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This weeks Haftarah, calls us all כושים , black people, in the literal sense of the word. R Eliezer Ben Hurkenus gives it a twist though. He says that when the Torah refers to a Jew as black, it means metaphorically. Just as the black are different in their skin from the rest of humanity, so too, those that are referred to as black in the Torah, are not necessarily black, but unique, with good deeds, and good character. הֲלוֹא כִּבְנֵי כֻשִׁיִּים אַתֶּם לִי, וְכִי כּוּשִׁים הָיוּ, אֶלָא מָה הַכֻּשִׁי הַזֶּה גוּפוֹ מְשֻׁנֶּה מִכָּל הַבְּרִיּוֹת, כָּךְ יִשְׂרָאֵל מְשֻׁנִּים בְּדַרְכֵיהֶם וּבְמַעֲשֵׂיהֶם הַטּוֹבִים מִכָּל אֻמּוֹת הָעוֹלָם, לְכָךְ נִקְרְאוּ כּוּשִׁים. R’ Eliezer Ben Hurkenus brings proof of this, from Tzipporah.  Tzipporah is called black in the Torah, although she was not. She was called black because she was unique. Unique in character and in beauty.   וַתְּדַבֵּר מִרְיָם וְאַהֲרֹן בְּמֹשֶׁה עַל אֹדוֹת הָאִשָּׁה הַכֻּשִׁית אֲשֶׁר לָקָח וְכִי כֻּשִׁית הָיְתָה, אֶלָּא מָה הַכֻּשִׁי הַזֶּה מְשֻׁנֶּה בְעוֹרוֹ, כָּךְ הָיְתָה צִפּוֹרָה מְשֻׁנָּה בְּמַעֲשֶׂיהָ הַטּוֹבִים, לְפִיכָךְ נִקְרֵאת כּוּשִׁית שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר כִּי אִשָׁה כּוּשִׁית לָקָח (Pirkei DrE 53)  R’ Eliezer B. H. continues to explain, that King Shaul was referred to as כוש, black, by King David in Tehillim. That also means that Shaul was unique in how tall and handsome he was, and how good and kind he was.

Unique is a good thing. Being unique, is what makes us irreplaceable. It is not easy to be unique as a nation. Throughout the history of exile, the Jewish people have been told, to go back to where we came from. Now that we returned to our homeland, we are being told, to go someplace else. But people don’t get it. This is the price tag of being different and unique, and it is what makes us so resilient. It makes our military stronger, it unifies us, and more importantly, it brings us closer to G-d, our Superpower.

Recently, one of my virtual students how learns in NYU, asked me something that I can’t get out of my head. He had just watched the latest Moses movie in Netflix, and wanted to know if Moshe’s wife Tzipporah was a black woman, as seen on Netflix. Well, at first I answered that Rashi says Tzipporah was not black, although the simple meaning of the aforementioned passuk says that she was. Instead, Rashi says, she was beautiful, and the numerical value of the word כושית  is יפת מראה .

Netflix makes Tzipporah black, because the Christian Bible translates the words literally, so the gentiles believe that Tzipporah was a black woman. Hollywood makes money riding the hype of the times, so they prefer giving the acting position of Tzipporah to a black woman. At the most, Tzipporah was very tan, as she was from Midian, a people who live in tents, in sunny places. (Ibn Ezra)

But as I researched the sources, I was shocked to find that there is another opinion than Rashi, an opinion that is much less known. That Moshe’s wife was actually black! Not Tzipporah, but Moshe’s second wife, a black queen, the queen of Kush! When Moshe ran away from Pharoah, and ruled over Kush for 40 years, he was married to the Queen! Moshe never had any physical relationship with this black queen from Kush. (Keter Yonatan, Rashbam, Hizkuni, Daat Zekenim)

According to Rama Mipano, there is a connection between the soul of Moshe, who is the pillar of the Written Torah, and the soul of R’ Akiva, who is the pillar of the Oral Torah.  In the Sefer Gilgulei Neshamot, everything that happened to Moshe, happened to R’ Akiva in some sort of parallel. Moshe had two wives, the black queen of Kush, and Tzipporah. R’ Akiva also had two wives, Rachel the daughter of the wealthy Kalba Sabua, and the convert, the wife of Tornosrofus. (Avodah Zara 20b)

What was the story, of Moshe, marrying this black queen from Kush?

Moshe, the Egyptian prince of Batya, was looking out for his Jewish brothers. Moshe killed the Egyptian who slept with Shlomit Bat Dibri, while the Egyptian was trying to kill Shlomit’s husband, who learned what the Egyptian had done to his wife. Pharoah chased Moshe to kill him. When Pharoah tried chopping off Moshe’s neck, Moshe’s neck turned into marble, and Pharoah’s sword didn’t hurt him in the slightest. Pharoah became mute, and his executioners became blind… Moshe fled.

In Sefer Hayashar and in Yalkut Shimoni (168) it tells us what happened after Moshe ran away from Egypt.  At the time, there was a war between the Kingdom of Kush and the people of the East. Kukonus the king of Kush went out to war, and left Kingdom Kush in the hands of his advisor of the time, Bilaam, and Bliam’s two sons, Yanus and Yambrus. After Kukonus left, Bilaam decided to rebel, and rule in the place of Kukonus. The people of Kush listened to Bilaam, and Bilaam appointed his sons as generals of a new Kush army.

