Extraordinary Article About Biblical Miriam
The current issue of Zeek, a progressive Jewish publication, has an extraordinary article by Rabbi Jill Hammer, "Priestesses, Bibliomancy, and the Anointing of Miriam." Rabbi Hammer writes:
Like other feminist readers, I have always felt the story of Miriam’s expulsion to be a massive power grab on the part of the male Israelite leadership.....Miriam is banned from the camp. Psychologically, this banishment echoes the banishment of women from the priesthood. While women all over the ancient Near East and the Mediterranean serve as priestesses, Israelite women do not do so according to any mainstream text....The story of Miriam’s exile establishes the Torah’s limits on women’s spiritual leadership.[ellipses mine, indicating material from article text omitted here]
Through a remarkable experience, Rabbi Hammer found that amidst Hebrew scriptures condemning women as leaders of rituals there is evidence that Miriam, whom the Bible describes as being banished for criticizing her brother Moses, may have been an anointed priestess. Rabbi Hammer writes:
What a sacred text represses must return in hidden form.and goes on to describe what she feels was hidden in the story of Miriam and related biblical texts. I find her argument persuasive, and the way she uncovered the evidence, inspiring.
Rabbi Hammer is co-director of the Kohenet Institute , which is training Hebrew priestesses now, and director of spiritual education at the Academy of Jewish Religion.