Our Birthright Shabbat (2-Minute Mommy Peptalk)

Our Birthright Shabbat (2-Minute Mommy Peptalk)

Reflections on the very different bedtime blessings of two Jewish mothers.

I read in Ami this week about a woman who dreamed of becoming a lawyer but never did.

So when that frustrated wannabe lawyer became a mother herself, every night she would tell her young daughter, “And when you grow up, you will become a lawyer and get married and live happily ever after.”
I guess it’s no wonder that that daughter, without really knowing why, decided to go to law school.
This past Friday night, we hosted a Birthright group of young professionals from LA. For most of them, this was the first traditional Shabbat meal they’d ever seen.
One of my favorite parts of hosting Birthright is helping our guests with netilat Yedayim, with the ritual handwashing before the meal. First I help them wash their hands, and then I say “Baruch” and they repeat “Baruch,” “Atah,” “Atah,” and so on and so forth.
This week, one or two of our Birthrighters actually knew the entire blessing, maybe from their campus Chabad houses. And many knew the entire beginning of the blessing, “Baruch Atah Hashem Elokaynu Melech Haolam,” but get mixed up somewhere around “asher Kidushanu.”
But the most deeply moving experience for me was helping the 2 or 3 guests who need me to say every single word with them.
Jews who haven’t said a blessing in so long, they don’t even remember “Baruch Atah.” And who knows? Maybe they don’t know the words because they’ve never said a blessing in their entire lives…
How exciting to be there with them at that moment, to enable these Jews to recite that blessing that has been waiting decades to be uttered from those lips.
So when my husband, Joshua, explained to our guests the words of the blessing over children, I was surprised when one of our guests began mouthing the words of the blessing along with him.
Afterward, with visible excitement, this guest shared, “When I was a boy, every night before I went to bed, my mom would say these words to me. “Yaseemka Elokeem K’Ephraim U’K’Menashe.” I don’t know if she knew what the words meant. I certainly never did. But every night, to this day, before I go to sleep, I say the words: “Yaseemka Elokeem K’Ephraim U’K’Menashe.” And it makes me feel all calm and good. I had no idea where those words came from until tonight.”
After hearing our guest’s story, I was thinking of the mother who told her daughter every night “Be a lawyer!” and this other mother who every night told her son “Be a Jew.”
And I thought about what kind of mother I hope to be.

2 comments

  1. Dani margolies

    Wow. So powerful.

  2. beautiful.

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