Judaism’s sacred books have their fair share of poetry; consider the Psalms as an example of the essence of the Jewish heart and soul in exploration of homeland and exploration of the vast realm of human experience in emotions and living. I have been writing more poetry recently and started thinking about Jewish women who were poets and what their lyrics, sonnets, and music were about. The first Jewish woman I came across was Miriam, the sister of Moses and Aaron. Many of us are quite familiar with her song:
Miriam sang to them: “Sing to the Lord, for he is highly exalted. The horse and its rider he has hurled into the sea.” Exodus 15:21
One can only imagine what it must have been like to be at such a crucial point in Jewish history. Watching the very enemies that were at one turn in hot pursuit of your people and you and the next turn they are perishing in the very waters that had divided for you to be allowed safe passage.
Wouldn’t you sing? Wouldn’t your heart be lifted in thankfulness? Of course.
And Judaism proudly has Miriam’s poetry as a part of our sacred books and memory. When I think of Judaism’s female poets, I consider this small excerpt of a very special poem that most American’s know without realizing the author is Jewish:
“Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.”
You will find these words on the plaque of the Statue of Liberty and the poem was written in 1833 and the name of the poem is “The New Colossus”.
This poem was penned by a Jewish woman by the name of Emma Lazarus and she went on to write about the rise of anti-Semitism in Russia and arguing for Russian immigrants’ rights during that time period.
These two women are just a few examples of the lives of Jewish women who inspire people around them. Judaism holds women in high regard.
There are two factors, according to Jewish law, by which a person is considered Jewish; one is that person must be born to a Jewish mother.
For the first time in over three years, I joined Jewish women at a Friday night Shabbat service and observed the lighting of the Sabbath candles. We welcomed in the Sabbath as Jewish women have for thousands of years before us. I felt united with not only the wonderful women in my synagogue but also Emma Lazarus, Miriam, and countless Jewish women through the centuries.