בהעלתך

As we return to the action in this week’s parsha, after a lot of counting, we are met with some fairly dramatic episodes in the מדבר.  Near the end of the parsha, we read of the first instance of sibling rivalry since the all-consuming stories of same in Bereishit (Genesis).  The text tells us: “And Miryam and Aharon spoke of Moshe on account of the Kushite woman he took, as he did take a Kushite woman.  And they said: did Hashem only speak to Moshe?  Did He not speak with us as well?  And Hashem heard.  And the man Moshe was extremely humble, more humble than all men on the face of the earth” (12:1-3, my translation).  Almost everything in this short piece is attention-grabbing, from why this story is place where it is in the text, to who the Kushite woman is (as Rashi and Rashbam point out, it is probably not Tzippora), to what their complaint of the Kushite woman has to do with seemingly being jealous of Moshe’s privileged relationship with Hashem.  However, I want, instead, to look briefly at the last verse I quoted, which seems to be the mother of all non-sequiturs.  Rashi has a phrase for such psukim, which he strangely does not use in this case: he says of particularly troubling verses that they “scream: ‘interpret me'” (see, for example, Bereishit 37:20).  What is the passuk doing here?  Who is the speaker?  Some of the starkness of this verse’s placement would have been alleviated had the Torah been written with modern punctuation – a set of brackets, or italic print, could have come in handy.  Without any of those, however, we are left trying to figure out what the relationship is between 12:1-2 and 12:3.  Both Rashi and Rashbam spend much more time elucidating the problem of the Kushite woman than they do with this statement, and so I will simply offer what I see as the simple reading.  In 12:2 Aharon and Miryam accuse Moshe of receiving preferential treatment (or accuse Hashem for giving it).  The following verse comes, then, to assure the reader that Moshe has the special relationship he does with Hashem for purely meritorious reasons, and not because he seeks power over his siblings (and the rest of the nation) or that he attained it through crafty means.  Further, the verse has the tone of a known statement (though that might be because of the fame it has attained in later Jewish writings), namely one that Moshe’s own siblings would be familiar with – thus explaining in advance why Hashem gets angry with them.

Most humble of men

Moshe does not seek power

Yet siblings mock him

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