In the U.S., we will celebrate Mother’s Day on May 14 this year. But did you know that we Jews have our own Mother’s Day? It is the 11th day of the Hebrew month of Cheshvan (in October/November). This Jewish Mother’s Day commemorates the death of Rachel, Jacob’s wife.
Rabbi Judy Chessin explains the significance of this observance in her article “Celebrate Mother’s Day the Jewish Way,” published in the Dayton Jewish Observer in 2011. She writes, “So why would Rachel be chosen as the quintessential Jewish mother, rather than one of the other matriarchs: Sarah, Rebecca, or Leah? After all, Rachel suffered infertility for years before becoming a mother, while her sister, Leah, bore Jacob child after child. Perhaps it was this very suffering and death after childbirth that earned her special merit in our national folklore. …
“In Jewish folklore, Rachel became identified with the indwelling Presence of the Divine (the Shekhina), and the spiritual mother who accompanied the Jewish people into exile and remained disconsolate until their return.”
We all suffer and struggle in motherhood at one time or another. But I would like to focus on the rewards and meaning of being a mother.
Here are some questions to ask ourselves as mothers:
• What is the greatest reward of being a mother?
• What sacrifice have I made that has turned into a blessing?
• What is the greatest lesson I have taught my children?
• What is the greatest lesson my children have taught me?
• How do I want to be remembered by my children?
• What do I love to do with my children, grandchildren?
• What do I hope for my children?
After I answered these questions, I understood more about why Judaism is passed down through the mother. But for a fuller explanation, I turned to the JewishWoman.org section of Chabad.org, where Rabbi Aron Moss writes in his article “Why is Jewishness Passed Down Through the Mother?”: “Jewishness is not in our DNA. It is in our soul. The reason it is passed down through the maternal line is not just because it is easier to identify who your mother is. It is because the soul identity is more directly shaped by the mother than the father.
“From a purely physical perspective, a child is more directly connected to their mother. The father’s contribution to the production of a child is instantaneous and remote. The mother, on the other hand, gives her very self to the child. The child is conceived inside the mother, develops inside the mother, is sustained and nourished by the mother, and is born from the mother.
“This is not to say that a father and child are not intimately attached. Of course they are. But as deep and essential as the bond between father and child may be, the child’s actual body was never a part of her father’s body. But she was a part of her mother. Every child begins as an extension of their mother’s body.”
This explanation makes sense to me. Personally, I think it’s a special recognition of mothers.
Happy Mother’s Day!
PATRICIA RASKIN hosts “The Patricia Raskin Show” on Saturdays at 3 p.m. on WPRO, 630 AM/99.7 FM, and on Mondays at 2 p.m. on voiceamerica.com. Raskin is a board member of Providence’s Temple Emanu-El.