Leap of Faith: Mother’s Day

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Leap of Faith: Mother’s Day

Motherhood doesn't have to define us

As we approach Mother’s Day, I think of the four matriarchs in our Jewish tradition – Sarah, Rebecca, Rachel and Leah – and what we can learn from them. In the Torah itself, they are all defined by their motherhood. However, when we see them in action it is often as disruptors.

So while Sarah’s story revolves around her want for a child and a miracle pregnancy at the age of 90, it is her death – immediately after Abraham attempts to sacrifice their son Isaac on God’s instruction – that changes the narrative. Isaac’s wife, Rebecca, is often seen as devious and interfering by trying to give Esau’s birthright to Jacob. But today her actions stand as a commentary on inheritance and rights.

Which brings me on to Mother’s Day. It is important to note that this isn’t a celebration for everyone. Some haven’t had children, either by choice or by circumstance, while others don’t have a mother, or a healthy maternal presence, in their lives.

For me, as a mother and a rabbi, it is a time to think of those disruptors in history who changed the status quo and on whose backs we now stand. There are lots of obstacles that I and others do not face today because of the women and the mothers who went before us.

Many decades ago, Liberal Judaism added our matriarchs into the Amidah and gave them equal status to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in our liturgy and education, meaning we often reflect on their achievements. However, I also think of more modern pioneers – those groundbreaking early female rabbis in whose footsteps I now follow and, in wider society, all the women who showed that having children wasn’t a barrier to having a career. I think how from them I learnt how motherhood was an integral part of my identity, not how I was defined but also not something separate from my career.

I think of my own mum, now in her 70s, who has just been promoted in her very successful career. She is an inspiration to me as a mother and as a career woman and I recognise that I stand on her shoulders.

On a personal level, I have had the privilege of being able to bring my kids to work with me, to have shared the bimah with them on my hip as I led services, to have chaired our rabbinic conference with them on my knee. Therefore, it feels incumbent on me to continue to pave the way for opportunities for those who come after me.

On a Movement level I, along with my colleagues, am always looking at how to ensure true equality and inclusion for all. Like those who came before us, we must continue to disrupt and to recognise that there are still things that need disruption.


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