשון הרע lashon harah. Even today, many a family, association, group, and even congregation is broken because of this evil practice.
In a previous parasha we read,
Adonai said to Moshe and Aharon, "If someone develops on his skin a swelling, scab or bright spot which could develop into the disease tzara`at, צָרָעַת he is to be brought to Aharon the cohen or to one of his sons who are cohanim. (Lev 13:1-2 CJB)
Most English texts use the word 'leprosy' but biblical leprosy does not refer to what we know as leprosy so I will use the Hebrew word 'tzara'ah'. In the Talmud, tzara'ah is connected to gossip and evil speech, what is commonly referred to as 'lashon harah'. The connection for this is in our parasha this week in the episode of Miriam becoming Tzara'due to her criticism of Moshe.
Aharon and Miriam's criticism had to do with a 'cushite' woman who was married to Moshe. Who was she? Many speculate, but at present there is no evidence that Moshe married anyone else but Zipporah, Jethro's daughter.
Aben Ezra, Ben Melech, and the Jerusalem Targum represent her not as a native of Ethiopia, the country of the Abyssines, but as a Cushite native of Arabia Chusea, in which country Midian was, where also Zipporah came from. Hence the tents, of Cushan, and the curtains of Midian, are spoken of together, . I saw trouble in the tents of Kushan and the tent hangings shaking in the land of Midyan. (Hab_3:7. Being a desert woman, she might have had dark skin. Until today, the Hebrew word used for 'black', toward a black person is the word: 'cushi', someone from 'Cush'.
Let us now examine Aharon and Miriam's criticism.
Miryam and Aharon began criticizing Moshe on account of the Ethiopian woman he had married, for he had in fact married an Ethiopian woman. They said, "Is it true that Adonai has spoken only with Moshe? Hasn't he spoken with us too?" Adonai heard them. (Num 12:1-2 CJB)
These 2 verses have one thing in common: the laws of clean and unclean.
Here is how it works:
- Moses was married, but he was also in constant communication with HaShem.
- Sexual relations create uncleanliness, Moshe therefore became a 'eunuch' for the sake of the kingdom as Yeshua once talked about (Mt 19:12).
- In pride and jealousy, Miryam questions "Is it true that Adonai has spoken only with Moshe? Hasn't He spoken with us too?"
- In essence, "Who do you think you are? Why do you give yourself such importance? Aren't you guilty of spiritual pride? You are not so indispensable!"
Now this man Moshe was very humble, more so than anyone on earth.
(Num 12:3 CJB)
Just like Aharon and Miryam some people like to find fault in Moshe, but after reading this, I would be careful to utter anything against Moshe lest I contradict HaShem! Now HaShem explains what's going on:
Suddenly Adonai told Moshe, Aharon and Miryam, "Come out, you three, to the tent of meeting." The three of them went out. Adonai came down in a column of cloud and stood at the entrance to the tent. He summoned Aharon and Miryam, and they both went forward. He said, "Listen to what I say: when there is a prophet among you, I, Adonai, make myself known to him in a vision, I speak with him in a dream.
(Num 12:4-6 CJB)
In other words, "Yes; I do speak with other people than Moshe, and here is how it goes!"
But it isn't that way with my servant Moshe. He is the only one who is faithful in my entire household. With him I speak face to face and clearly, not in riddles; he sees the image of Adonai. So why weren't you afraid to criticize my servant Moshe?" (Num 12:7-8 CJB)
"I speak face to face with Moshe. It is different!"
- Moshe was a prophet of a different caliber.
- He was constantly on-call with HaShem.
The anger of Adonai flared up against them, and he left. But when the cloud was removed from above the tent, Miryam had tzara`at, as white as snow. Aharon looked at Miryam, and she was as white as snow.
(Num 12:9-10 CJB)
Then, Aharon enters his role as a levite and intercedes with Moshe:
Aharon said to Moshe, "Oh, my lord, please don't punish us for this sin we committed so foolishly. Please don't let her be like a stillborn baby, with its body half eaten away when it comes out of its mother's womb!"
(Num 12:11-12 CJB)
- Moshe then intercedes with HaShem.
LET US SEE HOW THE TRUE 'ANOINTED OF GOD REACTS TO THIS TREACHERY FROM HIS OWN FAMILY, FROM THOSE CLOSEST TO HIM.
MUCH LEADERSHIP ETHICS CAN BE LEARNED IN HOW MOSHE REACTS TO HIS OLDER SISTER'S VERBAL ATTACKS.
- HE IS NOT ANGRY AT HER.
