All thanks to my mother.
A group of woman were bragging about their adult children. “My son loves me so much,” boasted one, “that all he talks about with his therapist is me!” Jokes aside, a mother’s influence over her children is tremendous. When a woman reportedly told the Rebbe that she wants her children to be like him, the Rebbe responded, “When they have a mother like mine, they’ll be able to be like me.” The Rebbe made a similar statement publicly, at a farbrengen in the winter of 5741 (1981), when he encouraged everyone to participate in an upcoming melava malka benefiting Machon Chana—the school for women baalei teshuva established in memory of Rebbetzin Chana. “People will surely think I have a personal bias,” said the Rebbe. “After all, this institution carries the name of my mother, the person who dedicated herself to my upbringing, and any qualities I have are thanks to her. So let it be; I am biased, and for good reason.” Harav Yitzchak Hutner, one of the greatest leaders of the mussar movement in our time, credited his mother with his love and passion for Torah. One morning he told his mother that he’d be finishing an entire masechta of Gemara that day. When he came home from cheder, he found the table set as if it were yom tov and he saw his mother wearing the brand-new dress she’d been saving for Pesach. Given their poor financial state, he was shocked to see such lavishness. He asked his mother what the occasion was. With a loving smile, she explained, “The joy of my son completing a masechta is the greatest yom tov of all!”
Even the frum community grapples with the role and rights of women. A common misunderstanding is that the Torah considers women to be second-class and incapable of achieving what men can. But this isn’t true. We know women can be fantastic doctors, lawyers, and politicians, but men can fill those positions as well. There is one position, however, which can be filled only by a woman—that of mother. A mother directly affects her child’s emotional, psychological, and spiritual wellbeing. She shapes her child’s ability to love, trust, and bond with others. Our sense of self comes primarily from our mothers. Whether we’re outgoing or bashful, fearful or courageous, is largely due to the nurturing we received from our mothers. Sounds daunting? It is. At least for men. Only a woman has what it takes. Women shouldn’t be discouraged from pursuing careers. Instead, they should be encouraged and emboldened to pursue the career so sorely needed today: Dedicated, present Jewish mothers. This career includes medicine, psychology, and so much more. As the Rebbe said at that farbrengen, “Nutritious food is the best preventative medicine. When a child becomes ill, chas v’shalom, it’s usually the father who runs to the doctor. But it’s the mother who maintains the child’s good health the rest of the time, preventing illness to begin with.” There are, of course, many dedicated mothers who have no choice but to work. Their families simply can’t survive on one income. In those instances, it’s not a matter of ideals but of necessity. It’s usually plain to see that their family’s wellbeing remains their first priority, so there’s no need to talk to them about perspectives and priorities. Instead, we could direct our arguments to Hashem and demand that He make it easier for these women to be where their heart so aches to be; with their families. As we begin a new year and celebrate the yahrzeit of the Rebbe’s mother on the 6th of Tishrei, let’s reflect on how we can improve the current situation. Instead of getting caught up in the minutiae of women’s rights, let’s focus on the right of women to be women. A woman who finds fulfillment in providing a warm, healthy, and happy environment for her family—both spiritually and materially—should applaud herself and be celebrated by others. And with Hashem’s help, instead of visualizing your children talking about you to their therapist, imagine the moment they’ll say with pride, “Any qualities I have are thanks to my mother.” Good Shabbos and G'mar 'chasima Tova, Rabbi Lipskier