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Behar 5781 ~ May 7, 2021

This Sunday we celebrate two very important institutions of Jewish life. Mother’s Day, which has been referred to as an American “Hallmark” holiday, and Yom Yerushalayim, the celebration of the momentous day in 1967, when Israeli troops reunited the Jewish people with not only the Old City, but with our holiest of sites – the Temple Mount in Jerusalem.

For Jewish people, in some ways, Mother’s Day is superfluous. Why? Simply stated, every Shabbat, it is the responsibility of the husband to honor his wife with the words found in Proverbs 31. Most of us are aware of this custom and its opening words of praise: “A Woman of Valor…her worth is far beyond rubies.” It continues by stating that “her husband trusts in her…. her children mature and make her happy.” Throughout the passage, the husband not only extols his wife, but conveys to the children the gratitude they should express each day to their mother. Yet, at the same time, taking one day a year in the secular calendar and honoring mothers is a simple way of a mother hopefully getting to see her children or grandchildren, either in person or virtually.

This morning, one of our morning minyanaires, who is not a youngster himself, shared with me that he would not be at services for a few days.  He is making a trip to another state to visit with a stepmother who is 102 years young, together with his children.  I cannot think of a more beautiful expression of  the mitzvah of honoring a parent, especially as we are now able to make such visits again!  Even though my mother passed away several years ago, on Mother’s Day I think about her influence upon me and my choices in life. I can hear her voice singing as we drove in the car on vacations, I can taste her most delicious baking, her Shabbat table, and I can think about all the sacrifices that both she and my father made for my sister and myself. In so many ways, she was that Eishet Hayil, that woman of valor, to my father and to my sister and to myself.  I truly hope that all the women in our congregation sense their true worth as described in Proverbs 31.

As a child, I distinctly remember the 1967 war. I sat glued in front of the TV watching the news reports. I am certain that most of us have similar memories of heroism and the miracle of the military might of the Israeli army as they walked through the old city and, for the first time in centuries, were able to pray at the Temple Mount. I can still see Moshe Dayan’s face, with that eye patch, as one of the great heroes of that moment. Rather than share with you the words of Torah this Shabbat, I share with you the words of Golda Meir, z”l, and her recollection of that moment in her autobiography Golda Meir, My Life:

On the third day of the Six Day War-Wednesday, 7 June-all Israel was electrified by the news that our soldiers had liberated the Old City and that it was open to us again ... I received permission to go to the Wall, despite the fact that I wasn't in the government then but just an ordinary citizen like any other. I went to the Wall together with some soldiers. There in front of it stood a plain wooden table with some sub-machine guns on it. Uniformed paratroopers wrapped in prayer shawls clung so tightly to the Wall that it seemed impossible to separate them from it. They and the Wall were one. Only a few hours earlier they had fought furiously for the liberation of Jerusalem and had seen their comrades fall for its sake. Now, standing before the Wall, they wrapped themselves in prayer shawls and wept, and I, too, took a sheet of paper, wrote the word "shalom" on it and pushed it into a cranny of the Wall, as I had seen the Jews do so long ago. As I stood there, one of the soldiers (I doubt he knew who I was) suddenly put his arms around me, laid his head on my shoulder and we cried together. I suppose he needed the release and the comfort of an old woman's warmth, and for me it was one of the most moving moments of my life.

Throughout our lifetime, many of us have recreated the moment that the first paratrooper gazed with amazement as the Kotel, the Western Wall.  We have vicariously felt the warm embrace of the Jewish grandmother par excellence, Golda Meir, z”l.

To our mothers, grandmothers and to our mothers-in-law, may this day be one of gratitude for all that as Proverbs 31 states, you have accomplished and for all the hard work you have done on our behalf. And may the celebration of the anniversary of the reunification of Jerusalem provide us all with a sense of pride as Jews.

Sat, June 25 2022 26 Sivan 5782