Oct. 5, 2020

Jim Copland on Numbers 12 – “The Allure of Beauty, the Sin of Gossip -- and Other Lessons from Numbers 12"

Jim Copland, senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute and director of Legal Policy, joins Mark for today’s episode. During his storied career, Jim has testified before Congress as well as state and municipal legislatures, and his writing has appeared in a variety of publications such as the Harvard Business Law Review and Yale Journal on Regulation, the Wall Street Journal, and USA Today. He is also the author of The Unelected: How an Unaccountable Elite is Governing America, his latest book, which was released in September. The text he has chosen to discuss with Mark today is Numbers 12.

Jim starts the conversation by summarizing the passage, its significance for him, and then he and Mark explore some differing interpretations of Moses’ marriage to a Cushite woman. They also discuss lessons about engaging in lashon hara, the difference between gossiping and rebuking that the text teaches, and the relevance of the entire text for today’s criminal justice system. Jim offers the lessons he has learned about mankind, including the hope to be found in the fact that God entrusts us with the law, the original sin of America, and what he has learned from his interracial marriage.

Episode Highlights:

  • Jim’s summary of the text and its significance for him
  • Differing interpretations of the critique of Moses’s marriage to a Cushite woman
  • Miriam and Aaron’s failure of lashon hara and Miriam’s punishment
  • The difference between rebuking and gossiping
  • The Jewish definition of humility
  • Moses’ defense of Miriam against God
  • The relevance of this text for today’s criminal justice system
  • The lessons about mankind that Jim has learned
  • The hope to be found in God entrusting us with the law
  • What Jim has learned from being in an interracial marriage
  • The original sin of America


“A challenge, to some degree, of Moses’ authority.”

“He married an outsider.”

“The gematria for ‘Cushite’ and the gematria for ‘beautiful of appearance’ is the same, 736. So, the biblical author…is clearly associating Cushite with beautiful appearance.”

“They speak out about Moses behind his back…they’re gossiping about Moses which is a great Jewish sin.”

“It’s in their failure to address Moses directly, it’s in their failure to rebuke him in a way that he can learn from, that they failed and they are punished.”

“The Bible is insistent on rebuking.”

“This is the, kind of, canonical, biblical expression of lashon hara, of gossiping.”

“Here you see Moses challenging God.”

“There’s no distinction in the Bible between a sin against God and a sin against another person. A sin against a person is a sin against God.”

“Man is fundamentally good, but man is also fundamentally fallen and…I think our law embodies that.”

Numbers 12 - https://www.sefaria.org/Numbers.12?lang=bi&aliyot=0


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