Miriam’s Cup

A twitter buddy of mine was clicking through Eichlers.com and came across this – a cup for the Passover Seder that initially looks like Elijah’s cup, but on further inspection it is actually a “Miriam’s Cup”. The site has one Elijah’s Cup for sale, but three different Miriam’s Cups. (*please note, since this post was put up Eichler’s has clarified that the three Miriam’s Cups vs one Elijah’s Cup is only in this specific “Emanuel” collection. For more Elijah’s and Miriam’s Cups go here)

I had never heard of Miriam’s Cup at the seder before and I set out to find out what it means, is it feminist, conservative, reform, or modern orthodox?

I came across this website (not sure which brand of Judaism the writer is from) which I think takes it a little to the extreme – what with dancing at the seder with tambourines and all. (Also there is a section for the feminization of some brachot….) But I do like that it encourages the celebration of women in our history. The cup is apparently filled with water, not wine, based on the Legend of Miriam’s Well and is not meant to replace Elijah’s cup during the seder. From what I understand the whole point of it is that women in our history, according to this website, have not been acknowledged enough – “their stories have been too sparingly told”. The whole Miriam’s cup idea started out as a Shabbat ritual and evolved to have a place at the seder.

I am still researching. I have to say there are parts of this that really sound interesting and different, and parts that just will not gel with our celebration of Passover. From the reading I have done so far it seems a liberal tradition. Perhaps if I would ever have a women only Seder I would include Miriam’s Cup. But then again, isn’t the seder long enough without it?

I have to read more – just read (on the same site) about some people putting an orange on the seder plate as a gesture of solidarity with Jewish lesbians and gays and others marginalized within the Jewish community…..An orange?!!

Please let me know your thoughts on Miriam’s Cup, if you know anything more, have been to a seder where there has been one, would you include it in your seder, and as usual, your thoughts on this subject.

PS I am a little surprised that Eichler’s carries them, in my mind they are a RW Orthodox store, but I guess they have to cater to everyone.  But it’s a pleasant surprise nonetheless.

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35 responses to “Miriam’s Cup

  1. It’s a Reform thing, if I’m not mistaken. I have seen them around for a long time, same with putting an orange on the Seder Plate (to either represent women in general or marginalized Jews, depending on who tells the story). I have been to Reform Sedarim where there was a bit of dancing and tambourines played, not my cup of tea but it was interesting to watch. The sedarim I attended did also put wine in the Miriam Cup but as you mentioned it does not replace Elijah’s cup.

    • Very popular in the CJ community. There is noting that about it that is against halacha, no reason for Eichlers not to sell it. OJ feminists have added it to the table too. Adding the stories of women into our holidays is only a good thing. Especially when it is a biblical heroic figure like Miriam.

  2. it is not reform…it just is, and has been around for many years already….

    now, “obviously” many less-than-orthodox jews will be more involved in ‘change’ than orthodox jews…so….that is why it is showing up more often in less-than-orthodox venues. (as so many other things).

    but, it is neutral. if it speaks to you, go for it – no halachic injunction against it. you won’t rot in hell for this.

  3. We are not reform, and we have a Miriam’s cup at our seders. Many people I know, from orthodox to reform, do this as well. As arnie said, it is neutral.


    Orange on the seder plate origins.

  4. A comment left on my FaceBook Fan Page by DS
    Without getting too much into it, the notion of Mirriam’s cup is based on a misunderstanding of the four cups we drink at the Seder. Those four cups are not at all reflective of gender roles, but of the four terms for redemption used in the Bible to describe the exodus. There is arguably a fifth term as well, but that is disputed. While the Maharal and R. Kasher were of the opinion that a fifth cup should be drunk, the Talmud refers to four and most authorities require four. The fifth cup is placed on the table but not drunk. It is symbolically called Elijah’s cup based upon several Midrashic statements about him. Thus the idea of adding a cup to commemorate a person is ludicrously out of place. Moreover, a cup has nothing to do with Mirriam. I could understand the desire to beat a drum in her honor since the Bible says that Mirriam beat a drum and danced in celebration of the splitting of the Yam Suf. But a cup? Vie kumt di katz in vasser?

    Additionally there is all the traditional Orthodox rejection of such in your face feminism, much of which I agree with. But assuming that in your face feminism is Jewishly appropriate, this ritual has neither taam nor reiach and is nonsense.