In order to protect themselves from Kokonus and the Kush army, Bilaam and his sons, used witchcraft to raise the height of the walls of Kush to great heights on the two sides of the city. On the third side of the city, they dug big wells, and they diverted the river of Kush to fill the trenches with raging rapids,  and on the fourth side, they brought many snakes with their witchcraft. All this was to stop Kokonus and his army from returning home, after they won the war.

After King Kokonas was victorious over the enemy from the East, he tried returning with his whole army, and they saw the high walls, not realizing what had happened. They tried coming to the main gates of Kush, but the gates were locked and the guards would not open for them. They tried fighting, but they lost 130 soldiers in combat. On the second day they tried to fight from the side of the river, but 30 chariots drowned in the whirlpools. King Kokonus tried to come in on rafts, but all ten rafts flipped over and killed over 200 soldiers. On the third day, they tried coming in from the side of the snakes, but 170 soldiers died. So, they made a siege on the city, hoping that somehow, someday, they can capture it.

Moshe who fled from the most powerful man on Earth, Pharoah, joined the men of Kokanus who were in middle of the siege. The king and all the people loved Moshe, for he was tall, handsome, and strong. The king appointed Moshe as his advisor.  After 9 years of siege, King Kokanus died. The army of Kush was afraid that without a leader, they were vulnerable to their enemies, who they won recently. They decided to appoint Moshe as their leader. They swore to Moshe that if he would help them, he would be their king and he would marry the queen, the wife of Kokunus. This was 157 years into the 210 years of the Jews living in Egypt.

The day after Moshe was appointed, the army of Kush came to Moshe for advice how to capture Kush.  After all, they have not been with their families for nine years now. Moshe told them to go to forest and that each one should capture a young stork. They needed to train their storks to fly and capture prey, and to follow orders.  Moshe then told them to starve their storks for two days. On the third day, Moshe commanded them to battle Bilaam and his army from the side of the city that was filled with snakes. The starved storks flew over the snakes and snatched them all up, eating all the snakes. 1,100 people of Kush, from inside the city, died in battle, and not one of Moshe’s soldiers died! Bilaam and his sons fled to Egypt, where Bilaam again became close to Pharoah.

Moshe entered the city, and captured it, and the Queen of Kush, became his wife. He was never with her, he never even looked at her. It was only externally, that he acted as if they were married.

Moshe was 27 years old when he became the king of Kush. Not long after Moshe took over Kush, the people of the East rebelled, when they heard that the King of Kush, Kokunus, died.  Moshe fought them with an army of 30,000 soldiers, and he killed from the enemy 300 people. This made Moshe even more popular in Kush Kingdom.

After 40 years, the queen publicized that Moshe never really married her, and that Moshe does not serve the gods of Kush. She wanted that her son Munham should be the next king. The people of Kush decided to listen to her, and they put Munham, son of Kokanus, as their king. With that, they sent Moshe from the Kingdom of Kush on his way, with many gifts.

That is when Moshe came to Midian at the age of 67. Yitro thought that Moshe was fleeing from Kush, and that the people of Kush wanted to kill Moshe for not serving their gods, so Yitro locked up Moshe in a cellar for ten years, thinking that this way, he would satisfy the people of Kush. Yitro forgot about Moshe, while Tzipporah brought food and water to Moshe for ten years, without her father Yitro knowing.  Ten years later, Yitro checked the cellar, and saw that Moshe was miraculously still alive, so he freed him, and Moshe married Tzipporah. (See Meam Loez in Shemot)

I always wondered what Moshe felt was the purpose of his unique life, until he was over 80 years old, and faced Pharoah. He was so different, he was so unrelatable. I always wondered why G-d makes us Jews so unique and different, so unrelatable to the gentiles. Our Rabbis teach, that when you are unique and different, and you don’t know why, it means that something special is in store. The Mishna in Avot teaches,  אין לך אדם שאין לו שעה There is no person that does not have his time. (Avot 4 3)

This is the Afikoman lesson. On the Seder night, we split the middle Matza, and the part that is called Afikoman, we put in a bag, which we keep away from the table. If the Afikoman had a mouth, it would probably say when you put the Afikoman bag away, “Why am I different than the rest of the items of the night of the Seder? Why did you put me away?”

Quite the contrary! Precisely because the Afikoman is so precious, we put it away, צפון, and the one who finds it, gets a present! Only at the end of the Seder, we understand so many things, that at the beginning of the Seder made no sense! The night of the Seder, has in it much deeper meaning than what we see on the surface. The letters סדר  stand for, סוד, דרש, רמז , the deeper meaning and explanation of things, while there is no פ, there is no פשט, no simple meaning in the things of the night of the Seder.

For example. The deeper reason why we bless on the Karpas, and not the Maror, has a deeper lesson than the simple reason. Halachically, we bless Boreh Pri Hadamah on the Karpas, and we cover the blessing of Ha’adama on the Maror, because Maror is in middle of the meal, and we don’t bless on vegetables in middle of the meal.  But there is a much deeper meaning. If you can learn to bless and praise G-d for the bitter things in life, for the Karpas, you are covering yourself for the bitterness of much more bitter things in life, like the Maror, that may be in store for you.

Moshe was living the life of an Afikoman! Only after the Seder, does it all make sense, why he was separated from his people for so long, learning how to deal with adversity, to not fear anyone, to rely on G-d, and build that muscle of resilience and leadership.

This week’s Haftara, G-d is telling us that we are all כושים, we are all unique! We are different, and that we will always be different. All that we are going through is what empowers us, and makes us the great people that we are meant to be.

About the author, Yosef

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