Miriamís Cup ~ A New Tradition That Brings Women Into The Heart of Judaism
Miriam's Cup - A New Tradition that Brings Women into the Heart of Judaism
by Risa Borsykowsky
The introduction of the Miriam’s Cup in a Passover Seder originated in a Boston Rosh Chodesh group in the late 1980’s. Stephanie Loo Ritari created this new ritual, which is based on the Legend of Miriam’s Well. The women were inspired by the Mayim Chayyim - Living Waters - of Miriam’s well, and the group drank from a special kiddush cup called Kos Miriam - The Cup of Miriam.
Emily Rosenfeld, one of the talented artists at Jewish Gift Place, makes one of our very favorite Miriam’s Cups. She sums it up eloquently in a card that she encloses with each of her Miriam’s Cups:
Including a Miriam's Cup at the Passover table is a pioneering tradition that gives a woman of the Bible notable esteem at one of the most important Jewish celebrations of the year. By discussing her role as a prophet and a
Miriam was the older sister of Aaron and Moses. She is believed to be 7 years older than Moses and 3 years older than Aaron.
Miriam’s name has many meanings including beloved, rebellious prophet, and waters of strength. She is celebrated as a heroine and is known as a prophet, for she is considered someone who speaks by divine inspiration; someone who is an interpreter of the will of God.
A passage in Micah 6:4, one of the books of the Hebrew Bible, suggests why Miriam had significant regard among later prophets, and why God chose her, along with Moses and Aaron, to lead the Israelites out of Egypt.
When Miriam’s mother was pregnant, Miriam prophesied that her parents, Amram and Jocheved, would give birth to the child who would be the Israelite leader. He would bring about the Hebrew’s redemption from slavery in Egypt and lead them to the Promised Land after 10 generations.
When the Pharaoh, Ramses II, became distressed by the growing number of the Hebrews in Egypt, he ordered that all male children of Hebrew slaves be drowned in the Nile River. Jocheved had two midwives, Shiprah and Puah, who did not cooperate with Pharaoh’s order. This is considered to be the first occurance of civil disobedience in the Bible.
Moses was born on 7 Adar 2368 (around 1400 BCE - 3,410 years ago) and Jocheved was able to hide her baby for three months. During this time, she instilled his Jewish heritage in him and compassion for his people. WHERE IT BEGAN - MOSES’ BIRTH Miriam's Cup | 7 However, after three months, Jocheved could no longer hide baby Moses. In a desperate attempt to save her baby’s life against Pharaoh’s decree, she wove a papyrus basket for him and and put Moses in it. Miriam, only 7 years old, placed Moses in the Nile river, and promised to watch over her brother. She guided and followed the floating basket down the river and hid in the bulrushes to ensure Moses’ safe journey, until he was found by the Pharaoh’s daughter. Miriam’s role in protecting Moses in the Nile River is the first occurance of Miriam’s association with water.
Miriam approached the Pharaoh’s daughter and offered to find a nursemaid for the baby. Miriam told her that she knew of a Hebrew woman who had just lost a baby, and the newfound baby might allow her to feed him. The Egyptian princess asked that the Hebrew woman be brought to her, and so Moses continued to be nursed by his own mother. The Pharoah’s daughter raised Moses as her own.
Even at such a very young age, it was clear why God chose Miriam, along with her brothers, to lead the Israelites out of Egypt. Miriam’s role as a leader of the Hebrew women was demonstrated with her boldness, courage, strength, and ingenuity
The first mention of Miriam being a prophetess in the Bible was after Moses, Miriam, and Aaron, led the Hebrews across the Red Sea. Miriam was so certain of her prophesy that Moses would lead the Hebrews to freedom, that she brought her timbrel (tambourine) with her during the Exodus from Egypt, so that she could lead the women in singing and dancing.
After the Israelites passed through the Red Sea, a song led by Miriam appears in Exodus 15:20-21:
Leading the women in song after passing through the Red Sea is the second occurance of Miram’s association with water.
Miriam was married to Hur, of the tribe of Judah. Unlike other cultures at that time, Jewish women enjoyed many freedoms, including talking with men in public, appearing without a veil, and travelling alone. For this reason, Miriam was present when Moses, Aaron, and Hur discussed Israel's problems and was intregral in devising the solutions. As a prophetess and the first lady of Israel, her opinion was highly regarded.
