April 17, 2000

Source: Los Angeles Times

On April 17, 2000, the Los Angeles Times published an article on the growing trend of including Miriam in the Passover Seder. In the Biblical story of the Jews' Exodus from Egypt, Miriam, Moses' oldest sister, kept up the spirits of the fleeing Israelites and was rewarded by God with a miraculous well that traveled with them to help them survive as they wandered the desert. Traditionally, a cup is offered on the Seder table for Elijah, but some Jews, many of whom are using a feminist version of the Seder prayer book, the Haggada, are beginning to include a cup for Miriam. Rabbi Laura Geller of Temple Emanuel of Beverly Hills, California, stated: "Jews in general are increasingly including this practice in their Seder rituals, but rabbis are also including these kinds of new rituals." Geller continued: "Miriam's inclusion is a piece of a much larger history of trying to get women's experiences included within the full text of Jewish experience." Orthodox Rabbi Daniel Bouskila of the Sephardic Temple in Westwood, CA contends that to include Miriam in the Seder and mention her in feminist Haggadot undermines a celebration that should honor God: "It says in the Haggada: 'We were taken out of Egypt, not by the force of angels, a magician or the power of an individual, but through the power of God'...The Haggada was brilliantly laid out. Not including Moses was a conscious decision...So how can you include Miriam?" At some revised Seders, cups of wine are being put out for other women in the Exodus story, including two Egyptian midwives, the mother of Moses, and the daughter of the Egyptian pharaoh who adopted Moses. Allen Krause, a Reform rabbi at Temple Beth El in Aliso Viejo, CA, stated: "This trend to include Miriam and other women has a solid foundation in history...This means listening to over 50% of the human population." Rabbi Benjamin Geiger of the Orthodox Beth Jacob Congregation in Irvine, CA, stated that putting out a cup for Miriam is "a misguided desire to place women at the forefront of the Exodus...For women to want to take an active role in spirituality is a positive thing...But to thrust the Seder into the political arena pains me."