Parshat Beha’aloscha 5782: The Story Behind Miriam’s Affliction

Shalom Friends;

This week, our Parshat HaShevua, Beha’aloscha is being co-sponsored by Yehudah and Tamara Nyssen and family and by Shlomo and Shoshana Weis, both families from Ramat Beit Shemesh dedicated… . To the Nyssens and Weis’, many thanks for your co-sponsorships and for your continued kindnesses.

You can celebrate a Simcha — a birth, a Bar/Bat Mitzvah, a Chassuna or other Simcha event in your life, or commemorate a Yahrtzeit of a loved one, or for whatever other reason by sponsoring a Parshat HaShevua.

Please forward to your relatives and friends and encourage them to sponsor a Parshat HaShevua. And please be in contact with me with any questions, or for further details.

Best Regards,

Moshe Burt
skype: mark.burt3

Parshat Beha’aloscha 5782: The Story Behind Miriam’s Affliction

by Moshe Burt

In his Parsha Summary, Rabbi Shmuel Goldin narrates the conclusion of our Parshat Beha’aloscha:

…Miriam and Aaron, Moshe’s sister and brother, publically criticize Moshe. After reaffirming Moshe’s unique relationship with the Divine, Hashem afflicts Miriam with tzaraas [Rabbi Goldin uses the term leprosy, but the loshen — language Torah uses in our Parsha is Tzaraas: as discussed in Parshat Tazria-Metzora] When Moshe prays on her behalf, Hashem insists [would “orders” or “pronounces” be more appropriate language?] that Miriam observe a seven-day quarantine outside the camp. The nation waits… resuming its journey only upon Miriam’s return.

Torah records:

“Miriam and Aaron spoke against Moshe regarding the Cushite woman he had married… They said, ‘Was it only to Moshe that Hashem spoke? Did He not speak to us, as well?’ And Hashem heard. Now… Moshe was exceedingly humble, more than any person on the face of the earth!

“Hashem said suddenly to Moshe, to Aaron, and to Miriam, ‘You three go out to the Tent of Meeting [Ohel Mo’ed].’ And the three of them went out. Hashem descended in a pillar of cloud and stood at the entrance to the Tent, and He summoned Aaron and Miriam: the two went out. He said, ‘Hear now My words. If there shall be prophets among you, in a vision shall I, Hashem, make myself known to him; in a dream shall I speak with him. Not so is My servant Moshe; in My entire house he is the trusted one, Mouth to Mouth do I speak to him, in a clear vision and not in riddles… Why did you not fear to speak against My servant Moshe?’ The wrath of Hashem flared up against them and He left.

“The cloud had departed from atop the Tent, and behold! Miriam was afflicted with tzaraas, like snow.

“Aaron said to Moshe, ‘I beg you, my lord, do not cast a sin upon us, for we have been foolish and we have sinned. let her not be like a corpse, like one who leaves his mother’s womb with half of his flesh having been consumed!’

“Moshe cried out to Hashem, saying, ‘Please, Hashem, heal her now.’

“Hashem said to Moshe, ‘Were her father to spit in her face, would she not be humiliated for seven days? Let her be quarantined outside the camp for seven days, and then she may be brought in.’ So Miriam was quarantined outside the camp for seven days, and the people did not journey until Miriam was brought in.” (Perek 12, posukim 1-11, 13-14 rendered to English in the Artscroll Stone Chumash)

So what brought on the circumstances by which Aaron and Miriam spoke against Moshe?

The Artscroll Stone Chumash provides commentary regarding the end of the previous perek (page 793):

Moshe… made a public designation of the seventy newly appointed members of the Sanhedrin. …He was showing them that their recalcitrance [adjective resisting authority or control; not obedient or compliant; hard to deal with, manage, or operate.] had made it impossible to continue to function on his own.

Since the Sanhedrin had only seventy seats, Moshe would have had to select six members from each of ten tribes and only five from the other two. Fearing that the two tribes with fewer members would balk at accepting his decision that they have less representation, Moshe selected six qualified members from each tribe… — and had them participate in a lottery. Seventy lots were inscribed “elder” and two were blank. Each of the seventy-two was to draw a lot so that the choice of which two would be excluded would clearly be Hashem’s.

