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Elijah & Miriam Cups Guide

For many children (of all ages), the custom of welcoming Elijah to visit is a favorite part of the Seder. This ritual actually occurs late in the Seder, so it’s also a good reason to stay awake and stay interested! A fairly new ritual embraced by many contemporary Jewish homes is also to honor Miriam, Moses’ sister, during the Seder night. Each of these rituals is represented by a special cup placed on the Seder table--Elijah’s Cup and Miriam’s Cup.

The Tradition Behind Elijah’s Cup

Elijah the Prophet (or “Eliyahu Hanavi”, in Hebrew) is a long-awaited and much anticipated figure throughout the Jewish world. It is believed that he will be the messenger who arrives to tell the world that the Messiah is on its way. Towards the very end of the Seder, it is traditional to invite Elijah to visit this year’s Seder as an expression of the fervent hope that he will arrive to announce the arrival of the Messiah before next year’s. In many traditions, a child is sent to open the door for Elijah to enter and everyone sings the song “Eliyahu Hanavi.” Every eye is focused on Elijah’s Cup (which has been sitting full at the center of the table since the beginning of the Seder) to see if the level of wine diminishes . . . proof that Elijah was actually there.

The Tradition Behind Miriam’s Cup

A newer tradition involves placing a special cup on the table to honor Miriam the Prophetess, Moses’ sister, and her important role in the Exodus of the Israelites from slavery in Egypt. This tradition also recognizes the important role of women in Jewish history.

When Moses’ mother placed the Baby Moses in a basket and floated him down the Nile River in an attempt to save him from Pharaoh’s decree that all Hebrew baby boys were to be killed, it was Miriam who followed the Baby Moses and watched him from the bulrushes. Miriam made sure that he made it to safety, and when he was adopted by the Pharaoh’s sister, Miriam was the one who arranged for Moses to actually be raised by his own mother. And the Talmud teaches that it was Miriam’s well that provided the Israelites with water during their forty years of wandering on the way to the Promised Land. G-d gave Miriam the gift of this miraculous well, and it followed the Israelites on their journey through the desert.

For both of these reasons, Miriam the Prophetess is often associated with water. So, Miriam’s Cup is not filled with wine (like Elijah’s), but instead with water. Usually, the cup stands empty at the beginning of the Seder, and during a special portion of the Seder ritual, each participant pours a bit of water from his or her own cup into Miraim’s Cup.

Elijah & Miriam Cups--Beautiful Judaica

Elijah’s Cup and Miriam’s Cup can be similar to any other wine goblet or Kiddush Cup. However, many families have special cups or goblets for use especially as part of the Seder. Elijah’s Cup is often larger than a traditional Kiddush Cup, and it may be made from silver, porcelain, ceramic, or glass. Sometimes, it is inscribed with Elijah’s name in Hebrew or in English. Miriam’s Cup is similar, but it often bears her name or likeness. It can also be made from any number of materials, but it is often made of glass to allow everyone to see the water inside.

For More Information

For more information about Elijah & Miriam Cups or other Judaica items, feel free to contact our Judaica experts with any questions or concerns.

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