Photo Credit: Rebbetzin Esther Jungreis
Rebbetzin Esther Jungreis

Yes, it was because of that “neurotic Jewish mother” that Jewish sons and daughters made a difference in the world and brought blessings to all of mankind.

Today we have difficulty relating to this. The new, liberated Jewish mother is encouraged to live for herself, to make her own needs her priority. She pursues her own career, goes to the gym, and happily and proudly allows her children to fend for themselves. (I am very much aware that this does not hold true for all our mothers. Baruch Hashem, we have many devoted Yiddishe Mammas, but this value system is, nevertheless, symptomatic of our culture.)

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I remember a legendary allegory from my Hungarian childhood. It was about a young man who fell in love with a beautiful maiden. She, however, wanted no part of him unless he would cut out his mother’s heart and bring it to her. Summarily, the young man followed her bidding and proceeded to do that which she requested.

Holding his mother’s heart in the palm of his hand, he ran to his love as quickly as he could. While the heart was still beating in his hands it suddenly began to speak: “My son,” it pleaded, “please be careful. Don’t run so fast. You might fall and hurt yourself!”

To be sure, it’s a Hungarian allegory. But like all allegories, it begs for reflection – a mother, no matter how hurt, no matter how injured, never gives up on her children. Our generation would probably have difficulty relating to this and might even be revolted by the message of the story. Nevertheless, the tale stands. No matter how hurt, a mother will always care for her children.

From King David thousands of years ago to the Jewish mother of our enlightened 21st century who is prepared to sacrifice her son on the altar of the golden calf. How far we have come. A himmel geshrai.

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