Ritual for Miriam's Cup and Elijah's Cup

Traditionally, Jews put a cup of Elijah, full of wine, on their Passover seder tables, and also open the door for Elijah near the end of the seder, in recognition of the Jewish legend that the prophet Elijah visits every seder table to announce the coming of redemption. Modern feminist Jews also put a cup of spring water on their seder tables to remember Miriam the prophet, for she danced at the Sea of Reeds to celebrate the Exodus, and a well of fresh water was said to follow her in the desert so that the Israelites always had water to drink. Where Elijah represents redemption and the movement of history, Miriam represents healing and renewal on the journey.

If possible, ask your guests to bring water and wine that are significant to them: water from a place they love, a bottle of wine or grape juice they have saved from a special event, etc.

At the beginning of the seder, before kiddush, ask an honored guest to fill the cup of Miriam with water from the combined waters that have been brought. She or he should say:

Zot be’er Miriam,
kos mayim chayim.
Kumi be’er enu lah.

This is the well of Miriam,
the cup of living waters.
Rise up O well! Sing to her!”

Then ask another honored guest to fill the cup of Elijah with the collected wines and juices and say:

"Hineh ani sholeach lachem
et eliyah hanavi
lifnei bo yom adonai

Behold, I send you
Elijah the prophet,
before the coming
of the day of the Eternal.”

Each "filler of the cup" may be invited to offer a toast, a memory of someone who reminds then of Miriam or Elijah, or an intention for the seder.

You can hand out lots or pieces of paper to select the guests who will fill the cups in a random way, or pick someone who you feel has resembled Elijah or Miriam in the year past. Or, pick the youngest members of the group.

Near the end of the seder, before we open the door to welcome in Elijah, everyone takes a drop of water from Miriam's cup while saying a wish for what he or she needs in the coming year. Then everyone adds a drop of wine to Elijah's cup, while saying what he or she can give in the coming year.

At the end of this part of the ritual, the leader may say:

Miriam is beginning; Elijah is end. Miriam is present, Elijah is future. Miriam is place; Elijah is time. Elijah is the mountain, Miriam is the sea. The water of Miriam rises from the earth, the fire of Elijah descends from the sky. Together they are the circle of sunlight and rain, not separate or dissimilar, for both are needed for growth. We must have consciousness of both in order to be free.

To conclude the ritual, mix a little of the water with the wine and a little of the wine with the water, to mix the spirits of Elijah and Miriam.

Mah lemaalah kach lemata. Kein yehi ratzon.
As above, so below. May this be the Divine will.

Rabbi Jill Hammer is the founder of Tel Shemesh and the author of Sisters at Sinai: New Tales of Biblical Women.

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