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Days of Honor
This year’s proximity of Mother’s Day and Shavuot gives us two good reasons to celebrate over the next week.
What these two holidays have in common beyond their calendar dates may be difficult to fathom at first glance but not if we dig deeply enough.
Mother’s Day is a worldwide tradition that has become as ingrained in American culture as Thanksgiving and the Fourth of July. Despite its over-commercialization, the day is a well-deserved time to recognize and honor the hard work of motherhood.
Shavuot, clearly less observed among the Jewish populace, is one of the three major festivals on the Jewish calendar. Our tradition marks the holiday as the anniversary of the Hebrew date when the Torah was revealed by God at Mount Sinai. Over time, Shavuot was transformed into a festival that not only had agricultural significance, but also marked the birthday of the covenant between God and Israel, when our journey as a Jewish people bound by laws and tradition began.
Just as we honor our mothers as the givers of our physical life, we honor the Torah as the spark for our spiritual path. Both are well worth celebrating.
When we’re reading them right — and when moms are doing it right, which is not always easy — both can serve as guideposts for how to pursue a good and righteous life. They are both potential sources of inspiration and can provide valuable insight and wisdom into derech eretz, the way we act toward others and in society.
Just as all of the Torah’s great figures, from Abraham and Moses to Deborah and Rebecca, are less than perfect, mothers, too, make mistakes. We are, after all, human. But as we learn in the Torah and in life, it is through such imperfections that we grow and learn to navigate the challenges that inevitably confront us.
A central part of celebrating Shavuot is the reading of the Torah portion that contains the Ten Commandments, trying to imagine that we, too, were standing at Sinai.
And one of those commandments, of course, is to honor your mother and father.
Beyond the flowers and the cards and the gifts that any mother would appreciate, what better way to honor your mother than by honoring the tradition that binds us together, the roots of which we celebrate on this too-often overlooked holiday?
Mother’s Day may be more popular than Shavuot in our culture but why not look at both of them as opportunities to give thanks, to show gratitude and to honor these separate yet vital wellsprings of our physical and spiritual strength.
Chag Shavuot Sameach — and to all the mothers in our midst, may you enjoy a most Happy Mother’s Day!