The following is a summary of a sermon I delivered Saturday, June 13th.
“Miriam and Aaron spoke against Moshe regarding the Cushite (Ethiopian) woman he had married.” In their commentaries, the rabbis associate their sin of gossip with the punishment meted out to Miriam who was stricken with “snow white scales” (some sort of skin disease often mistranslated as leprosy). In interpreting Torah, we often seek present day meanings in ancient texts/stories. I can only imagine Aaron coming up to Miriam during the wedding, a drink in his hand, saying “Ess past nit” (it’s not right!) Perhaps it was subliminal. Perhaps it was overt, but what he was saying was, “She’s not one of ours!” “She’s a different race.” “She doesn’t fit.” “Look at the color of her ebony skin.” Our sages teach us that God punishes measure for measure. “You Miriam who think your whiteness makes you special!!!! You would want to judge people based on the color of their skin!! When you don’t recognize the image of God in every human being, when your whiteness becomes a weapon of privilege, I will turn that very whiteness into a disease of ugly Snow White scales.” And when we read this section of Torah, we are reminded to defend the Cushite men and women in our world. We are reminded to defend them for Lashonda Hara… Or racist language that leads to violence. Aaron and Miriam were figures of authority. And when we read this section we are reminded to protect the powerless from those who wield white power. Either the power of office or the power of the Billy Club and Gun. Because Cushite lives matter. (Yes, I know Miriam was Semitic and therefore not really white … I’m basing MY midrash on the Miriam of the Cecil B. DeMille movie).
Rabbi Jacob Rosner