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Mother's Day, Jewish Style

May 9, 2009 | by Rabbi Boruch Leff

Go ahead and take her out for dinner, but make sure your display of gratitude isn't just a once-a-year occasion.

If your mother is anything like mine, she probably told you weeks ago not to get her anything for Mother's Day. "Since when did Mother's Day become a Jewish holiday? Don't bother yourself over me."

Of course we know to ignore such self-defacing comments. But she may have a point. Isn't every day supposed to be Mother's Day? The Torah tells us to honor and revere our mothers at all times. So why go out of your way to show her your gratitude on Mother's Day?

How can we benefit from using Mother's Day?

By treating it like a pseudo-Jewish holiday.

If Mother's Day is your way out of showing her how much she means to you the rest of the year, the day actually becomes a vehicle to reduce true appreciation for moms.

So how can we benefit from using Mother's Day? By treating it like a pseudo-Jewish holiday.

Jewish holidays are fundamentally different than secular holidays like the Fourth of July or President's Day. Such holidays commemorate events, while Jewish holidays are portals in time when we can re-experience the spiritual forces that were unleashed due to a historical event.

For example, on the upcoming holiday of Shavuot, the Jewish People received the Torah. Thus, every year on Shavuot, we have the opportunity to accept the Torah anew and strengthen our personal commitment.

Rabbi Dessler describes time is a spiral. As we travel through time we return to key moments of the past and recapture the inherent spiritual energy. This is why Jewish holidays are referred to in Hebrew as "moadim" -- meeting places. Similarly, the Hebrew word "zman" - time -- means designated or appointed because every moment in time has been appointed with a specific spiritual purpose.

But doesn't that purpose apply the rest of the year?

For example, Passover celebrates God freeing the Jewish people from the slavery in Egypt. But the Torah requires us to recall the Exodus from Egypt daily, as recited at the end of the Shema prayer. Why then do we celebrate Passover if we already recall the Exodus continuously the entire year?

The same question could be asked for almost every Jewish holiday. On Shavuot, we celebrate God giving us the Torah on Mount Sinai. But we also have a general commandment to remember the events of Sinai as often as we can. How then does rejoicing on Shavuot enhance our religious experience?

We celebrate all Jewish holidays with the following idea in mind. Yes, we need to remember all of God's miracles and kindness to us at all times, but such a proposition is difficult. Doing something constantly tends to weaken its intensity. Eventually the dramatic can become tedious, the glory can become rote.

Holidays allow us to concentrate on a vital component of our spiritual lexicon for a day or a week and then transmit that idea into our essence for the rest of the year.

Yes, we need to constantly work on attaining freedom, but Passover arrives and as we relive the Jewish people's Exodus from Egypt for a full week, we become empowered to carry over the attitude of true freedom for the rest of year.

So if you celebrate Mother's Day, do it with the same approach as a Jewish holiday. Show her your appreciation, buy the card and the roses, and go ahead and take her out for dinner. But make sure these displays of gratitude and affection are not just annual occasions. Mother's Day should be a day full of love and endearment that helps you continuously experience such feelings throughout the year. This is Mother's Day, Jewish style.


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