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Ometz Lev of our Matriarchs

The 5 women of the Exodus story teach us that we all have the ability to act and to stand up to injustice. These stories teach us that we all have the power to resist oppression and pursue justice through acts of Courage/Ometz Lev.

The First Cup of Wine: Shifra and Puah

Shifra and Puah were the midwives who refused Pharaoh's orders to kill the firstborn son of every Hebrew family. When confronted by Pharoah, they claimed that they simply could not arrive to the births before the babies were born. These midwives risked their own lives to help

save the Jewish people from destruction and genocide. They practiced civil disobedience from their unique position of influence and refused to “just follow orders” when those orders were unjust. We honor the Courage/Ometz Lev in their brave and selfless acts of resistance.

The Second Cup of Wine: Yocheved

Yocheved was the mother of Moses, Miriam and Aaron. When Moses was born, she hid him from the Egyptians and their genocidal orders for as long as she could. When she could hide his cries no longer, she placed him in a basket to send him down the Nile, putting his fate in G!d’s hands.

Yocheved made the impossible choice to do whatever was necessary to give her child a chance at life. She shows us what resistance to oppression can demand and the great Courage/Ometz Lev to do the seemingly unimaginable. We

honor her bravery, agency and painful sacrifice.

The Third Cup of Wine: Batya

Pharaoh’s daughter, known in Jewish tradition as Batya, was bathing in the river when she noticed the basket holding the infant Moses. She understood that he was a Hebrew baby whose life was in danger and resolved to adopt him despite her father potentially learning of his origins and his rage that would likely ensue.  Batya used her privilege and position to take just action.  She teaches us to look beyond our own comfort, to take risks with the privilege we do have, and to allow our empathy and compassion to drive us towards righteous action. 

We honor her Courage/Ometz Lev in risk taking by using her position of privilege, creative intelligence, and fierce compassion to take brave action in helping those experiencing oppression.

The Fourth Cup of Wine: Miriam

Miriam, daughter of Yocheved and sister of Moses and Aaron, played many parts in the story of Exodus. One midrash (traditional legend) credits her for convincing her parents - exhausted and traumatized by slavery - to conceive Moses, the hero of the Jewish people. She was also brave enough to propose to the daughter of Pharaoh himself that Yocheved, Moses’s biological mother, serve as wet-nurse for the baby - which allowed the family to stay together and earn wages. 

Miriam later bravely led the Israelite women and children safely to shore across the Red Sea, enlivening their spirits with dancing and singing. The Torah teaches that Miriam was a prophet. She reminds us that caring for women, children and ALL families is a critical part of our connection to the Source of Life. 

We honor the Courage/Ometz Lev of Miriams’s tenacity, spiritual leadership, advocacy and compassion. 


Original text provided by NCJW. Edits provided by Twin Cities Mussar.


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