Running a Feminist Seder

April 14, 2023
Ruby Borer

Sydney, Australia

Class of 2024

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Pesach is one of the most widely celebrated Jewish holidays, with almost every Jewish person being able to recount the basic facts of the story. The ancient Hebrews were slaves in Egypt, Moses grew up and went to Pharaoh asking to let his people go, Pharoah said no, ten plagues happen and after the ten plagues, Pharaoh finally allows our ancestors to leave. The ancient Hebrews didn’t have time for their bread to rise but were able to cross the Red Sea with the Egyptians being blocked when they were chasing them. But there is something missing from this story: women. The story is so focused on the male protagonist that it completely forgets about the incredible contribution of women to this story. 

From Yochevet and Miriam to Batya and Tzipporah, the female contribution to the story is completely ignored in the retelling at the Seder table. If it wasn't for these four women the male protagonist Moses would not have been able to help the Ancient Hebrews escape Mitzrayim. 

Yochevet, Moses’ mother, plays a huge role in the story, giving birth to Moses despite Pharaoh's decree that put all Jewish baby boys to death. Think about the bravery it took for her to defy Pharaoh's order. Her attempt to save her son was admirable. Additionally, Yochevet was also the chief Jewish nurse in Egypt and helped hide infant boys from Pharoah. Yochevet’s bravery and willingness to risk everything for the continuation of the Jewish people is something to admire. 

Miriam, Moshe's sister, led the freed Jewish slaves singing and dancing after crossing the Red Sea. Additionally, Miriam was the person who predicted that Yochevet would have a son and was the one who  watched Moses drift down the Nile ensuring that he would be saved. Miriam is the first female prophet of the Torah, being known to challenge authority and persevere through the toughest of times. Miriam's ability to persevere is something that we need to teach all women of today, to challenge the patriarchy and stand up for female rights. 

Batyah, pharaoh's daughter was nothing like her father, holding her own and living life in a giving and kind manner. She finds Moshe floating in the Nile river and despite knowing that he came from a Hebrew home, takes him in. She showed great warmth and motherly love to Moses, raising him to be strong and compassionate. Even after Moses ran away, he prayed to keep Batya safe from the 10 plagues sparing her life. Her determination to do the right thing is something that we can all learn from and emulate in our life. 

Tzipporah, the daughter of Midian pries Jethro, who threw Moses into a pit after he ran away, had great compassion for Moses, bringing him food and water. After years of Moses being held captive, Tzipporah pleaded with her father, allowing Moses to be freed. The two got married but after a couple years Hashem spoke to Moses through a burning bush and told him that he must go and save the Hebrew people. Although Moses is confused, Tzipporah is strong and decisive leading Moses to begin his journey back to Egypt, leaving her and their sons behind. Tzipporah’s empathy for someone different to her and someone who she was told to hate is admirable and something that we all should try to live by for the rest of our lives. 

Additionally, at our feminist seder along with many other additions to our seder plate, we added an orange. There are two separate stories that explain this addition both based in the 1980s and surrounding the Jewish feminist Susannah Heschel. One story states that a Hassidic Rabbi told a group of people that there is as much room for a female on the bimah as there is for an orange on a seder plate. The other version of the story states that a Rabbi said that there is as much room for a lesbian in Judaism as there is for bread crumbs on a seder plate. From both of these and in order to demonstrate that both women and the LGBTQIA+  community have important roles in Jewish communities and a place in Jewish rituals, an orange was added to the seder plate. 

Overall our feminist seder brought light to stories that are not spoken about at traditional seders and gave participants a chance to think about issues that are plaguing modern society. Pesach is traditionally a time where we put ourselves into the story of the Ancient Hebrews, imagining our lives as if we were still slaves in Egypt. But this year at my feminist seder we thought about society today and how we can become the heroes and heroines of issues facing society today. 

Ruby Borer is a BBG living in Sydney, Australia who has a dog named Marshmello.

All views expressed on content written for The Shofar represent the opinions and thoughts of the individual authors. The author biography represents the author at the time in which they were in BBYO.

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