Big Question: How Do You Honor Your Mother?
In honor of Mother’s Day, WRJ’s President, Lynn Magid Lazar, and Executive Director, Rabbi Marla J. Feldman, were asked to pose May’s Big Question for The Global Day of Jewish Learning.
Their question: “As Jewish law commands us to ‘Honor your Father and your Mother’, on this Mother’s Day, how do we fulfill our obligation to honor our mothers? Is there any difference between how we honor our mothers and how we honor our fathers?” was answered by Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz below (and on the Global Day site).
Please share your own thoughts on this question.
The Scriptures do not distinguish between mother and father when it comes to honoring them, and treating them with deference. Differences in implementing this command stem not from the Law but from the human mind and behavior. While there is no law that creates different modes of fatherhood and motherhood, in every family there is some difference between these two.
However, Jewish Law does not oblige us to love father and mother. Respect is something that the Law can command; emotions are not within its power. Parents often complain about emotional neglect rather than financial or other disrespect. Children may be guilt ridden because they don’t love their parents. Love comes from individual, unique relationships; whether or not there are blood ties does not create, by itself, an emotional closeness. It does not mean that people should not love their parents; but it should be a wish rather than a command.
The commandment of honor is not just in showing external signs of respect, but in doing things that cause the honored person to feel better, brighter and honored. In that sense, Mother’s Day is always a very individual choice of the children. Children must answer the question – what will make my mother happy?