ABOUT THE PROPHETESSES

The PROPHETESSES – Explanation of USHPIZOT CHART

SARAH

SEPHIRA – HESED (lovingkindness)
SYMBOL– TENT – Sarah’s home was always open, with hospitality to all.
EXCERPT – Sarah supported her husband Abraham through all his travels and trials. Despite her anguish at being barren, she selflessly ensured that her life-partner Abraham could father a child with her servant. As a prophetess, Sarah knew that God’s promised covenant with the seed of Abraham, the nation of Israel, would be established only through the genetic line of Isaac and Jacob.

MIRIAM

SEPHIRA – GEVURAH (strength)
SYMBOL – WELL – During their years of wandering in the desert, there was a miraculous well of water for the children of Israel’s use at each rest stop, in reward of Miriam’s devotion. (Babylonian Talmud,Ta’anit 9a)
EXCERPT – Always a leader, Miriam convinced the Hebrew women in Egypt to continue bearing children despite Pharaoh’s edict, to ensure that the nation of Israel would survive. She watched over her brother Moses in the waters of the Nile.
Song of Miriam – She led the Israelite women in songs of praise to the Lord after the Hebrew tribes successfully crossed the Red Sea.

DEBORAH

SEPHIRA – TIFERET (splendor)
SYMBOL – PALM TREE – As a judge, visionary, warrior and poetess, Deborah preached and advised in the shade of a tree in the countryside.
EXCERPT – Song of Deborah, Judges, Chapter 5.     This is an ancient poem, preserving in song the history of hardships and battles that the Israelite community endured after settling in the Promised Land. Deborah taught the people by example and song that victory comes not through the might of man but through the grace of God.

HANNAH

SEPHIRA – NETZACH (eternity)
SYMBOL – PRAYER BOOK – Following Hannah’s example, Jewish women, over the centuries, wrote and recited personal prayers of praise and supplication called TECHINAS. The language was in their vernacular, Yiddish, Ladino or Hebrew; the topics were blessings for family and life-cycle events.
EXCERPT – Hannah’s silent prayer for a child in the Sanctuary at Shiloh became a model for Jewish prayer. The format of prayer in the Amidah is praise of the Lord, petitions, then thanksgiving. We stand in prayer because Hannah stood; we move our lips but pray quietly, with devotion as she did. (Babylonian Talmud, Berachot 31a)

ABIGAIL

SEPHIRA – HOD (glory)
SYMBOL – REFRESHMENTS – As the wife of rich but churlish Nabal, she used psychology and political insight to save her husband, home and lands from destruction by bringing food and wine to David and his followers. The beautiful, clever Abigail later became one of King David’s wives.
EXCERPT – To David, before he became king, she predicted his future success in this world and the next. Abigail’s words of prophecy, understood as confirmation of ‘Olam ha-Ba’ (the World to Come) were incorporated into the ‘El Male Rachamim’ bereavement prayer and the YIZKOR memorial prayer, recited by the Jewish people worldwide, to this day.

HULDA

SEPHIRA – YESOD (foundation)
SYMBOL TORAH SCROLL – Hulda prophesied and taught the word of the Lord at a school near the Temple. When the missing Torah scroll of Devarim (Deuteronomy) was discovered, she authenticated its holiness as part of the Book of the Covenant.
EXCERPT – Hulda’s reiteration of the Torah’s decrees of destruction influenced King Josiah to reform religious worship in Israel. Sacrifice and prayer were returned to the Temple of Jerusalem, firmly establishing Jerusalem as the center of the Jewish world.
The Gates of Hulda leading to the Herodian Temple from the south, were named in her honor.
(Mishnah Middot 1:3)

ESTHER

SEPHIRA – MALCHUT (kingship)
SYMBOL – MEGILLAH SCROLL – In her wisdom, Esther foresaw that members of the Jewish people who lived in the Diaspora, outside the land of Israel, would always be threatened by assimilation and anti-semitism. She had the story of the repentance and redemption of the Jewish community in Babylon inscribed as a morality tale to be read annually, on Purim, in all future generations. Esther’s courage and deep sense of attachment to and responsibility for her people make her a model for emulation by all women.
EXCERPT – The phrase in chapter 8 of the Book of Esther is repeated every week in the recitation of HAVDALAH at the close of Shabbat.

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