Honoring My Yiddishe Mame

Copyright Rabbi Eli Hecht
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As a child I was taught in the Jewish private school I attended, that every day is father’s and mother’s day.  Our teachers quoted the commandment, to honor your father and mother.  My European teachers saw no reason for special dedications.  Children were expected to revere and honor parents at all times and places. 

My teacher was fond of quoting a story in the Talmud of a student, Yosef, who, upon hearing the footsteps of his mother, would say “Let me stand up, for the Divine presence is approaching.”  Respect and love for parents were a given.

I marveled at my mother’s super human skills.  She arose early in the morning, prepared breakfast for all nine children plus a lunch for school.  The night before she would prepare our clothing and our school knapsacks.  When we came home there was always hot soup and something to eat.  There is a neat saying that can apply to her: “G‑d cannot be everywhere, so he created mothers.” 

Mom claimed that each child was special and she had no favorites.  She once told me that I should think of myself as her only child and then I would be happy with all the love she would show.  She once raised up her hands and counted her fingers “You see, I have 10 fingers, each one is important, each one has a purpose, nine fingers correspond to the nine kids of our home, the 10th finger is papa.  Together we make a great important family.” 

Each child was told that they carried a special name.  We were all named after some relative who lived in the old country or a great spiritual leader.  We were told, “You must  bring honor to our name and family.” 

Growing up in the 1950s money was scarce, but my mother always found a way for us to have what we needed.  The soup sometimes tasted a little bit watery but it was tasty and we all were thankful for it.  I remember my little brothers and sisters asking my parents, “Why do the older siblings get to wear their clothing first?” 

Somehow, mom found time to teach us how to be decent kids.  We all had chores and were expected to act accordingly.  Last but not least, each of us graduated high school and went on to seminary.  All five boys became rabbis and teachers, and my four sisters married rabbis and teachers.  Our family grew by leaps and bounds enjoying the freedom and opportunities granted by our great country.  I always thank G‑d for having such a wonderful mother. 

Now, my mother is not with us anymore.  She passed away this week.  I think of the incredible sacrifices all mothers make to bring children into this world.  How they selflessly care, doing everything possible for their children.  Each child is a diamond, a blessing created by loving parents.  I was blessed to have such a wonderful mother.  This week, as our family sat Shiva, all nine children are married to rabbis or are rabbis, working to perpetuate Torah and Yiddishkeit.  From California to New York, from Detroit, Michigan to Nice, France, we began to realize the wonderful feelings we have for each other.  All this came to us naturally, for a loving mother instills love in her children.   In times of sorrow and happiness, we all miss our Yiddishe mommas.