Mother’s Day isn’t a specifically Jewish holiday — or, to put it more bluntly, the goyim celebrate it, too — although that fact may come as a surprise to many Jews, for whom dealings with our parents are a fundamental part of everyday life, of relationships with other people…and, of course, of our humor.
(Before I jump in, let me do a small shout-out: to my own mother, who tirelessly supports me in all my silly projects, including emailing me detailed thoughts about each MyJewishLearning featured story as soon as it’s posted — sometimes before I even have a chance to read it. Love you, Mom.)
A Jewish Woman’s Prayer Book
has several blessings for Jewish mothers. There’s a “Mother’s Early Morning Prayer,” a Supplication for Mothers for Tisha B’Av, and a prayer in the voice of Hannah. The book includes an entire section of prayers for mothers to say, including those to recite at a child’s bar or bat mitzvah, as a child goes into the army, and, oddly, a prayer for mothers-in-law to recite at the wedding of her child.*
Peculiarly, although there are several prayers for Jewish mothers, the book offers no prayer to Jewish mothers. Does that mean that we’re constantly praying? Or does it mean — as my mother’s insisted all along — that our society really does take mothers for granted?
Of course, as a compendium of Jewish thought, MyJewishLearning.com has some great articles on the subject — both serious and less-than-serious. Dr. Paula Hyman offers a great analysis that has plenty of both in “Battling Stereotypes of the Jewish Mother“:
When I was growing up, the last thing I wanted was to be a Jewish mother. Not that I planned to be childless. It was just that I feared that as I acquired children I might also acquire the characteristics of the stereotypical Jewish mother–in particular, a domineering personality and a neurotic over-involvement with my children, a kind of obsession with mothering that American culture found alternatively ludicrous and destructive.