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Celebrate Mother's Day ... Biblically

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RUTH

Children may ask why if there is a Mother's Day and a Father's Day, is there no Children's Day. The classic response? Every day is children's day.

Maybe yes, and may be no, but according to the Bible, by at least some definition, every day should be mother's day (and father's day).

The Ten Commandments teach us to honor our mothers and fathers in commandment five, found in Exodus 20:12 and repeated in Deuteronomy 5:16. And perhaps less famously, but no less powerfully, Leviticus 19:3 declares, "You shall each revere your mother and father, and keep My Sabbaths; I am the Lord your God."

So for those who take these teachings to heart, is Mother's Day anything special, or is it simply the day when others make a big deal of something we attempt to do each and every day? I think that the answer to both questions is yes.

If you, like me, see the words of the Bible as making a claim on your everyday existence, then in some way or another, every day really is a Mother's Day -- a day on which we can honor and revere our moms. Of course, that we accept such an obligation does not mean that we always fulfill it!

Speaking at least for myself, there is pretty much always a gap between what I feel myself called to do and my ability to fulfill that call. That's not necessarily a bad thing. It may be that the essence of spiritual living is to be ever-aspirational, always striving to fulfill our obligations, especially to other people, ever better.

Among the biggest challenges connected to the maintenance of any relationships, especially ones which can be as complicated as those we have with our parents (about as tough as theirs is with us, I imagine), is routinization. We get into ruts, we take people for granted, etc. Part of dealing with that is acknowledging that each day we are expected not to. Hence commandments like those found in Exodus and Deuteronomy.

But our relationships with those commandments, like our relationships with our parents, can themselves become hollow routines that fail to inspire and evoke our best behavior. That's where the brilliance of Mother's Day comes in.

Special days break routines; they shake up the norms and demand special attention. So while I get that cynics may argue that Mother's Day is simply an attempt by card companies and florists to boost sales, and the supposedly pious among us will claim that every day is already Mother's Day, most of us can celebrate that it's really a wonderful opportunity to re-charge one of the most important relationships in our lives.

To be sure, a dinner out or a bunch of roses is no substitute for an ongoing relationship defined by love, honor and reverence. On the other hand, it's amazing how a single act can reengage such relationships. Perhaps that's why, according to the sages of the Talmud (Kiddushin 31) and in so many other places, honoring and revering our parents is defined in dozens of "little" acts.

It all starts somewhere, so why not this Sunday? Pick up the phone, give a gift, prepare a meal or do any one of so many things which may be part of the ideal relationship 365 days a year, but will be especially noted on this one day.

Perhaps the best way to think of Mother's Day is as the Jan. 1/Rosh Hashanah of our relationship with our mom's -- a chance to reconnect, to remember how it could be and the opportunity to live as if it were so for at least one day, especially because that one day could be the beginning of a whole new year.

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