Eldad and Medad [although chosen with the seventy-two] did not attend the drawing, either because they were so humble that they felt that they did not deserve the honor (Rashi citing Sifre) or because they were afraid if they would draw blank lots and be humiliated (Rashi on Sanhedrin 17a). The fact was, however, that two other candidates drew the blank lots, so that Eldad and Medad became members by default.

Torah records:

“Two men remained behind in the camp, …one was Eldad and… the second was Medad, and the spirit rested upon them: they had been among the recorded ones, but they had not gone out to the Tent, and they prophesied in the camp. The youth ran and told Moshe, and he said, “Eldad and Medad are prophesying in the camp.” (Perek 11, posukim 26-27 as rendered to English in the Artscroll Stone Chumash)

The Artscroll Stone Chumash continues its commentary (page 793-795):

According to Sifre they refrained from participating because they were humble: Hashem rewarded them for their noble character by permitting them to continue as prophets…

Since Moshe had to be ready to hear Hashem’s word at any moment, he had to be ritually pure at all times, which meant that he had to refrain from marital relations with his wife Tzippora. This intimate matter remained their private affair, until Miriam learned of it from a chance remark by Tzippora.

The Sapirstein Edition, The Torah with Rashi Commentary provides comment on Perek 12, posuk 1 (page 136);

“Miriam and Aaron spoke against Moshe regarding the Cushite woman he had married.” And from where did Miriam know that Moshe separated himself from… his wife. The Tanna R’ Nassan says, Miriam was at Tzippora’s side at the time when it was said to Moshe, “Eldad and Medad a prophesying in the camp.” (Perek 11, posuk 26) When Tzippora heard this, she said, “Woe to the wives of these, Eldad and Medad — if they will be charged prophecy, for they will separate from their wives in the manner that my husband, Moshe, separated from me.” From there Miriam knew that Moshe separated from his wife, and she told Aaron.

Note 3 on the above Rashi (ibid, page 136):

Miriam had good intentions toward Moshe. She spoke to Aaron for she thought that Aaron would speak to Moshe about correcting what she viewed as improper conduct on Moshe’s part. Still, she was taken to task for speaking of Moshe as if he were a prophet like all other prophets. (The Sapirstein Edition, The Torah with Rashi Commentary citing Eimek HaNetziv; also Rambam, Hilchos Tumas Tzaraas 16:10)

The Sapirstein Edition, The Torah with Rashi Commentary concludes (ibid, page 136)

Now if Miriam, who did not intend to speak of his [Moshe’s] disparagement, was thus punished, how much more so one who speaks of the disparagement of his fellow.

May we, the B’nei Yisrael be zocha that our brethren — the refugee families from Gush Katif be permanently settled and be made totally whole — be totally restituted for all that was stolen from them, that the thrice expelled families of Amona be restored to their rebuilt homes and the oft-destroyed Yeshiva buildings in Homesh be rebuilt, all at total government expense; due to alt-leftist-agendized, supreme court legalized Yassamnik gunpoint. Baruch Hashem that our dear brother Jonathan Pollard is now free of his parole and restrictions and that he is now in his second year at home in Eretz Yisrael. May Esther Yocheved bat Yechiel Avraham have an aliyah in Shemayim and may her memory continue to lift Jonathan to at least 120 years. May the MIAs be liberated alive and returned to us in ways befitting Al Kiddush Hashem — as with the return in April, 2019, via Russia, of the remains of Zachariah Baumel, as should the remains of the two chayalim from the Gaza War of seven years ago. May we have the courage and strength to stand up and physically prevent the possibility of Chas V’Challila any future eviction of Jews from their homes and prevent Chas V’Challila the handing of Jewish land over to anyone, let alone to enemies sworn to Israel’s and Judaism’s destruction and eradication. And may we soon and finally see the total end to the Communist Chinese corona virus pandemic and all like viruses. May we fulfill Hashem’s blueprint of B’nei Yisrael as a Unique people — an Am Segula, not to be reckoned with as with “the nations” and may we be zocha to see the Moshiach, the Ge’ula Shlaima, as Dov Shurin sings; “Ki Karov Yom Hashem Al’Kol HaGoyim”, the Ultimate Redemption, bimhayrah b’yamainu — speedily, in our time”, — Achshav, Chik Chuk, Miyad, Etmol!!!

Good Shabbos!
Moshe Burt, an Oleh, is a commentator on news and events in Israel and Founder and Director of The Sefer Torah Recycling Network. He lives in Ramat Beit Shemesh.