Miriam and the Passover Story

The Songs of Joy, c. 1896-1902, by James Jacques Joseph Tissot (French, 1836-1902).
Courtesy of the Jewish Museum, New York.

I'm sure I'm not alone when I say that Passover is my favorite holiday. It's special for a number of reasons (when else are we commanded to drink four cups of wine?) but two reasons in particular stand out.

The first is that the story of the Exodus features the leadership of Miriam, perhaps the only woman in the bible who is not described as somebody's wife or mother. Neither Miriam nor her brother Moses are mentioned in the traditional Haggadah, but their roles in the Passover story are integral and intertwined. Baby Moses would not have surived without the cleverness of his older sister, but this does not mean she played a "supporting role." Miriam made her own history leading the Israelites across the Red Sea and afterwards, while wandering in the desert, when she stood up for what she believed in. 

The second reason Passover is so special to me is the way the Jewish community has taken the seder and made it adaptable. It is now common practice to spend some time searching the web for new readings, songs, and activities to incorporate into your seder. The Passover seder has become "remixable," allowing each of us to make it meaningful in our own way. As a result, there are a number of ways to remix your seder to include and celebrate women's voices.

Not too long ago, I made a video about the apocryphal Judith and her role in the Hanukkah story. Today, I share a new video about Miriam and her role in the Passover story, her legacy as a leader and inspiration, and the contemporary Jewish women who follow in her footsteps. 

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At age 70, I left "Mimi" behind, adopting my real name. I embody this woman at every level, and continue to seemingly pay a price for it.



The story of Miriam and her bravery and leadership is inspiring to all Jewish women.......

How to cite this page

Berkenwald, Leah. "Miriam and the Passover Story." 4 April 2011. Jewish Women's Archive. (Viewed on May 28, 2022) <https://jwa.org/blog/miriam-and-the-passover-story>.

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