In Miketz, Finding New Female Role Models in the Torah To Talk About

In this weeks parsha, Miketz, Pharaoh has two dreams that need interpreting. You remember that in last week’s parsha, Joseph interpreted dreams for the chief cup bearer and baker. So the chief steward recommends Joseph interpret the dreams of pharaoh also. We only hear about the dreams of men! No women are included.

Global studies show that girls are significantly less likely than boys to believe in their own ability to make their dreams come true. And our tradition, passed down by a male dominated society, often silences the voices, hopes and dreams of women. We don’t hear their stories enough in our traditional texts.

We read this week that Joseph marries Osnat. Osnat is mentioned only three times in the Torah. However, midrash teaches us that she is the daughter of an Egyptian high priest who, like Joseph, can interpret dreams. He’s not as good as Joseph, but his daughter, Josheph’s wife, has inherited the ability with tremendous skill. The midrash tells us this is why Joseph and Osnat were such a good fit to become partners.

This past week thousands of Israeli women and men – including many from our own Kehilat Birkat Shalom at Kibbutz Gezer – took part in protests across the country in the struggle to end violence against women, remembering 24 women murdered this year in Israel. Communities of the Israel Movement for Reform and Progressive Judaism together with the Israel Religious Action Center are standing together for justice.

It is up to us to find the midrashim and share the stories of Osnat and other women in our tradition. We must fill in the gaps and make sure their voices are heard. Miriam, Devorah, Hagar, Judith, Sarah and so many other women play critical roles in Jewish life. They stand alongside the voices of women in Israeli society today who are making a difference in our struggle for change: Rabbi Miri Gold, Anat Hoffman, Ruth Calderon, Staf Shaffrir and so many more!

Recent local elections in Israel saw an increase more than doubling the number of women mayor leading our cities and regional councils (from 5 to 13).  It is our responsibility to ensure our daughters and sons learn their stories and know that they too can make the world a better place – and make their dreams come true.


About the author:

Rabbi Steve Burnstein is the spiritual leader of Kehilat Birkat Shalom at Kibbutz Gezer, a regional congregation of the Israel Movement for Reform and Progressive Judaism (IMPJ). Previously, Rabbi Burnstein served as Director of Global Leadership Development and Education of the World Union for Progressive Judaism (WUPJ). Rabbi Burnstein made aliya in 1996 and was the Associate Director of the Pinat Shorashim Center for Israel-Diaspora Education. Prior to that, he was an Educator at Congregation Beth Torah in Kansas City; Director of Israel Education at ACAJE in Philadelphia; and Director of Education at Israel Experts. He lives with his wife and two children on Kibbutz Gezer.