Happy Birthday Mom

On the Hebrew calendar today, Tishrei 29, would have been my late mother’s 79th birthday. To our sorrow, mom was escorted earlier this year to her heavenly home to dwell with the other lofty souls whom, I am certain, greeted her warmly.

Birthdays were always a big deal to mom. She remembered the birthdays of every child, grandchild and great-grandchild. The celebrant would be bestowed with a card, original poem and for those living close by, a cake and/or ice cream party to mark the special day. Everyone, near or far, would also receive a phone call from mom with her blessings and wishes for a happy and joyous day. The significance of those calls became so much deeper when, during her final illness and with limited speaking ability, she would “save” her voice just to be able to make that call.

Mom’s philosophy was that birthdays are important because rather than being “just one day older”, one could use it as a time to reflect on the blessings and gifts received and to thank G-d for all of the other days that He gives us. It is an opportunity to review the past and pray for the future.

The irony was that with all of her attention to other’s birthdays, mom never wanted a fuss to be made over her own. “No need for cakes or balloons or even a phone call” she would say. It seemed that for her, a birthday was in fact “just another day”. And perhaps for her it was, as she always recognized the blessings in her life and constantly thanked G-d for giving her so much. Mom would say that if HaShem granted her another day she wanted to make the most of it.

Mom, you certainly did make the most of each day. Your attitude and positive outlook created a better place for all of us. The faith, optimism and zest for living set an example for all those privileged to know you. Whether in the kitchen, the library or watching the sunset, you taught us to appreciate, enjoy and never take for granted all that we have. Even when seriously ill, your smile never dimmed and your clothing (from your head covering to your shoes to the tablecloth) were always coordinated. The light of your Shabbos candles, one lit for each and every descendant and their spouse was a manifestation of your own inner and outer light.

You saw the best in others and treated everyone with love and respect. Of all of your birthday gifts to us, it is these, among the many other, valuable lessons of life that will remain with us forever.

During the year of mourning the custom is to limit celebration and happiness. Rather, we are enjoined to memorialize our departed through good deeds which elevate the soul.

Today, however, I would like to take a very slight exception and actually celebrate Mom’s birthday. I want to recognize this very special day in which a very unique soul descended from above to make an everlasting mark on her family, her friends and the world itself.

Happy Birthday Mom.

About the Author
Rabbi Avrohom Leventhal, noted educator and speaker, is the Executive Director at Lema'an Achai.
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