Miriam, Moses, and Aaron, led the Hebrew people through the desert for 40 years. In Miriam’s honor and because of her righteousness, God created a miraculous well of clear spring water that followed her and nurtured the Israelites throughout their journey in the Sinai desert. This is the third occurence of Miriam’s association with water.
Miriam did not live to see the Promised Land. She died shortly before the end of the Israelites’ journey and was buried in the wilderness. The well remained with the Jews until Miriam’s death.
The “Cup of Miriam” is filled with water and is placed beside the customary “Cup of Elijah,” which is filled with wine during the Passover Seder. It is symbolic for several reasons:
A "Miriam's Cup" brings honor to a heroic woman of the Bible. It was Miriam's faith, poise, and wisdom that gave comfort to the Hebrews and helped them overcome the hardships of the desert during their Exodus from Egypt. She stood side by side with Moses and Aaron as they passed through the Red Sea. She is heralded for her strength. The "Miriam's Cup" is symbolic because it is the first time a women is so honored at one of the most important Jewish celebrations of the year. It serves as a reminder that there were many unheralded women of the Bible whose contributions helped define and nourish Jewish culture.
Four different rituals that offer suggestions on how you can honor Miriam at your Passover Seder.
Below are suggested Miriam’s Cup rituals by Risa Borsykowsky of www.JewishGiftPlace.com
Since the Miriam’s Cup is a relatively new tradition, there is no right or wrong way for incorporating it into the Passover Seder. I start off my Passover Seder by explaining the symbolism of the six items on the Passover plate. Then I explain the symbolism of the matzah, the Elijah’s cup, and the Miriam’s cup (which will be empty). Everyone at the table will have a glass of water and a glass of wine. I explain,
Miriam’s Cup is passed around and everyone adds some of their own water to this cup. We say the following prayer:
At each occurance of Miriam in the hagaddah, I emphasize her importance and give honor to her at the following parts of the Passover story:
There is a beautiful song by Debbie Friedman called, "Miriam's Song." The words and a link to the Youtube video are below. I distribute tambourines to the kids at the table and play this song after the Israelites have crossed the Red Sea.
I end the Seder with everyone taking a sip from Miriam's Cup, symbolizing the freedom of the Jews after passing through the Red Sea, the sustaining properties of water, the strength of Miriam, and her optimistic prophesy of hope and redemption.
RITUALS SUGGESTED BY WWW.CARYN.COM
Below are suggestions from www.caryn.com on using Miriam's Cup in the Passover Seder:
RITUALS SUGGESTED BY RABBI HAMMER OF TEL SHEMESH
The rituals below are written by Rabbi Hammer, the founder of Tel Shemesh and the author of Sisters at Sinai: New Tales of Biblical Women.
RITUALS SUGGESTED BY MIRIAMSCUP.COM
Below are suggestions for incorporating Miriam's Cup in your Passover Seder from www.miriamscup.com.
A beautifully illustrated story of Miriam's Cup, is told in Miriam’s Cup, A Passover Story.
Below are the words to “Miriam’s Song” by Debbie Friedman. The perfect time to sing this joyous song is after the Israelites pass through the Red Sea. Listen to it here.
All of the pictures below are from the beautiful clip art collection of Bible Picture Gallery.
PICTURES WITH MIRIAM
Miram ventured to come closer
Moses exposed on the Nile (an outline by Dickenson)
Pharaoh's daughter finds baby Moses
The finding of Moses (an engraving based on a picture)
The finding of Moses by Sebatien Bourdon
The finding of Moses
The finding of the infant Moses
Miriam the prophetess
PICTURES OF MOSES
Moses and the burning bush (a portrait by Guy Ro)
Moses and the burning bush
Moses' rod turned into a serpent
Fear grew in Moses' heart
MOSES AND AARON APPEAR BEFORE PHARAOH
Moses appearing before Pharaoh by James Tissots
Moses and Aaron before Pharaoh
Moses' rod changed into a serpent
The plague of hail and the plague of frogs
The plague of locusts
Death of the firstborn of Egypt
The death of the firstborn by Bernardino Luini
EXODUS FROM EGYPT AND CROSSING THE RED SEA
The departure of the Israelites
Pharaoh and his army in pursuit of the Israelites
A painting by German artist Lucas Cranach
Crossing the Red Sea
The passage through the Red Sea
Pharaoh and his army drown in the Red Sea
Read all of the articles in our Jewish Passover Traditions series: