What does it mean to be hero in Judaism, and who to me represents that more than anyone?
For me, a hero is someone who in spite of adversity, still manages to build a world around her that is for the sake of growth, of positivity and of Shalom.
My personal model of this sentiment, and a woman who has lived and continues to live with the models the Torah sets out, is…you guessed it, my mother.
My mother, once Tanya Maria Robertson, now Shulamis Geulah Rothstein, taught my brothers and me so many things! Among them is the idea that commitment, determination and hope are the necessary tools needed in order to change troubles into triumphs. She, like a great lioness, raised us to think, to feel and to respond to the needs of our people, regardless of religious affiliation, skin color or garb.
My mother’s conversion to Judaism over 30 years ago furthers the message of Solomon and Ezekiel, and deeply roots my family in what it means to be a Jewish woman (though there are many praiseworthy versions of this title).
The rabbis ask, why was it Noah, and not Adam, who was given the role to save human, animal and plant life before the great flood? Some offer the explanation that Noah, unlike Adam, had no sin attached to his name, and therefore he was more fit for the role seeing he was the most righteous of his generation. Others suggest that Noah was simply in the right place (or wrong, depend on who you ask) at the right time.
Former chief rabbi of Israel, and survivor of the Buchenwald concentration camp, Rabbi Yisroel Meir Lau is the reason why it was Noah and not Adam is because Noah, unlike Adam and Eve, had a mother.
Meaning to say, because Noah knew of motherly-tenderness, of deeply divine connection, of careful investment of time and energy, he was more fit than the father of humanity (Adam) to preserve and progress the continuity of the planet.
Growing up in Monsey, NY, one of the largest Jewish communities in the world, most Jews shared a similar sentiment: “Mother’s day is a Goyish Holiday. For Jews, every day is Mother’s day.”
While I wholeheartedly support the Hallmark holiday that honors our mothers, Judaism does celebrate and honor the women and the mothers that keep our people thriving and alive, not only through childbirth, but also with spirit.
Echoing the lines found in King Solomon’s Poem about honoring Jewish women titled Ashet Chayil, at the culmination of every week, the Jewish man rises to his feet, serenading his wife; celebrating her role in the Jewish community and the simple yet heroic actions of her week. With all that she does, and with all that she maintains, King Solomon points to her depth of character,
“She opens her mouth with wisdom and teaching of kindness are always with her speech.”
In Judaism, the mother is the heroine and force behind our values and Jewish practice. The prophet Ezekiel (19:2) associates her as the lioness that protects.
Rabbinic commentators (RaSHI, Even Ezra, MaLBIM) on King Solomon’s words “do not forsake the Torah of your mother (Proverbs 1:8)” suggest that the Mother’s Torah is the “Oral tradition,” the complement to the written Torah. And it is this Torah of the Mother that is the medium someone needs to “enter into Israel,” and that the “mother guides (Torah) the child towards uprightness and justice.” The Torah of the Mother guides children on the proper path.
My blessings to you dear mothers and daughters, dear fathers and sons, May we not wait nor assume that this day is the day to celebrate Mothers, for it is your duty as a Jew to honor your parents regardless of your time or their temperaments. May it be God’s will that we continue to elevate the Jewish women in all her glory and in all her deserving from now and for all eternity.
So celebrate mothers, on Mother’s Day and everyday. It is a Jewish thing to do.