Faces on Faith: Let my people include!
In the Jewish lectionary cycle our annual reading from Torah (The Five Books of Moses) we are about to begin the Book of Exodus.
This second book of Torah contains the central story of Israel’s birth as a nation. Our Bible is an overwhelmingly patriarchal text. Yet the pivotal role of heroic women, in the Exodus story, is stunning!
In spite of Pharaoh’s several plans to destroy their people, a community of unnamed fertile Israelite women continues to increase the strength of the nation.
The midwives, Shiphrah and Puah, disobey Pharaoh’s command to kill the newborn Israelite boys. Moses’ mother, Yocheved, is brave and clever enough to save him by way of putting in him a basket which she releases into the Nile.
Moses’ sister, Miriam, brilliantly conceives a plan through which the baby will actually be nursed by his own mother. And it is Pharaoh’s unnamed daughter who ensures that Moses is rescued and raised for future greatness.
Later on, Moses’ wife Zipporah will support him, and intervene in his journey, in ways that avert disaster and allow him to continue on. While Moses and Aaron appear as the “front men” in God’s deliverance of the Israelite people, it is these many women some Jewish and others not who insure Israel’s ultimate salvation.
One would hope that, in our day, the role and equality of women in the religious enterprise is long past debate. This biblical book, Exodus, surely highlights the folly of any lingering opposition to women’s equality in the church, synagogue, or mosque. It is ,as well, a cautionary tale against marginalizing any others in our communities.
Who have we “written out” of our sacred stories and our religious institutions because of their gender or race or economic status or sexual orientation or age . . . or whatever else we consider “lesser” or “not normal” or somehow impaired or . . . ??
How greatly diminished are we for such exclusion!
The Book of Exodus, filled as it is with so central and radical a role of women, reminds us that all have a significant role in the divine enterprise. It’s not just that is it is morally right that we be fully welcoming communities.
Our very salvation can clearly depend upon it.