The Mothering Spiral

The Mothering Spiral

After a 15-year-break, I’m back attending the parenting class of Rabbanit Talia Helfer.

When my big kids were teensy, I attended Rabbanit Talia’s classes quite religiously. At one point I was such a devoted student that I transcribed several years of her recorded classes. Rabbanit Talia was such a huge influence on me and my life that even I dedicated my second book to her.

And now I’m back. The little kids and toddlers I was pulling my hair out over then are today lovely, mature teenagers and young women. And now I’ve come back to Rabbanit Talia for help with their younger siblings before I am completely bald.

And I’m not the only mature mother who is back in the class.
Several of the mothers who took the course when their oldest children were still in nursery school with my kids are my classmates again today–still seeking guidance, like me.

One mother of a particularly large family comes to the class with her 2-year-old and her oldest daughter, now a mother of 2 b”H herself. I still remember the questions her mother asked Rabbanit Talia about her when she was a small girl

Which might sound strange. I mean, after all these years, shouldn’t we know everything there is to know already?

A few weeks ago I posted an article called “Motherly Mitzvot” about this amazing new idea I had just read about in a book. I enthused to you JewishMOMs about how, before I do something nice for my kids, I say to myself, “I am prepared and willing to perform the mitzvah of raising children.” And I told you about the newfound excitement and mindfulness this new idea was bringing into my mothering life.

But Debi, a long-time reader, left me a surprising comment re my revolutionary, newfound idea:

I seem to remember reading about this idea in one of your books. You described yourself doing a seemingly humdrum or difficult task and using the above words to transform it into something meaningful and holy, thereby giving you strength.The image of you scrambling eggs and saying “לשם מצוות ואהבת לרעך כמוך” [in order to perform the mitzvah of loving your neighbor as yourself] has stayed with me and inspired me through many mothering moments.”

And then, later, she left the follow-up comment:

“In your second book, One Baby Step at a Time, Seven Secrets of Jewish Motherhood on pages 30-31 you mention this idea from your teacher Leah Golomb to preface mothering tasks big and small with “Le’shem mitzvat…” or “Leshem yikhud Kudsha Breech Hu…” and you described how it “transformed the mundane tasks…into mitzvot…This is one of the best ways I have found to remain present throughout my day…aware of the the importance of the smallest acts of mothering kindness”

And yes, it is embarrassing that I have no recollection whatsoever that this is something I once learned and did and wrote about with so much enthusiasm, even if it was 15 years ago.

Just like at every one of Rabbanit Talia’s classes, I hear so many things I once heard and knew and even applied but no longer remember at all. Things that I urgently need to hear again, week after week.

And this motherly amnesia reminds me of something that I heard about the Jewish calendar, that it isn’t just a circle we go around and around until we die, like a 120-year merry-go-round. It’s more like we are passengers on a spiral, passing through each holiday again and again, spiralling upward as we change and grow.

And maybe that’s how motherhood is too. I am passing through the same stages again and again–potty-training, again. The transition to 1st grade, again. Rabbanit Talia’s class again.

And each time I do it, it feels new. But not exactly the same. Like I’m riding that spiral, year by year, child by child, I am ascending slowly, imperceptibly. Even when it doesn’t feel that way, higher.


  1. Elisheva

    I’m glad I’m not alone. I’m 47 and raising my “second family”. There is a six year gap between my first 4 children and my second 4 children. I, too, feel like I have mommy amnesia and I’m back to relearning what I thought I had learned before when I raised my first four.

  2. Chana,
    I was afraid I had made you feel uncomfortable when I reminded you (publicly, on your own blog) of what you had already written. I wish I had put more thought into how to write it. I’m really sorry for not being more considerate.
    At the time I just wanted to publicize the good advice you had given years ago, and give you credit for it, as well as encourage women to read or re-read your book. I ended up re-reading the whole book when I looked for that reference, and since I am on a different part of the spiral of life and mothering, I connected with what you had written in a different, richer way.

    • JewishMom

      I’m sorry I wasn’t clearer, you didn’t make me feel uncomfortable at all. It just made me realize how little I remember of what I’ve learned…

  3. Really amazing post. I’m not sure wether to laugh or cry! Very humble and humbling. This is exactly why many thousands read your blog….

  4. Michla Irby

    Enjoyed your post! Where does Rabbanit Talia Helfer give classes? Does she offer any online classes? I think I could really use some guidance right now with my wee ones. Thank you.

    • JewishMom

      she teaches in nachlaot on monday mornings IN HEBREW. If anyone is interested, all are welcome! contact me privately above and I will send details

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