Lisa Gelber
Lisa Gelber
Living Life One Breath at a Time

Hold On, Listen and Let Go

May 7, 2021/25 Iyar 5781

This Sunday, the calendar reminds me, is Mother’s Day. For some, this is a time of celebration, of story and memory, a day of togetherness, sweets and good will. For others, it is a day of complexity, loss, mourning and frustration. For many, the day falls in the nuanced in between. For many others, it is not even a day on their calendar. For me, mother’s day is every day as I wrote here – This year, I’m thinking a lot about holding on, letting go and listening.

Recently, my daughter took another step towards independence as she travelled to school on her own. The night before, I wondered what blessing I should utter. Sheheheyanu which celebrates the holy one for escorting us to this time? Hatov v’hameytiv which acknowledges Gd as the cause of good? T’fillat HaDerekh, the prayer for safe journey? In the end, my daughter left for school as I was leading morning prayers and preparing to address one of those challenges that threatens to pull the soul away from its work. In other words, my head was elsewhere. She had my full attention earlier that morning, in moments filled with reminders about keys, looking both ways at street corners and of course, a kiss on the keppy and hug (the gift of saying goodbye not surrounded by other kids at this age!). But, at the moment of departure, she was on her own. 45 minutes later, I checked my email and noticed nothing from my child. Our agreement was that she would let me know when she arrived. That was the condition of her solo travel. I called the school to inquire about her whereabouts. Not long after, the phone rang. They had called up to the classroom and she was there, having exclaimed, I forgot to email my mother! Moments later, an email landed in my inbox. Subject: school. Text: i am hear. Relieved to know she was in class, I smiled at the spelling error. It was so perfectly Z. She might have been here, in the place she was assigned to go. More than that, she was hear, paying attention, listening to the call of freedom.

In this week’s parashaB’har, we find the words inscribed on the Liberty Bell, You shall proclaim liberty throughout the land for all its inhabitants thereof (Leviticus 25:10). Here, freedom is a call, a proclamation for a set time and space. The word used by Torah for this state is d’ror. That’s what I had in mind as I thought to bless the moment my child would take responsibility for her travel to school. But as she reminded me last mother’s day (the one I see on my calendar, not the everyday), she thought the day was one to celebrate her role in adding mother to my list of titles and way of life. And so, for Z, the freedom to walk to school with neither company nor escort was one of hofesh, the freedom Torah attributes to a slave released from bondage. Backpack and key in hand, my daughter left the house the other day embracing her freedom of being. As often happens, I learned from her the blessing I failed to utter that day was not mine to offer at all. It was hers. She was paying attention. And now I offer this blessing to my dear child as she grows in independence, I hear you.

About the Author
Lisa Gelber is rabbi, fierce mother, marathon runner, spiritual director, breast cancer survivor and PELOTON enthusiast. She serves Congregation Habonim in the Lincoln Square neighborhood of NYC. Her journey to parenthood is profiled in the Emmy nominated documentary ALL OF THE ABOVE: Single, Clergy, Mother.
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