As one travels along the journey of life, Mother’s Day takes on different meanings.
My earliest memory of Mother’s Day goes back to when I was about 6 years old. I conspired with my sister, who is two years my senior, to surprise my mother by making dinner for the family.
While she was still in bed, early on that Sunday morning, we attempted one of our favorites: spaghetti and meatballs.
It was an absolute disaster! The chopped meat was frozen, as we were yet unaware of the need to defrost it the night before. Despite the flopped dinner, she truly appreciated the sentiment, and we helped her clean up the not-so-small mess that was left behind.
As one travels along the journey of life, Mother’s Day takes on different meanings. To a young child, it may mean trying to create a nice surprise for the most important woman in the child’s life. Freshly cut foraged wildflowers, a lopsided cake or a cute little note unmistakably written in a child’s scribble are all ways a youngster might mark this special day.
As one gets older, the gifts for mom grow in sophistication. Beautiful roses, breakfast in bed or that new kitchen gadget that she always wanted. And when parents turn the corner and enter the arena of old age, perhaps picking them up and taking them out for dinner is the way to express love and appreciation.
For many, Mother’s Day is a time of mixed feelings, thinking of a mother who has passed on, nostalgically recalling the many good times that were shared together. But there is also the pain of the loss, missing her and feeling the void.
A Deep Love
From a Jewish perspective, Mother’s Day is intrinsically connected to the gratitude we must feel and express to someone who has given us more than anyone in the whole world. The Torah teaches that the love that a parent feels for a child is even stronger than the reverse, that is, the love that the child feels for a parent.
A mother is capable of extending herself and giving to her child in a way that the child will never be capable of replicating. The nights robbed of sleep, moments filled with worry and days rich in that nurturing maternal love are just the very beginning of what our mothers have done for us.
To truly understand the depth of something, we study the ancient Hebrew word for it. We believe that the world was created with the mystical letters of the Hebrew alphabet, and the Hebrew word for something will portray its essence.
The Hebrew word for mother is “em” or “Ima,” closely related to the Hebrew word “emunah,” which means faith. Through her constant care and love, our mother is the one who instills in us a deep sense of trust. That foundation of trust is the basis for our faith in our Father in Heaven, and a faith and hope in people. Through a mother’s love, we learn to trust in humanity and in the goodness of the world around us.
Honoring one’s mother (and father) plays such a prominent role in Torah thought that it made it into the Ten Commandments.
It stands as number five on the list and serves to bridge the gap between the commandments that relate to our relationship with the Almighty, which occupy the right side of the Tablets, and the interactions that we have with our peers, found on the left side.
A parent is a partner with God in creating us and giving us life. To us, a parent isn’t a peer. A mother and father are not simply a friend, but they are someone we look up to, revere and respect.
Properly honoring a parent is a step toward honoring the Almighty, and as such, this mitzvah serves perfectly to transition from the right side of the tablets — the Divine side, to the left side — the one dealing with laws of human engagement.
To those of us who are fortunate enough to have a mother still in this world, let us take this Mother’s Day, and really, every day, to appreciate the great gift that we have.
She won’t be with us forever, so let us seize the moment and make it special.
To those of us whose mother lives on in memory, let us cherish those memories.
Wishing you all a happy Mother’s Day.
Rabbi Chaim Fink is an educator at Partners Detroit.