Dark and Desirable
“Moses’ wife was called the Cushite, because of her beauty, as a man would call his handsome son ‘Cushite’ to negate the power of the evil eye [כֻּשִׁית (Cushit), Cushite, and יְפַת מַרְאֶה (yefat mar’eh), beautiful in appearance (Genesis 29:17) are numerically equivalent (Rashi). On employing a euphemism with regard to one’s wife, cf. Genesis 20:2: And Abraham said of Sarah his wife, ‘She is my sister’]” (Tanḥuma, Tsav, 13, cf. Midrash Tehillim 7:18).
“This is customary: a black person may be called white, employing a euphemism; and sometimes white is called black, as is written: for he had taken a Cushite wife (Numbers 12:1); Are you not as children of the Cushites to Me, [O children of Israel? says YHWH] (Amos 9:7)” (Zohar 2:130a).
“And Miriam, and Aaron with her, spoke against Moses concerning the Cushite wife he had taken, for he had taken a Cushite wife (Numbers 12:1). Was she a Cushite? Was not her name Zipporah? But as a Cushite woman is distinguishable by her skin so was also Zipporah distinguished by her deeds. In like manner you explain: Now Ebed-Melek the Cushite… heard (Jeremiah 39:16). Now was his name Cushite? Was not his name Zedekiah? But as the Cushite is distinguishable by his skin so was Zedekiah distinguished by his deeds. In like manner you explain: Are you not as children of the Cushites to Me? (Amos 9:7). Now is their name [children of] Cushites? Was not their name [children of] Israel? The truth is that as the Cushite is distinguishable by his skin, so are Israel distinguished by their ways from all other nations” (BT Mo’ed Qatan 16b).
I am dark but desirable, O daughters of Jerusalem, like the tents of Kedar, like Solomon’s curtains. Do not look on me for being dark [as a peasant], for the sun has glared on me (Song of Songs 1:5–6).
“I am dark but desirable (Song of Songs 1:5), the speculum that does not shine [Shekhinah], but Father and Mother adorned Her so that Her husband [Tif’eret] be pleased with Her” (Zohar 1:49b).
“Your joy shall be like His joy when He will come to redeem the Shekhinah, and He like a bride groom from His canopy comes (Psalms 19:6). For Her garments in exile are dark, and when she wears them she says, Do not look on me for being dark (Song of Songs 1:6)” (Zohar 3:279b, Ra’aya Meheimna Ki Tetse).