It is not uncommon to open a history book and see a complete profile of a man. A woman, however is at best given a paragraph or a footnote and at worst, ignored completely.
The Jewish holiday of Passover starts this weekend. Though Moses is the protagonist of the story, his story would be nothing without the women around him. Given the many dangers around them, the easier thing would have been to say and do nothing. But instead, they stepped up, helping Moses to succeed and paving the way for Jewish women to do the same in their own eras.
Shifra and Puah: Shifra and Puah are the midwives who were responsible for bringing Hebrew children into the world. Brought before Pharaoh, they are told to kill every male newborn. They claim that they are unable to do this because by the time they get to the mother, the baby has already arrived.
Yocheved: Moses’s mother was facing a parent’s worst nightmare. Infant boys, when discovered by Pharaoh’s soldiers, were taken to the Nile and drowned. The only way she can save her son is to put him in a basket, send it floating down the Nile and pray that he would survive.
Bithia or Batya (sometimes referred to as the Egyptian Princess): Finding baby Moses in his basket as she washes up in the river, it is obvious that this child is of the Hebrew faith. Instead of reporting this discovery and sending him to his death, she adopts Moses and raises him as her own.
Miriam: Miriam is Yocheved’s only daughter. Not only does she watch over her baby brother, but she approaches the Princess, asking if she needs a wet nurse. That wet nurse is her mother. Years later, when Hebrews are wandering through the desert, it is Miriam who leads the former slaves via song to get to the promised land.
Tziporah: Tziporah is Moses’s wife. Though she is Midianite Princess and not of the Hebrew faith, she embraces his heritage as her own. Traveling with him back to Egypt, she encourages Moses to face his destiny and become the man who will lead his people to freedom.
Around the world, millions of Jews will sit down to the Seder and remember the exodus from Egypt.
Though the story is about one specific group of people are led to freedom, it speaks to everyone who has felt put down, pushed aside or made to feel like the other.
For me personally, this holiday coincides with the fact that there will soon be a change in my career. I will be walking through the desert of unemployment, with my creator walking silently by my side and praying for the professional manna that will support me until I am again employed.
I have to believe that something good is coming. G-d is not sending me to the proverbial professional desert for kicks and giggles. I believe that I will reach the professional promised land.
In this time of professional uncertainty and being that Passover starts tonight, I can’t think of a better song that “When You Believe” from the Prince of Egypt.
Tomorrow night begins the Jewish holiday of Passover.
The holiday is celebrated by the Seder, which is both a meal and a retelling of how our ancestors went from being slaves in Egypt to being free to live and openly practice their faith.
For me, Passover is more than just an elaborate meal with a story mixed in, which is then followed by eating a modified version of the Atkins diet for a week. While I am very proud and open about my faith and the history of my people, I am far from being labeled as ba’al teshuva (someone who makes a choice to live a more religiously observant life). Passover is about my statement to not only the wider world, but to my creator that I am who I am when it comes to my faith and I proud of that faith.
It is also the story of overcoming what seems like impossible odds and remembering the injustices done to us. Human history is full of tales of injustice, hatred, destruction and murder. By remembering the injustices done to us, we are able to be more compassionate and understanding to those experiencing the same injustice and hatred today.