The American holiday Mother's Day began in the late 19th century. Some sayit began in Michigan, others in West Virginia. In both states, there werewomen who felt that a day of acknowledging motherhood would spark a moralrevival. In 1914, it became an American national holiday, and shortly after,Mother's Day became celebrated around the world.Long before that, though, the Jewish people stood at the foot of a desertmountain and heard the divine words "Honor your mother and father" spoken aspart of the Ten Commandments. Some would say that that day was the firstMother's Day (and Father's Day too). Our tradition is filled with reverencefor mothers: "My not walk away from the wisdom of your mother,for it will be a sign of grace upon your head" (Proverbs 1:8-9). When you think "Jewish mothers," two thoughts might pop into your mind.First come the matriarchs--Sarah, Rebecca, Rachel, and Leah, all women whoexperienced struggle and heartbreak as they overcame life's obstacles.Second come the old jokes: "I'd rather sit in the dark," "my son, thedoctor," "Oedipus shmedipus, at least he loves his mother..." Yet somewhere between the worlds of piety and comedy, Jewish mothers are thewomen who have nurtured, instructed, supported, and challenged us. So heartsand flowers don't go far enough. To honor mothers "Jewishly" is to celebratethe real women whose love and wisdom guide us. CLAL has undertaken a project to infuse American holiday traditions withdeeply Jewish meanings As you choose the rituals that you will enact thisMother's Day--flowers, dinner, phone call, card--consider the ways in whichyou can deepen the celebration through these reflections.1) Meditate or reflect for a moment on each of the following words and howthey connect you to your mother:
  • protection
  • independence
  • guidance
  • nurturing

    In what ways do you communicate your love for her?

    In what ways do you help your relationship to evolve and grow?
    In what ways could you try to see the world through your mother's eyes?

    2) For those of us whose mothers are no longer with us, Mother's Day is atime to remember and to mark the life and dreams of our mothers. Take timeto reflect on the legacy that your mother has left behind and the ways inwhich your life continues the values that she lived by.

    3) Mother's Day is also a time of reflection for mothers themselves. Notext, traditional or contemporary, can capture the experience of allmothers--but here are two Jewish texts on which you might reflect to markthis day:

    "Let my soul be in all things like the earth.... She is generous, shenurtures and clothes all creation, she gives space to let others build theirhomes and adorn themselves, she showers all with untold wonders" (KorbanMinha Siddur, Vilna 1910).

    "...she surveys a field and buys it, she plants a vineyard with her hands,she radiates strength, her arms flexed, she stretches her hand to theneedy...she opens her mouth with wisdom, a Torah of kindness is on herlips...." (adapted from Proverbs 31).