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Every Day is Mother’s Day

Submitted by on February 23, 2005 – 4:02 am3 Comments | 2,774 views

Every Day is Mother’s Day

Mother’s Day

When I was growing up my mother discouraged Mother’s Day gifts by saying, “in our home every day is mother’s day.” Until recently I didn’t understand her rationale. Why wouldn’t she accept a day of honor in addition to our year-round love?

Thanksgiving

In a similar vein we never celebrated Thanksgiving. My mother argued that giving thanks to G-d ought to be personal and spontaneous, not a reaction to societal expectations of Thanksgiving day. Once again I wondered what was wrong with offering gratitude alongside everyone else?

Sacrifice

Upon completion of the tabernacle G-d instructed Moses on the protocol of sacrificial worship. This was not the first example of sacrificial worship. Cain and Abel had offered sacrifices nearly two thousands years earlier and in preparing for sacrificial worship our ancestors looked to their model for inspiration.(1)

Of the two, Cain made the first offering. His motivation was pure and carried no ulterior motive, but his offer itself was flawed. Cain was an agriculturist and he made an offering to G-d of his harvest but he offered only the inferior portion of his crop and kept the superior portion for himself.

Abel, a Shepherd, made a superb offering, selecting his finest flock for G-d, but his motivation was flawed. On his own he would not have offered the sacrifice but having witnessed his brother’s offering he had no choice but to follow suit. Anything else would have been unseemly. Thus his intent was not to glorify G-d, but himself.

Rejecting Both Models

In introducing the sacrificial ritual the Torah rejects both models. “When a man from among you offers a sacrifice to G-d, it shall be brought from cattle, the herd or the flock.” (2) First
the Torah points out that a sacrifice must be offered “to G-d.” This means that the offering must glorify G-d not its bearer. (3) Second the Torah insists that the offering must come from our finest possessions, “cattle, herd or flock,” An offering must come from the finest flock, not the inferior crop.

The Torah thus demands a pure motive and a stellar offering. We may look to Cain and Able for inspiration but only if we coalesce their respective lessons and form a positive picture.

Mother’s Day and Thanksgiving

The flaw my mother saw in these holidays parallel the flaws of Cain and Abel. She was intuitively uncomfortable with once-a-year ceremonies that belie the extent of our relationship with her. “I am your mother every day,” she said, “our relationship reaches deeper than an annual gift.”

Gifts of love are always appreciated but they cannot encapsulate the parent/child relationship. This love is constant, it is encapsulated in year-long devotion and every day commitment. In this sense, Mother’s Day is no different from any other, for “in our home every day is mother’s day.”

Mother’s rejection of Thanksgiving was rooted in Abel’s flaw. Abel’s offering was in reaction to expectations raised by his brother. What should have been personal and sincere was made artificial. In a similar sense my mother taught us that thanksgiving to G-d should come from within, personal and spontaneous. It should never result from conditions or pressures created by the expectations of society.

In Conclusion

It is not wrong to thank G-d on Thanksgiving and celebrate our mothers on Mother’s day. It is wrong to thank G-d only on Thanksgiving and to celebrate our mothers only on Mother’s Day. Footnotes

  1. Geneses ch. 4, 3

  2. Leviticus 1, 2

  3. The words “to G-d” are ordinarily understood as a stipulation that the sacrificial rite be hence devoted only to G-d, not to Idol Worship.

  4. This understanding follows the commentary of Kli Yakar ibid (R. Ephraim Shlomo of Luntshitz, 1550-1619)

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3 Comments on "Every Day is Mother’s Day"

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Anonymous
12 years 7 months ago
haRav: Upon my second, more thoughtful reading of the draft, perhaps your Mother seems to be saying precisely what I was arguing: That these goyishe days are really just “going along” with the dominant “hochmas Yavan” around us in every country we live in. The usrge to fit in with the goyim may be essentially toxic. See how I tend to abandon the reading of your articles whenever they start with subjects foreign to Yiddischkeyt, be they the current leadership of the country located below canada, or be they popular goyische cultural feasts. Perhaps you believe these familiar issues draw… Read more »
Anonymous
12 years 7 months ago

haRav:
I am not overly fond of this thesis.
It was my understanding that MotherDay, Thankgiving, Valenmtines,
are all celebrations of idol worshippers.
I feel better when these kinds of “Days” are kept far away from Yiddischkeyt.
Could one not argue that these celebrations are chukas haGoym?
Perhaps indeed, this was yet another level to your mother's impressive wisdom.

Anonymous
12 years 7 months ago

Dear Advisors,
I have two concerns about this esay and would appreciate your feedback.
Do the two examples, Mother's Day and Thanksgiving, fit Cain and Abel's flaws or does it sound forced to you?
Do I come accross as if I am entirely against these holidays rather than in support of these holidays as long as their message is also in evidence during the rest of the year?
I would appreciate your candid advice

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