Shabbat Evening Service
From the desk of Rabbi David Lyon
Mother’s Day has been celebrated for centuries. In America, it was created by Anna Jarvis in 1908, and became an official U.S. holiday in 1914. Jarvis had hopes that the day would bring honor to mothers through appropriate expressions of gratitude, including prayers. She was unhappy with the commercialization that overtook the holiday and even aimed to remove the new holiday from the calendar. Obviously, she couldn’t undo what she did. Hallmark and E-cards would go out of business without Mother’s Day, not to mention phone companies that log it as their busiest day of the year.
This Mother’s Day, many mothers will be treated to flowers, cards, gifts and mimosas. They’re all splendid ways of showing affection to the one who reared us from childhood. Some of us have the pleasure of our mother’s company still. Even if she’s not nearby, the phone call or Skype visit and occasional holiday weekend make time with mom special. Rather than a mother-child relationship it’s possibly grown to become something like two adult friends who share a unique bond. My calls to my mother two or three times each week assure me that she’s fine even five years after my father’s death. My mother, with whom I share humor and friendship, and who seems to be as busy as me, frequently tells me on the phone, “My aim is to stay healthy and never cause you any concern about me.” To which I often reply, “One day you will and it’s quite alright. I love you.”
Some have only memories of their mother’s love. Though gone from life there is something indelible about her impress on their life experiences. Khalil Gibran wrote, “The mother is everything — she is our consolation in sorrow, our hope in misery, and our strength in weakness. She is the source of love, mercy, sympathy and forgiveness. They who lose their mother lose a pure soul who blesses and guards them constantly. Everything in nature bespeaks the mother. The sun is the mother of earth and gives it its nourishment of heat; it never leaves the universe at night until it has put the earth to sleep to the song of the sea and the hymn of birds and brooks. And this earth is the mother of trees and flowers. It produces them, nurses them, and weans them. The trees and flowers become kind mothers of their great fruits and seeds. And the mother, the prototype of all existence, is the eternal spirit, full of beauty and love.”
A mother’s absence is felt deep in the pit of one’s soul. Unless an aunt or surrogate has filled the space, there remains a constant gnawing for her voice, her touch and her love. Judaism teaches in a Mishnah, “It is one thing to be loved; it is another thing to know that you are loved.” I often interpret it to mean that “to be loved” is in the present tense. The touch and the embrace are available to us. “To know that you are loved” continues even after they’re gone. It’s a conscious awareness of something that cannot be retrieved physically, but endures within us spiritually and emotionally. Though it isn’t the same, it’s the best part of what remains. In the last stanza of a poem by Rabbi Morris Adler, he wrote “Those I have loved, though now beyond my view, have given form and quality to my being. They have led me into the wise universe I continue to inhabit, and their presence is more vital to me than their absence. What Thou givest , O Lord, Thou takest not away, and bounties once granted shed their radiance evermore.”
In all the ways we love our mothers, may their lives and their gifts to us touch our hearts and our souls. May the best in them be the best in us. God bless mothers and their children. Happy Mother’s Day, mom.