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Home » Toldot

Toldot: A Mother’s Love Never Expires

Submitted by on November 20, 2011 – 2:50 amNo Comment | 1,301 views

Determined Courage

Sarah and Rebecca, mothers of our people, went to great lengths to protect their children. Sarah drove Ishmael from her home when she perceived a danger to her son Isaac and Rebecca clandestinely conspired against her son, Esau, to ensure that her younger son, Jacob, received his father’s blessing. (1)

As a result of their efforts the Jewish nation was born. This was a critical time for our people. Had our mothers not acted courageously during this crucible moment the Jewish nation might not have emerged. Abraham was, at first, content with Ishmael. Isaac thought that Esau held more promise than Jacob. The fathers of our people didn’t see it at the time. Only our mothers saw the future and acted, with disregard for critical opinion, to realize the potential of their children.

As time placed distance between us and those events many Jews began to take a critical view of our mothers’ devotion. They saw it as judgmental and intolerant. They saw it as a strike against equality and ecumenism. They saw it as a parochial view of the world that led to blatant and unjustifiable offenses.

A Story

Let me share a story that might shed light on this point. Shoshanna was the youngest girl in a family of thirteen and the last to be married. She enjoyed a warm relationship with her mother, but as she grew older her mother’s practical and sensible ways struck her as old fashioned. When it came time to shop for a bridal gown she elected to go with her friend Rachel rather than her mother. She was certain her mother would make logical and economical choices, but for a change Shoshanna desired the flair of youth so lacking in her mother’s elegant, but practical ways.

The wedding was beautiful and Shoshanna soon settled into married life. When she began to review her career choices her husband suggested teaching. Shoshana didn’t think she was cut out for teaching and asked her mother’s opinion.” I don’t think teaching is for you,” was her mother reply.

Despite her her own feelings on the matter Shoshanna bristled at her mother’s suggestion that she wasn’t as the good as the average teacher in the system and to prove her point she accepted a teaching position. True to her initial assessment Shoshanna was not much for teaching and within several weeks she was miserable enough to call it quits.

Shoshanna was back to choosing a career when her mother suggested sales. You are sociable and extroverted; you are perfectly suited to start a sales business out of your home. Sales, Shoshanna sniffed, that’s old fashioned. My friend Rachel said something about telemarketing.

 Shoshanna called Rachel to ask about telemarketing, but her friend abruptly announced that she had changed her mind. I decided you would be best suited to open a toddler’s clothing and gift shop. You are artistic and creative. You could create specialty items for little children that mothers would just love to have. With your happy and bubbly personality business is certain to flourish. But where would I get the seed money, Shoshanna wondered. Ever resourceful, Rachel replied that she was willing to loan Shoshanna a bit of money to get her business off the ground.

The more she thought about it the more Shoshanna liked the idea and she decided to accept Rachel’s generous offer. Her mother endorsed the idea with enthusiasm and helped Shoshanna outfit the new store, never breathing a word about Shoshanna rejecting that very idea when her mother suggested it.

A year passed and as predicted the business flourished. Shoshanna loved her work and put herself into it completely. She loved creating gifts and she loved serving her customers. Mothers came from all over and the little shop soon proved a resounding success.

Chatting with Rachel one day Shoshanna told her how grateful she was. Not one year ago, she gushed, I was a miserable failure as a teacher and today I am happy, confident and successful. I cannot thank you enough for the idea and the encouragement.

 Rachel was silent for a moment before coming clean. Shoshanna, she said, I must tell you the truth. The idea was not mine. I got a call from your mother the night before you called and she told me that she thought you perfectly suited to this kind of work. She understood that you wouldn’t accept the advice if it came from her so she asked me to pass it along. But what about the money, Shoshanna asked, didn’t you put up the initial investment? No, replied her friend. The money belonged to your parents. They gave it to me to pass on to you.

Dumbfounded Shoshanna walked slowly to her mother’s home. Humbly she looked to the heavens and reflected, how self absorbed we become as we try to chart our own course and spurn the people who love us most. I stopped loving my mother’s ways, but my mother never stopped loving me. (2)

Reflection

A mother never stops loving her children, but we children are often too occupied with resentment to notice. A mother does what is best for her children and silently accepts their criticisms and rebuke. Here she is old-fashioned, there she is intolerant. Here she lacks sophistication, there she lacks understanding. So focused are we on breaking out from under our mother’s apron that we don’t realize how hurtful our comments can be.

Our parents accept our self righteous recriminations without pointing out our chutzpah and intolerance. They continue to make the choices that serve us best even as we accuse them of parochial close mindedness. They do it because parents, unlike children, are never distracted enough to forget how much they love us.

The same holds true for our matriarchs. From the comfortable perch of hindsight we make pronouncements about their intolerance and bigotry. But let us remember that if not for their decisions we would not be here today. Theirs were not acts of intolerance. Theirs were acts of love.

And it is because of that love that we are here today.

Footnotes

  1. Genesis 21 9-14 and Genesis Chapter 27.
  2. Climbing The Mountain by Malky Feig, ArtScroll, Brooklyn, NY,  p. 189. The names are fictitious.

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