Today is February 26, 2024 /

Shabbat Shalom ~ Behar Behukotai

Dear WJC Family,

When we think of secular holidays with a Jewish flare we usually think of Thanksgiving, which does seem to relate to our own fall harvest festival, Sukkot. However, I would posit that Mother’s Day (and Father’s Day for that matter) also have a truly Torah-related nature. After all, we learn in the Ten Commandments and in other spots in the Torah that we should honor and be in awe of our mother. So, is observing Mother’s Day a mitzvah? I believe it is, but it is also a mitzvah to honor and revere your mother every other day too!

Some of you may be Mother’s Day cynics, believing that the holiday was invented by the Hallmark greeting card company, but it isn’t true. While there is no doubt that Hallmark commercialized the day and took advantage of it, Mother’s Day has its origins in England when on the fourth Sunday in lent, people would travel home to the parishes of their mothers to visit. Okay, that part does not sound very Jewish, but the mothers would take care of their adult children, and thus “Mothering Day” was born – now that sounds Jewish! In America, Ann Jarvis of Philadelphia, whose mother had organized women’s groups to promote friendship and health, originated Mother’s Day. On May 12, 1907, she held a memorial service at her late mother’s church in Grafton, West Virginia. Within five years virtually every state was observing the day and in 1914 President Woodrow Wilson declared the second Sunday in May to officially be Mother’s Day. So, I believe the origins of Mother’s Day are pure, created by women supporting women, and we should embrace it totally.

In honor of Mother’s Day, I thought I’d share my favorite midrash (I know, I know – I have a lot of favorites, but shouldn’t a rabbi be enthusiastic about Torah?) about mothers:

One Shabbat, Rabbi Tarfon’s mother goes out for a stroll, and her shoe splits. Since it is Shabbat, she cannot fix the shoe, so Rabbi Tarfon, this great sage, cups his hands together and walks hunched over with them beneath her foot until she is able to reach home and sit down. Later, Rabbi Tarfon falls ill and his mother comes to the other sages and says, “Please pray for my son Tarfon, because he treats me with excessive honor.” The sages ask her, “In what way?” So she tells them the story about the shoe on Shabbat. The sages replied, “Even if he had done this a thousand thousand times, he still has not come halfway to showing you the full honor prescribed for a mother by the Torah.”

I hope that everyone is able to mark this Mother’s Day by honoring all those women who have helped nurture the next generation – be it in-person, in memory, or in Zoom.

I want to remind everyone that Shavuot is just around the corner – it starts a week from Sunday night and we will be holding a “Tikkun Leyl Shavuot” on Sunday night May 16 outside at the synagogue. The “Tikkun” is the custom of learning Torah together on the first night of Shavuot, in honor of receiving the Torah in the morning. The evening will be outside in-person and available on Zoom Webinar and will go from 8:00pm until about midnight, but you can come and go as works for your schedule and interest. We have some great teachers lined up including our president Seth Schafler, Rabbi Jen Tobenstein, and our clergy. We will provide a full schedule for the evening in next week’s email.

Please sign up to join us because we will be serving food! That’s right – Kiddush is coming back, outside and in modified form starting on Shavuot – in the mornings too! So plan on joining us for prayers, including the Yizkor Memorial Prayers on Tuesday morning, and some food! If you have questions about our protocols for health safety as designed in consultation with our Covid-19 Task Force, please contact the office, and David Goldstein or I am happy to discuss our rapidly changing policies as we adjust to the new situation in our region.

Before any of that, of course, we have Shabbat. Tonight at 7:00pm our first Rhythm & Ruach will come to you live and in-person from outside the shul. Call the office to join us picnic blanket style in-person on the lawn of the shul or tune in via the Zoom Webinar link below. If you would like assistance on how to have both the Zoom Webinar and Livestream on your computer in a Shomer Shabbat manner, please contact Rabbi Arnowitz. Saturday will be our regular Shabbat schedule starting at 9:15, in-person and available on the live stream. Rabbi Dalton will be delivering the sermon. And we will regather on Zoom at 8:45 Saturday night for havdalah.

See you in shul or online and Happy Mother’s Day,

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