    • I am also very wary whenever any quasi-Jewish thing arises with regards to Miriam because of the Christian use of the same name Mary for Miriam, and the reverence many Christians have for Mary. Hard to tell if it might not be some sort of infiltration of Christian thought.

      • Uh, no. You are really stretching. Miriam was Miriam, completely relevant to Pesach afterall. And the tradition is Jewish. And has everythg to do with adding female heros to what we teach our children.

  5. I would’ve thought that Miriam’s Cup would be more appropriate on the 7th day of Pesach. And yes, the seder is long enough already.

  6. i highly doubt eichlers sells this in their store in brooklyn. but on the internet they have a wider customer base to appeal to.

    also as per DS, iirc the idea of a fifth cup as a chiyyuv (of course nothing to do with eliyahu and certainly not with miriam) is earlier than the maharal. of course rav kasher has his famous leghnthy essay dealing with the matter.

    i can’t see how the practice iteself inherently violates halachah. if an extra cup enahnces the seder for some people, why not?

  7. DINKY:

    i knew someone who when he first came to america made 2 more sedarim on the 7th and 8th nights (out of pious ignorance)

    • When I was very little, I guess the 2 sedarim were too much for me, and I was worried that we would have one each of the 8 nights.

      Now 40 years later, the 2nd seder, and, indeed, the 2nd day of yom tov is still too much for me. I’m trapped in Chutz laaretz, but libi bamizrach.

  8. the very orthodox book store on the upper west side (west side judaica) sells the reconstructionist siddur. big deal.

    eichler’s: http://www.eichlers.com/Page.asp?ID=051a912641d4572d062357b8c4d49d2aaaa332c7671cd5b9&searchCategoryList=&txtSearchString=miriam%27s+cup&x=0&y=0

    why can’t jews just be loving of all jews and those who want to put a cup on the table for miriam, kol hakavod.

    those who want to say an extra mee shebeirach shabbat mornig for a gadol ha’dor who is ill, kol hakavod (though services are long enough, no????)

    and why a cup? ok, fine. the idea is the WATER, not the vessel. use a bowl. use a glass. use a thimbel or a measuring cup (more ‘in tune’ with the less-than-modern feminist jewish woman).


    • as i commented above, i can’t imagine there are any pure halachik objections to a miriam’s cup. but the store you refer to does (or used to) carry items that really are problematic.

    • I’ve bought lots of stuff at that place. They get a lot of students from Drisha, and always treat me with respect and courtesy (one of the old guys who works there has a wife from South America, so I always feel especially welcome).

  9. Lady Lock and Load

    another thing to make the kids curious at the sedar table? I see no harm but I’m going to stick to the old tradition of salt water bowls (does that count?)

  10. First off, we would like to thank Hadassah for the post and links.

    As Lion of Zion mentioned above, the Cup does not violate halacha.

    We first started carrying the Miriam Cup a few years ago and people liked it. There has not been any objection from the more Orthodox part of our clientele so we have continued with it.

    Thank you for the enlightening discussion and have a Happy Purim!

  11. I guess what bothers me is that feminists often scorn traditional Judaism and it’s gender specific roles, when if they were to actually practice that role (keep a kosher home, light candles and practice taharat hamishpacha to name a few), they wouldn’t feel the need to be so “feminist”. They would learn the importance of women in Judaism by being just that- a Jewish woman.

    I have seen this time and again in the conservative and reform movmements. Women, dissatisfied with seeing the men “on show” at shul on Shabbos and Yom Tov, themselves yearning for spiritual connection, try to gain those roles for themselves, when if they only understood that shul is alot of SHOW and the REAL practice of Judaism is personal everyday work, they might feel different about trying to take over and leave that ‘show off’ stuff to the men.

    • I’m sure the women of JOFA would agree (sarcasm).

      Honestly, do you really believe that there are no feminists in OJ? That wanting to be fully included in the world around you is a shortcoming? I am really not sure what you think feminism is, but I have a feeling that it doesn’t resemble the reality.


      I highly recommend a look at their online library, which covers topics from TH to haircovering, women’s public roles, body image and text study, among others.

