Miriam's Cup developed about a decade after and building upon the symbol of the orange - continuing to transform the seder into an inclusive and empowering experience.
Miriam, a prophet and Moses's sister, is never mentioned in the traditional Haggadah text, yet she is one of the central figures of the Exodus story. According to Jewish feminist writer Tamara Cohen, the practice of filling a goblet with water as a symbol of Miriam's inclusion in the seder originated in 1989 and quickly spread.
Miriam has long been associated with water. As a girl, she kept watch over Moses's basket, wading through the bullrushes as it was carried down the Nile to Pharaoh's palace. We hear of her taking her timbrel to lead the women of Israel in songs and dances of praise to God as Israelites crossed the Red Sea on dry land. A midrash teaches that God gave Miriam a miraculous well that provided water and sustenance to the Jewish people in the wilderness. In Numbers, the well dries up immediately after Miriam's death. Miriam is thus remembered as a source of strength, devotion, joy, and healing throughout the biblical tradition.
We fill Miriam's cup with water to honor her role in ensuring the survival of the Jewish people. Like Miriam, Jewish women from generation to generation have been essential for the continuity of our people.
Let us each fill the cup of Miriam with water from our own glasses, so that we, our children, and our children's children may continue to draw from the strength and wisdom of our heritage.
Miriam's cup is passed around the table, each guest pouring water from their own glass into Miriam's cup.When Miriam's cup is filled, raise the goblet and say together:
Let Miriam's Cup be for us a reminder to honor the role of women in our tradition and history - and the contributions of all whose stories have been too sparingly told.
What does Miriam mean to you? How do her roles as sister, protector, prophet, leader, singer, and dancer contribute to our understanding of the Exodus story?
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