Oranges, Miriam's Cup, and Other Passover Rituals
Passover is next week. How did that happen?! I haven't even begun to prepare, but was reminded that I better get on the ball after reading the opinion piece "Raising Cups, Dropping Oranges" by Aurora Mendelsohn in the Forward. Mendelsohn discusses the ways in which her Seder's feminist rituals have changed over the past decade: Miriam's Cup has endured while the orange on the Seder plate has disappeared.
I've written about the evolving history of the orange on the Seder plate before (see: "What's in an Orange?"), and I don't intend for the orange to disappear from my own Seder plate any time soon. Contrary to Mendelsohn, I don't agree that the orange has lost its relevance or its resonance since the full inclusion of women, lesbians, and queer-identified people in Jewish life and beyond is still very far from being achieved.
An interesting conversation about retaining meaningful Seder rituals and creating new ones is growing in the comments section of the Forward article ... which leads me to ask here: what kinds of rituals have you incorporated into your Seders? Any new ones for this year?
How to cite this page
Namerow, Jordan. "Oranges, Miriam's Cup, and Other Passover Rituals." 30 March 2009. Jewish Women's Archive. (Viewed on May 31, 2023) <https://jwa.org/blog/passover-rituals>.
We have added an article about incorporating the Miriam's Cup into the Passover Seder as a new Passover tradition. It contains historical information on Miriam as well as tips for making Miriam part of your Passover dinner. Here is the link: http://www.jewishgiftplace.com...
The whole thing here sounds just a bit pathetic. After all, the Mishna teaches "Eizehu ashir? Hasame'ah behelko." A woman is a woman. If she is not satisfied to be a woman, then she has a problem. Adopting strange un-Jewish symbols will not solve her problem. But it will estrange her from the Torah community. A seder without an orange is like a fish without a bicycle!
Hi, I was not advocating that everyone give up the orange, just explaining that we personally did. I am not claiming that there is not rejection and pain still experienced, or that we have achieved full equality for women or GLBT in Judaism. I am advocating one type of ritual over another. It is not that we shouldn't recognize people who have been excluded and try to bring them in and include them, just that we should do it in a positive, and if at all possible text-based way versus a reactive way.
I cannot get away from what I see (and you are free to disagree) as the reactive nature/origin of the orange.
Whether you go with version 1: 1980s Oberlin "We feel as excluded from /out of place in Judaism as bread is on a seder plate"- let's put bread on the seder plate to symbolize this --transformed to an orange by Heschel who saw how bread was too disrespectful of tradition. It still starts with exclusion or version 2: Words of apocryphal rabbi talking about how women don't belong-It still has its origin in exclusion.
Real progress is when we give time and focus not to the excluders (the apocryphal rabbi in the story) but to the previously excluded.And though we can SAY how the orange now stands for inclusion, it is not the same kind of transformation from exclusion (no Miriam and almost no women mentioned in the whole seder) to inclusion- Miriam gets a prominent role and a sanctified object. The orange still starts from exclusion and we have to explain how it symbolizes inclusion verbally.
I am reminded of the gay-pride activists in the late 70s who purposely invented a new symbol, the rainbow flag, because they did not like the oppression-linked origins of the pink triangle- they wanted an inclusion symbol-each stripe stands for a different group who is included. People were upset, as they wanted to honour the history of gay pride which included the Holocaust and rising up against such oppression. Over time though, I think the rainbow became the more popular symbol. A ritual that gave a positive voice to gays and lesbians at the seder (off the top of my head, reading carefully selected verses of the Song of Songs, which we read at the end of the seder anyway etc.) is better and sends a message that their inclusion is normative, as opposed to focusing on the rejection.
I understand that many people disagree with me and part of the reason I can advocate such a position is that for the most part I have not experienced the pain or rejection of exclusion as deeply as many other people have.