      • After reviewing a bit of the JOFA site-there is nothing wrong with educating women on THEIR ROLE IN JUDAISM!!
        In fact, education is a place where a woman’s role is absolutely defined. It is a woman’s responsibility to teach her children. We are lucky enough to live in an age where schools are available, otherwise, it would fall primarily on our shoulders.
        From what I understand, the entire Bais Yaacov movement was created to educate women in Jewish laws and customs to teach the next generation. Begun BY WOMEN!
        As long as it is within HALACHAH I have no issue with any Jewish practice. It is when women who wear tight pants also want to carry the Torah, distract the men from their spiritual OBLIGATIONS and be part of a minyan that I have to cry foul.
        It might not seem fair, but we have the ability to bring LIFE into this world. Men do not. They need more to feel important- to feel G-d like- for what is more G-d like that creating and holding a life that you brought into this world?! Women already should feel important. Nothign can top that, not the biggest building or the fastest rocket.

        • “t is when women who wear tight pants also want to carry the Torah, distract the men from their spiritual OBLIGATIONS and be part of a minyan that I have to cry foul.”

          The problem with your argument is right here. Many of the women (blu greenberg, anyone?) who are part of judaism’s feminist movement are not in “tight pants”, trying to distract men. They are mothers, wives, daughters, dressed modestly, living torah observant lives, who want to be fully included. Why on earth would anyone want to keep them from taking on more? Women can and do give birth to more than children – ideas, learning and teaching as well.

          • RubyV- I think we both agree that women can have huge impacts on Jewish learning/teaching/societal roles. I appreciate and commend that women are doctors, scientists, mathmeticians, politicians, teachers, astronauts etc. BUT- leading the Jewish people in the public forum is a male dominated sector. Throughout our history, there are strong females in leadership roles and they are lauded for their intelligence, bravery and love of Judaism. But, primarily, they are lauded for observing the gender gap and working WITHIN those limitations to be incredible people. Ask yourself what made all the great women in Jewish history great- it wasn’t that they were doing man’s work. They were excelling at doing women’s work.

            No one on EARTH doesn’t want women to take on more. BUT, if you believe that the Torah was not written by someone on Earth, then you have to accept its laws.

  12. Lady Lock and Load

    I agree with you Z! Yet I always have a bit of difficulty on Simchas Torah when I am not allowed to dance with the Torah and I’m supposed to be happy watching the men 😦

    • LLL- Yes, but both sexes have hard times with each of their roles. Does anyone honestly think it’s easy for men to go and daven 3 times a day everyday?
      Each gender has obligations, and some are easier to follow than others. I mean the MEN have to go though GENITAL MUTILATION!!

      RubyV-I would challenge all women to fully practice the religion before passing judgment on it. I know that Hillel’s daughters did every mitzvah they could get their hands on and STILL wanted/needed to connect to Hashem through donning tefillin. I am sure many of these “liberated” women, if they were truly fullfilling ALL of their Torah bound obligations would find spiritual satisfaction.

    • hey i agree with Z as well & LLL you can come to my NJ community where women do dance with the Torah if they want to on Simchas Torah!

      • Lady Lock and Load

        Batya, is that in an orthodox shul where they let the ladies dance with the Torah? very cool!

        • LLL, do u think i would daven in a non-Orthodox shul?! This shul is Orthodox indeed but definitely more Modern Orthodox. The women dance on the other side of the mechitza & some choose to hold the Torah while others dance around them in a circle. I do agree that Simchas Torah in more traditional/Yeshivish shuls are a lot more boring for the women b/c they just stand on the sidelines & watch. Interestingly, we’ve been going to my brother’s house in Passaic for the past few years for Simchas Torah which is a very yeshivish minyan-no women dancing with the Torahs there ;)!

  13. To Eichler’s: and if the more orthodox clientele DID object, would you discontinue it?

  14. We refer issues like this to our management and they make the call.

    With regards to the Miriam Cup, to date there has not been an objection.

  15. Speaking of feminists and judaism, theres a growing movement of them who believe that Vashti is the heroine of the purim story. Sorry, her case doesn’t hold up in court, but if you’d like to read more about feminism and a woman’s power on purim, click this http://www.metroimma.com/forum/topics/purim-the-power-of-a-jewish?xg_source=activity

  16. Mr Inclusivist, me.

    On my ideal seder table, at a MINIMUM:

    Esav’s Lentils
    Lot’s Wife’s Salt
    Noach’s Wine
    Adam’s Apple
    Leah’s Mangroves
    Yosef’s Multicoloured Jacket Potatoes

    etc etc

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