- HE DOESN'T HIT BACK AND RETALIATE. Our natural reaction to verbal attacks is usually to attack back; find fault with the "messenger".
- Moshe actually lives by the words of the Master: "You have heard that our fathers were told, 'Love your neighbor -- and hate your enemy.' But I tell you, love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you! Then you will become children of your Father in heaven. For he makes his sun shine on good and bad people alike, and he sends rain to the righteous and the unrighteous alike. (Mat 5:43-45 CJB)
- HE PRAYS AND INTERCEDES FOR HER.
"Oh God, I beg you, please, heal her!" .
(Num 12:13 CJB)
MUCH CAN BE LEARNED FROM THIS!
Back to Miryam:
From our Sages on this Parashah:
- David the Psalmist compares slanderous talk to "Sharp arrows of the warrior, coals of broom" (Psalms 120:4).
- All other weapons smite from close quarters, while the arrow smites from the distance. So is it with slander: it is spoken in Rome and kills in Syria.
- All other coals, when extinguished, are extinguished without and within; but coals of broom are still burning within when they are extinguished without. So is it with words of slander: even after it seems that their effects have been put out, they continue to smolder within those who heard them. It once happened that a broom tree was set on fire and it burned eighteen months -- winter, summer and winter.
HERE IS THE DEFINITION OF LASHON HARAH:
- IT IS NOT CRITICISM.
- IT IS HAVING SO MUCH ARROGANCE THAT WE DO NOT RECOGNIZE THE TRUE ANOINTED OF GOD TO THE POINT THAT WE EQUATE OURSELVES WITH HIM/HER, CONSIDER THEM AS PEERS AND ALLOW OURSELVES TO JUDGE THEM.
Many people, especially religious leaders or religiously inflamed political leaders use this story and the threat of tzara'at to deflect all and any criticism against them. They call it 'persecution for righteousness' sake'.
- But criticism done in a positive manner is a positive thing.
- It helps us stay in tune with the reality of our sinful selves and drives away the main enemies of any spiritual leader: spiritual pride and self-righteousness.
- They looked at Moshe's personal life and found fault
- Moshe knew his own weakness; he had already told HaShem that he was not worthy not capable to do the job.
- That's why his brother was helping him.
- We often 'buck' against some truth they tell by attacking them back using their humanity against them.
- We don't do it for a concern for justice. We do it because we try to protect our own pride and sense of righteousness, (just-us!).
- That's lashon Harah.
- Miryam and Aharon's statement were true, but ill-motivated, out of jealousy which is born of pride.
In our pride and jealousy we demand much more from our leaders than even HaShem demands of them, or of us. We also tend to do that sometimes with our spouses also which is very toxic to a marriage.
- Criticism of leaders mostly focuses on their personal lives.
- But in our leaders, it is not the person that we respect. When we do, we become 'man-worshipers'
- What we respect is the 'uniform'. When we do that we respect HaShem and His role in the person, not the person.
- Samson behaved sinfully, but he was still the judge of Israel and a Nazarite at that. We know that because what he was punished for was breaking his Nazarite vow.
- In spite of himself, he fulfilled his role in a mighty valiant way.
- Should be corrected?
- Even dismissed?
- If he is either self-appointed (like many), not from the sons of Aaron who are automatically appointed, there is no concern for 'lashon hara'
- But if he is Torah/HaShem appointed because he is a son of Aharon then there is a concern to be careful in our criticsm.
Sha'ul looked straight at them and said, "Brothers, I have been discharging my obligations to God with a perfectly clear conscience, right up until today." But the cohen hagadol, Hananyah, ordered those standing near him to strike him on the mouth. Then Sha'ul said to him, "God will strike you, you whitewashed wall! Will you sit there judging me according to the Torah, yet in violation of the Torah order me to be struck?" The men nearby said, "This is the cohen hagadol of God that you're insulting!" Sha'ul said, "I didn't know, brothers, that he was the cohen hagadol; for it says in the Torah, 'You are not to speak disparagingly of a ruler of your people.' "
(Act 23:1-5 CJB)
David also feared doing or saying anything bad to Saul, the anointed of God. He also killed he who gleefully announced his death.
We must learn from Joseph, Daniel, Nehemiah, and Ester who all worked for ungodly pagan rulers unto whom they owed their lives. They had to respect their position. By their examples of humility and faithfulness, they were used to save Israel from destruction.
This is the attitude that they exemplified for us to have, even under pagan worldly leaders .
How much more should respect our earthly leaders, especially those who lead us in the ways of Torah.