On Monday night I attended a local “night of inspiration and tehillim” in the merit of a recovery for a young child in my community, Shimon Daniel be Michal (if you can add him to your prayers, please do.) The words of strength were provided by Mrs. Chani Juravel LCSW, who I had never heard of before, but since I know the child and his family, I went out on a rainy Monday night to join with the women in my community.
Admittedly, this was a rough week for the Jewish community coming from the tragedy in Meron. Mrs. Juravel said that when bad things happen instead of placing blame, we could look at it as an opportunity for growth. Instead of asking “lamah?” לָמָה the Hebrew for why,ask “li’mah” לְמָה what do I want to use this for, what can I take away from this experience. It is an opportunity to energize our lives to fuel greatness.
We don’t control why things happen but we can control how we process these events. It brought me back to my personal journey of infertility and my interactions with those facing infertility now. Perhaps some of what I write will turn those questions into actions of how we can take this opportunity to grow for our own wellness, to take control of one or more of the 3 characteristics that Mrs. Juravel said women are known for.
- Women are blessed with the role of being a mother
- Women are compassionate: full of rachamim רַחֲמִים, giving in a deep way
- Women are a source of simcha joy for those around them
When she mentioned the first role of being a mother, my stomach dropped. It scared me because I remember years ago being in California for the Shabbat before Mother’s Day. The synagogue had a guest lecturer talk about Chava, the first woman, and the power of being a mother. I still remember that lecture because it hurt. I had a child at that point, my first miracle, but I knew of at least one woman in the audience who was not there yet, and it pained me to have her role in Judaism not seem to be on par for this guest lecturer.
However, what Mrs. Juravel said blew me away. She quickly said “not mothers to children per se, but mothers of the world.” I wasn’t sure what that meant, but she continued to explain. She quoted Rav Hirsch and said that Eve, Chava, was named by Adam as “אֵם כֹּל חַי” “Em kol chai” the mother of all living things. And at the time Adam named her, they had no children. In fact, they had just committed the sin of eating from the tree of knowledge, and now they were given a death sentence. They would not live on forever, they were kicked out of their home, not a good moment in their lives.
Isn’t it odd that Adam named her the “mother of all living things”at this point? She quoted Rav Hirsh who said “Adam was depressed when Hashem gave them their punishment, he didn’t want to live on. He wanted to give up. Said Chava, “if this is the life that Hashem gave us, let’s believe and keep going.” It was at that point that Adam said, “You are the mother of life because you cause me to want to live and not give up.” So being a mother had nothing to do with children, it’s the concept that women are אֵם Eim, from Emunah אֱמוּנָה, we don’t give up hope.
Women are compassionate, filled with Rachamim. She told the story of a patient who came to her office who was having a rough time and she asked “are you being emotionally supported?” The woman laughed “If you ask the people in my life there are a lot of them who THINK they are emotionally supporting me, but they are not giving me what I need.”
This is something our community can relate to. When you call someone to tell them you had a bad day, the hormones made you moody, your bloodwork didn’t come back great, you had to cancel a cycle, someone texted you that they are pregnant… the list goes on, and you are looking to vent to someone. But these people are giving words of encouragement, it’ll get better, you should go to this doctor, giving advice…. But what is the real emotional support, what is real rachamim?
Let’s look at the word rachamim. What is the root of the word RACHAMIM רַחֲמִים ? RECHEM – רֶחֶם, a womb. Just like the womb of the woman holds a baby and does no more than that, that is rachamim. Creating space for you and holding you where you are without making silver linings, just empathize and share your pain with you. Hashem says ‘Imoh anochi betzra’ עמוֹ אנוֹכי בּצרה I am with you when you are in pain, I come to be with you. Hashem holds space for us.
The third pillar is happiness. How do you bring happiness to a world that isn’t always sunshine and rainbows? In Hebrew a word with the letter yud in front of it denotes a masculine word. A word with the hey at the end denotes a female word. What’s a yud? It’s a letter that is floating in the air, it’s living in a spiritual world. And what is a hey? It is in the sky and also grounded. We as women are grounded.We can learn from this to try and find something that makes us happy and bring Hashem into that.
She shared the story of a woman who had no connection to G-d. She wanted to bring Hashem into what she loved, and she loved the zoo. So when she took her kids to the zoo, she tried to find how that related back to Hashem. How many animals he created in the world, their beauty, their adaptations to help them defend themselves, and through her happy place, she brought G-d in. It is important to do things that make us happy in these uncertain times, and try to bring Hashem in. He is there for us in our pain, but also wants to be there and see us happy.
As we approach this Mother’s Day, let’s remember those who are struggling to celebrate this day. For those who find it to be a hard day, consider doing something for yourself that makes you happy, brings simcha into your life. For those who are supporting a loved one facing infertility, please show them Rachmim, by respecting their boundaries and holding space without judgment for their struggle.