So, the reviews are in and it’s pretty unanimous – the new Wonder Woman movie is incredibly empowering for the girls and women who have gone to see it. The lead character Diana is allowed to behave in a way that was previously reserved for men only. The director of the film is a woman. And now, tickets are selling at a brisk pace.
As the father of three daughters, I love seeing a film with a strong female lead. As a lover of Israel, I love the fact that the actress portraying her is Israeli – born in Rosh Ha-Ayin, Gal Gadot is the granddaughter of Holocaust survivors.
It is a reminder that even though the Jewish tradition does not have a consistently stellar record on gender issues (which religion does?!), there have been strong women throughout our history who can also serve as role models for us today. One of the first of these women was Miriam.
According to rabbinic tradition, God gave the Israelites three miraculous gifts in the wilderness after the Exodus from Egypt and leading to the conquest of the Promised Land. Two of them are mentioned in this week’s Torah portion. The first was the manna – the heavenly food which sustained the Israelites during their years of wandering. “When the dew fell upon the camp at night, the manna would fall upon it (Numbers 11:9). This gift was given through Moshe.
The second gift was the Divine cloud which represented God’s presence and the protection offered by God in the dangerous desert. “On the day that the Tabernacle was set up, the cloud covered the Tabernacle (Numbers 9:15).” This gift was given through Aaron.
The third gift, though not mentioned in this week’s portion, was the well which traveled with the Israelites providing water wherever they went. The legend of the well is rooted in the story of Miriam’s passing as described in Numbers 20. After her burial in the first verse of that chapter, the very next verse tells us that “the community was without water and they joined against Moshe and Aaron (Numbers 20:2).” The rabbis, therefore, concluded that Miriam must have been responsible for the provision of water throughout her life. Miriam’s Well was the third gift given by God to the Israelites in the wilderness.
Imagine that: a woman with super powers, playing a role usually reserved for men, finding success and inspiring future generations of women and girls. Sounds like a wonder woman to me.