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Invite These Five Women to Your Seder

Invite These Five Women to Your Seder

Women who played a pivotal role in Exodus story.


If you’re a traditional Jewish mother like me, you will likely log a boatload of hours preparing for Passover – cleaning, planning, shopping, cooking, and serving. Yet when we sit down to reencounter our birth as a nation at the Seder, we read about Abraham, Nachor, and the rabbis of Bnei Brak, Yaakov and his deceitful father-in-law Laban, and of course the evil Pharaoh himself.

It’s easy to ask: Where are the women?

Ladies, don’t take it personally. There is also one man critical to the story who barely makes an appearance himself: Moses! The leader of the Jewish people is given only one speaking role in the entire narrative. The people mentioned in the Hagaddah narrative are tools to convey the story.

The primary focus of the Hagaddah is on God’s personal redemption of the Jewish people. This is a theme we honor every day in our prayers. Our connection to God, and His to us, isn’t based on His having created the universe and humankind. It is His ongoing involvement in our lives, which is highlighted so dramatically in the story of the Exodus.

Women obviously played a pivotal role in Exodus story, as the Talmud states: “By merit of the righteous women of that generation, Israel was redeemed from Egypt” (Sota, 11B).

Here are five brave heroines against tyranny, without whom the Passover redemption would not have happened in the way that it did.

1. Yocheved – Moses’ mother was willing to have a child in the face of Pharaoh’s death decree against every Jewish newborn boy. She hid her preemie son from the Egyptians – forerunners of the Nazis – having crafted a water-tight basket for him and placed him in the Nile. Who can imagine her agony and her faith, praying that her precious son would survive? Could she have had the least spiritual hint that this child would change Jewish destiny?

2. Miriam – Moses’ sister certainly has partial credit for her brother’s birth. Miriam was a prophetess. She knew that there was a special role for a future brother. As a little girl, Miriam challenged her father, Amram, who planned to divorce his wife in order to prevent having future children – the children who would be subject to the death decree. Miriam famously argued, “Father, your decree is worse than Pharaoh’s. He only decreed against the boys, but you are decreeing against the girls, too.” And it was Miriam who stood openly by the Nile, watching the fate of her baby brother as he floated in the river. Miriam seized the initiative and offered to summon a Jewish midwife – her own mother – when Pharaoh’s daughter rescued her baby brother.

3 & 4. Shifra and Puah – These midwives defied the death sentences against newborn Jewish boys by attending the births, saving innumerable lives. Who were these mysterious women? Some commentators believe they were none other than Yocheved and Miriam. In Hebrew they are called “Hamayaldot Ha’Ivrot, which means either “the Jewish midwives” or “the midwives to the Jews.” Whoever they were, these women were among the earliest practitioners of civil disobedience.

5. Batya – Pharaoh’s daughter saw through divine inspiration that she would be the one to raise the redeemer of Israel, and according to the Midrash, she walked along the Nile each day in hopes of discovering him. She rescued Moses, believing he was that chosen Jewish child, and daringly raised him in the palace, right under the cruel tyrant’s nose. What an amazing act of moral beauty and bravery. Her name means “daughter of God.”

Yocheved, Miriam, Shifra, Puah and Batya helped “birth” one of the greatest stories ever told in history. And as it says, Whoever elaborates on the story of the Exodus deserves praise.” Add color and depth to your Seder by remembering these amazing, history-changing women.

March 18, 2018

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Visitor Comments: 5

(4) Pinchas Winograd, April 18, 2018 7:32 PM

Shifra was Yocheved and one opinion Puah was Miriam

Shifra was Yocheved and one opinion Puah was Miriam.

(3) Anonymous, March 22, 2018 2:32 PM

This seder took place after the families had finished the sedorim at home. The sages helped clean up put the kids to bed and had the sensitivity to go to the beis hmidrash to continue the discussions so as not to disturb their wives who were tired from all the Pesach preparations.

(2) Ben, March 21, 2018 5:43 PM

Women Very Important at Seder

When at the seder we should see in the background many great things about Jewish women. As dwellers of these houses we have seen with our eyes the dedicated Pesach cleaning labors done y the women, At the Seder of course we enjoy the delcious food prepared by the women (of course nowadays men can at time help as well with that) As we look arund the table we see Jewish mothers, and fathers, of the present and future. We see this Jewish family unit at the Seder of which mothers and daughters are an integral unit. And of course when we discuss the Pesach story we need to recall Miriam who convinced her father to have Jewish married life even in Egypt ths sustaining the Jewish future and begetting Moshe. We recall the brave herosim of Yocheved and Miriam who defied Paroa to rescue the Jewish baby boys. And Rashi in Chumash points to the moral strength of teh Jewish women in that Scriptures vouched that indeed all the Jewish children were from their mothers Jewish husbands, even in Egypt (except one that was mentioned who was tricked by an Egyptian task master)

(1) Nancy, March 19, 2018 10:19 AM

Re: Miriam and the other women

Hi Judy--
I was just learning about Miriam last night at a Rosh Chodesh gathering. I have always admired her. Wouldn't it be fun to actually have these women at our Sederim on person! ? :-)

A healthy and Happy Pesach to you and yours.

Diana Reynolds, March 22, 2018 10:43 PM

Inspirational and unforgettable.

These women should be awarded the ultimate prize for courage and bravery. As well as the religious implications, their stories should never die as they had the courage to stand up for their beliefs, irrespective of the dangers that surrounded them, and there were many such dangers!

I say, their stories should be routine teachings in all schools, (Private and Public) as great examples of belief and integrity. They are certainly role models for the women of today.

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