A New Year Ritual for Reproductive Justice

The author holding Miriam's Cup. Photo courtesy of Steph Black. 

We end the Jewish year 5782 with fewer rights than when we began. The overturning of Roe v. Wade by the oppressive Supreme Court has catalyzed a new generation of abortion activists, who are now joining forces with those who've been  been on the frontlines for years, even decades.

With the New Year approaching, I decided to create a handwashing ceremony to ground us and prepare us all for the fight ahead. Rituals offer a chance to pause, to collect our thoughts, to look into each other’s eyes and ready ourselves for what’s to come.

The mountain of work before us is steep, but not insurmountable, if we are intentional and methodical about how we use our skills, time, energy, and money to make abortion more accessible for all. This ritual gives us a chance to get ready for the journey.

To prepare:

Gather your ritual objects.

The Kos Miriam, or Cup of Miriam, symbolizes the well of water that followed the prophetess through the desert. We invoke Miriam as a midwife, a leader of women and children from a place of oppression to a place of liberation.       

Place a nice hand towel beside the sink.

If you like, remove any nail polish, rings, bracelets, or anything else that may be a barrier between your hands and the water. Wash hands thoroughly with unscented soap and water. Take care to clean under your fingernails.

Fill the cup with tap water until it overflows. Recite:

I bring forth mayyim hayyim, living water, the water of our matriarch Miriam, from whom we draw sustenance, hope, and healing. As it overflows, I take stock of the privileges that brought me to this moment and allow me to fight for justice.

Take the Kos Miriam in your non-dominant hand. Take a deep breath and close your eyes. With kavanah (intention), recite:

On the precipice of the new year, I prepare my hands as sacred tools of justice. This year, I will use my hands to advocate, activate, and mobilize for abortion access. I will gather my strength in my heart and my resolve in my hands to do this holy work of activism. As abortion seekers use their hands to access care, I will use my hands to guide their way, and remember the midwives Shifra and Puah, who defied the Pharaoh of their time and practiced civil disobedience when their orders were unjust.

Raise the cup. Pour the water over your dominant hand, first on the palm, then on the back of the hand, then again on the palm.

Refill the cup if needed.

Take the Kos Miriam in your dominant hand. Pour the water over your non-dominant hand, first on the palm, then on the back of the hand, and then again on the palm.

Before drying your hands, recite:

.ברוכה את יה אלוהינו רוח העולם, אשר קדשתנו במצוֹתיה וְצִוַּתנו על נטילת ידיים

Beruchah At Yah Eloheynu Ruach Ha’olam, asher kidshatnu bi-mitzvotehah vi-tzivatnu al nitilat yada’im.

You are blessed, O God, Spirit of the World, who makes us holy with Her commandments and commands us to wash our hands.

Set down the Kos Miriam. Dry your hands. Recite:

As I wash my hands, I remember the holiness of the body: of mine, and of those seeking abortions. Our choices and actions are holy. I do not pray to The Divine for help, because I know what to do. May The Divine bless my work, and may I be guided by the sacred framework of reproductive justice and with compassion as I meet those in my care today. I am ready and willing to do this work, undaunted.













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How to cite this page

Black, Stephanie. "A New Year Ritual for Reproductive Justice." 22 September 2022. Jewish Women's Archive. (Viewed on June 5, 2023) <https://jwa.org/blog/new-year-ritual-reproductive-justice>.

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