Pharaoh and the Midwives, James Tissot c. 1900

Today’s Midwives at the Seder (a Seder reading)

The traditional Haggadah doesn’t give voice to two heroines of the Passover narrative, the midwives, Shifra and Puah, who helped the Jewish women give birth, despite the governmental decree that all Jewish baby boys be murdered at birth.  They defied the Pharoah. They spoke truth to power, and they used their reproductive knowledge and skills to help birth a nation.  They were early warriors for reproductive justice and bodily autonomy for women.

At the Seder we should offer them praise:

A Song of Praise for the Midwives
May your memories be blessed for your lovingkindness to the Jewish women in Egypt.
May your memories be blessed for helping women to give birth despite the evil decrees.
May your memories be blessed for your courage and your compassion.

We are pained to know that the battle fought about women’s bodies by the midwives in Egypt are still  battlegrounds today. 

In the Xinjiang region of China, the Muslim minority Uyghur community has been subject to oppression, biometric surveillance, forced labor and genocide.  Millions of Uyghur women and men have been sent to concentration camps, where there are reports of Uyghur women being sexually abused, raped, tortured, and forced to undergo unwanted abortions and sterilization.  

Our hearts cry out for these women at our Seder: 

A Prayer for Us to Care
God, please take note of the unbearable suffering and plight of the Uyghur women in China.
Help us to care that women far away are being crushed, and to raise our voices to speak for them.
Help us to become like the midwives and rise up to challenge this genocide.  

In Ukraine, the Russian army uses rape as a weapon against the women they encounter.  There are numerous reports of systemic sexual violence, of organized gang rapes of women and girls by Russian troops when they enter a village or town.  These crimes against humanity have not ended.

Our hearts bleed for these women and we cry out at our Seder:

A Prayer for Healing
God, watch down with angst and anger at the cruelty of the soldiers and the suffering of the women of Ukraine.
Send healing for the trauma they are suffering and the indignities they endure.
Help us to become like the midwives and rise up to send assistance for those in need
 and support to end the atrocities.

In the United States, the Supreme Court overturned Roe vs Wade.  In many states, women and girls cannot access reproductive health.  Girls and women who have been raped cannot get abortions.  Women who are having a miscarriage, who have ectopic pregnancies or other life-threatening conditions of pregnancy cannot get access to health care to end their pregnancies.  Women who do not want to be pregnant cannot end their pregnancies, causing untold psychological pain and suffering now and in the future.  And all within a system already rife with racial and economic disparities.

Our hearts weep for these women and we cry out for justice: 

A Prayer for Redemption
God, our bodies were once safe here in the United States
Help us to once again have access to reproductive healthcare for all women.
Help us become like the midwives and rise up to face power and pursue justice.
On this Seder night: Let us care.  Let us speak up. Let us commit. Let us act.

Afikomen Suggestion:  A donation can be made to one of the agencies fighting for reproductive justice and ending injustice: Jewish World Watch,  American Jewish World Service, Joint Distribution Committee, National Council of Jewish Women, Planned Parenthood and Uyghur Human Rights Project.

*Suggestion that this be read toward the beginning of the Seder, after the Four Children, in the paragraph that starts “V’Hi”, that in EVERY generation there are those who have sought to destroy us…”.