Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg published an essay on Tuesday about the festival of Passover, lauding the great women of Jewish tradition and celebrating the feminist spirit of the holiday.
The essay, published by the American Jewish World Service, explained that Passover is based in the Old Testament Book of Exodus, one of the first four books of the Bible, which make up Judaism’s fundamental holy text, the Torah.
“The stories we tell our children shape what they believe to be possible,” Ginsburg wrote, “which is why at Passover, we must tell the stories of the women who played a crucial role in the Exodus narrative.”
At the beginning of Exodus, a new Pharaoh has ascended to power in Egypt and enslaved the Israelites. “(F)ive brave women” defied him, Ginsburg said, “Yocheved, Moses’ mother, and Shifra and Puah, the famous midwives. Each defies Pharaoh’s decree to kill the Israelite baby boys. And there is Miriam, Moses’ sister.”
“Finally,” the Justice wrote, “there is Pharaoh’s daughter Batya,” the woman who plucked baby Moses from the Nile River when his mother set him adrift in a tiny raft to save him from being slain under the Pharaoh’s law that all Israelite boy babies should be put to death.
“These women had a vision leading out of the darkness shrouding their world. They were women of action,” said Ginsburg, “prepared to defy authority to make their vision a reality bathed in the light of the day.”
“Retelling the heroic stories of Yocheved, Shifra, Puah, Miriam and Batya reminds our daughters that with vision and the courage to act, they can carry forward the tradition those intrepid women launched,” she said.
She concluded, “While there is much light in today’s world, there remains in our universe disheartening darkness, inhumanity spawned by ignorance and hate. We see horrific examples in the Middle East, parts of Africa, and Ukraine. The Passover story recalls to all of us—women and men—that with vision and action we can join hands with others of like mind, kindling lights along paths leading out of the terrifying darkness.”
The essay was co-authored by Rabbi Lauren Holtzblatt of Washington, DC’s Adas Israel Congregation.
[hat-tip to Vox.com]