Feature Stories

Mother’s Day: Is It Jewish?

Jewish Ledger | May 11, 2012

By Brad Hirschfield ~

How could it not be? That doesn’t mean that it’s also not Christian, Muslim, Atheist, Pagan, Buddhist, etc. It’s not a zero sum thing, as it rarely is in these things. But that is for another time.
I know that cynics decry Mother’s Day as modern invention of greeting card companies and florists looking to sell more cards and jack up the price for flowers. And while they are not entirely wrong (I know how much more I will spend for the pre-Shabbat flowers I bring home this afternoon!), that need not be the last word on this genuinely beautiful day.
If nothing else, how much more traditional could a day be than one which celebrates a biblical teaching going back to the Ten Commandments? You remember – honoring one’s parents.
And especially interesting is how the category of motherhood has expanded in recent years. Without debating how we got here or whether it’s all positive, the fact is that we have lots of ways of being a mother, new ways and old ways that have become increasingly common.
We have biological mothers, of course, but even that qualifier tells us how many other kinds of mothers we also have in our world. There are surrogate mothers, adoptive mothers, mothers of blended families, grandmothers who function as mothers, etc. And where is the down side in honoring and celebrating our love for a larger number of people?
Far from being a degradation of motherhood or what it means to be a mother, as some cultural custodians argue, this is an opportunity to take stock of the many new paths that lead to motherhood and ask how to support and honor those who do so.
Perhaps Mother’s Day should not even be limited to the role of mother, however one attains it, but about the kind of love which is often associated with motherhood – the kind of unconditional love which is not limited to mothers, but for which mothers stand in the minds of many people.
I know, that’s a lot of weight to throw on one day, and I also know that biblically the obligation to honor our moms is a 365 day-a-year thing. But we have to start somewhere, so why not this Mother’s Day?
Honoring and loving is different at different times in our lives and our mothers’ lives. There are changing needs and expectations throughout life. Giving honor is as contextual and diverse as the variety of mothers and their children. So perhaps Mother’s Day is a great chance to re-engage and renew that process.
It’s not that we do it for one day and are done. It’s that this one day is a new first chance to start celebrating the mothers we love in ways that work for them and for us.

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