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Happy Birthday, Mom!

July 7, 2010 | by Rabbi Jack Kalla

The perfect present.

Preparing to travel from Israel to Pittsburgh for my mom’s 80th birthday party, I wondered to myself, What would be the perfect birthday present? By this time in her life she probably already has plenty of souvenirs from Israel. And the new family portrait just didn’t seem like enough.

I recalled what the 13th century book, the Sefer HaChinuch (the Book of Education), an explanation of all of Judaism’s commandments, wrote about honoring one’s parents. Appreciation is the key. By appreciating what our parents do for us, we’ll feel a deep sense of gratitude and become overcome with the desire to reciprocate to them. Taking it a step further, the author explains that by appreciating our parents we’ll eventually gain an appreciation for, and desire to serve our ultimate Father in Heaven.

I also remembered the teachings of Rabbi Noah Weinberg, of blessed memory, the founder of Aish HaTorah, who taught that the way to happiness is to have gratitude for the blessings in our life.

“I’ve got it," I told my wife. "I’m going to give my mom a list of 80 reasons I’m glad she’s my mom.” What a perfect 80th birthday present.

To be honest, there were some dry spells as the list grew. But the process of trying to replay my life through what my mom’s done for me was incredibly meaningful. By the end I was wishing I was going to make a longer list.

Even though she had great pleasure sharing the list with family and friends, there’s no doubt that I got more out of it then she did.

Try doing the same with the important people in your life – parents, spouse, best friend. I guarantee your appreciation and relationship will change for the better.

Thanks Mom for all you’ve done and continue to do for me.

So without further ado, here’s my list:

The author with his parents at the Aish HaTorah Center in Jerusalem80 Reasons I’m Grateful that You’re my Mom

  1. You carried me for 9 months.
  2. You went through the pains of giving birth to me.
  3. You entered me into the covenant of Abraham on the 8th day.
  4. You changed my diapers.
  5. You fed me.
  6. You bathed me.
  7. You clothed me.
  8. You took me for haircuts.
  9. You respected me and took me to a better barber when I felt I needed better haircuts.
  10. You were a role model by teaching Hebrew School.
  11. You bought me the bike I really wanted for my 13th birthday.
  12. You encouraged me to push myself at my bar mitzvah.
  13. You took me to tennis lessons.
  14. You picked me up from playing tennis.
  15. You drove all over to tournaments with me.
  16. You made me stay at camp when I didn’t want to.
  17. You always answered the phone when I called you at Montefiore Hospital.
  18. You get concerned about me when I don’t call.
  19. You’re great with the grandchildren.
  20. You love my wife.
  21. You always believed me when I said I was sick and had to stay home from school.
  22. You stood up for me in junior high basketball.
  23. You didn’t yell at me when I got thrown out of Little League games.
  24. You did take my tennis rackets away from me when I crossed the line.
  25. You never told me that I didn’t do well enough on a test.
  26. You let me drive your car whenever I wanted.
  27. You taught me to care for others.
  28. You made me a proud Jew.
  29. You always bounce back quickly when we don’t get along.
  30. You aren’t afraid to ask tough questions.
  31. You never (really) discouraged me from living in Israel.
  32. You never give up hope that I’ll return to America.
  33. You visited me everywhere I lived.
  34. You tolerated being on the boats even though you hated it.
  35. You bought me kosher utensils for when I visit.
  36. You made us light Chanukah candles on our vacation in the Baja.
  37. You make the best banana bread.
  38. You make my shirts so white.
  39. You never said anything when I played my music too loud.
  40. You encouraged me to have good friends.
  41. You are so proud of me when you take me to the Alzheimer’s facilities.
  42. You took care of my cat.
  43. You keep coming to Israel even though it is very hard.
  44. There is always food for me when I visit.
  45. You understand why I don’t visit with the family more often.
  46. You left work early to take care of me if I was sick.
  47. You send me newspaper clippings of things you think I’ll find interesting.
  48. You went to Parents of Children in Israel meetings.
  49. You showed me how important it was to be part of the Jewish community.
  50. You encouraged me to be a counselor for the youth group in Reno.
  51. You buy the kids Purim costumes at the post-Halloween sales.
  52. You encouraged me to teach Hebrew School when I was in college.
  53. You were so proud of me when I didn’t play tennis on Yom Kippur in college. (Sandy Koufax gets an assist on that one.)
  54. You made me feel so special at the Walk-a-Thon by putting me in a police car.
  55. You let me stay over at Jeff and Judy’s.
  56. You always get me great shirts.
  57. You put up with my messy room.
  58. You cooked for the Sunday night family/friends get-togethers.
  59. You let us have a dog.
  60. You took care of me when I had knee surgery.
  61. You’ve never said anything negative about Dad in your life.
  62. You gave me Grandma Small’s quilt.
  63. You take me shopping for presents for the kids.
  64. You think of fundraising contacts for me.
  65. You brought Lynn to visit in Israel.
  66. You take such good care of Dad.
  67. You gave everything you had to Dave when he was sick.
  68. You kept all of my things, even though they clutter the garage.
  69. You come with Dad to pick me up at the airport late at night.
  70. You smile every time you see me get off the plane.
  71. You don’t complain that there is only one place to eat breakfast where we live.
  72. You took the kids on a boat ride they never would have gone on.
  73. You let Dad make us so many beautiful things, like boats and mirrors.
  74. You leave me with a hug and a tear.
  75. You bought me contacts when the glasses weren’t cutting it for tennis.
  76. You bought me the very first Pong game for Chanukah.
  77. You always remember birthdays.
  78. You always remember anniversaries.
  79. You always ask me when I’m coming to visit.
  80. You had this wonderful party and gave me the opportunity to reflect on all of you’ve done for me since even before I was born. Thank you.


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