Behaalotcha:
Who is the Cushite woman?


In Numbers chapter 12, we read,

Miriam and Aaron spoke against Moses regarding the Cushite woman he had married, for he had married a Cushite woman.

Who is this un-named Cushite woman?

Is she Tzipporah?

In the classic Rashi view, Miriam and Aaron rebuke Moses for withdrawing from his marital relationship. Moses wanted to be in a constant state of purity should he have to communicate with God at any time. .

Is there proof?

We last read Tzipporah’s name in Exodus 18. Jethro, Tzipporah and her two sons return to Moses, just before the giving of the Ten Commandments. Afterwards, 0Moses has no more children.

Did Miriam and Aaron have another reason to rebuke Moses?

Did Moses divorce Tzipporah for some other reason?

Or as leader of Israel, was Moses just too busy for Tzipporah?

How do we know that the Cushite woman is Tzipporah?

She is the only wife mentioned by name in the text.

Cush is similar to Cushan or Kusi--a desert tribe of Northern Arabia, near Midian.

Cushite is a word play alluding to Tzipporah’s beauty. Cush is associated with Ethiopia, a land of dark-skinned people. The numeric value of Cushi is the same as Yfat Mareh---meaing beautiful in appearance.

But is Tzipporah really the Cushite woman?

Why is the name left out?

Tzipporah, by name, last appears just before the giving of the Ten Commandments. Has Tzipporah died?

What happened to her sons?

Did she return to her father, Jethro?

Did Moses divorce her?

Did Moses take a new wife?

Did Moses take a second wife, while keeping Tzipporah.

Why do Miriam and Aaron object to the Cushite woman?

Is it because of her social class?

Is a non-Israelite, not fitting for the leader of Israel?

Is she of the mixed multitude who left Egypt with the Israelites?

Was this member of the mixed multitude a corrupting influence?

Are Miriam and Aaron condemning intermarriage?

Are they calling Moses a hypocrite for having a foreign wife, while preaching against mixing with foreign, immoral or pagan women?

Did Miriam and Aaron tell Moses to divorce this Cushite woman, and take a more suitable wife?

Where did this new wife come from?

In his book, “Moses, a life”
Jonathan Kirsch fills in the forty years between the time Moses fled Egypt for killing the overseer, and when he turns up in Midian.

Kirsch relates a rabbinic tradition in which Moses fled to Cush---Ethiopia---where he was first a mercenary, then a general, then a king, until he was deposed and had to flee.

Did he marry a princess while in Ethiopia, or did he marry a different Cushite woman?

Did he take this wife with him to Midian, and did Tzipporah become his second wife?

The text only raises questions.

The answers are yours.