Stereotypes abound about the “Jewish Mother.” She is a nag, a yenta, overprotective and overbearing … a woman who is sticking her nose in her children’s lives long after they have grown up … intensely loving but controlling to the point of smothering … engendering guilt in her children through the endless suffering she professes to undertake for their sakes.
This stereotype is based on myth and is as far as it gets from the truth. If you want an accurate description of a true Jewish mother – emese Yiddishe Mamme – read the story of Sarah, our first matriarch.
Indeed, an entire chapter in Torah – the one we read this week – is called Chayei Sarah, the “life of Sarah,” emphasizing that we can glean many indispensable lessons from her life. Among those lessons perhaps the most important one is how to live.
But wait. When we begin reading this week’s chapter it talks all about Sarah’s death and the events that happened subsequent to her passing! Why then would we provocatively call the portion Chayei Sarah?! This challenges us to revisit the very definition and meaning of life.
What really makes us alive – is it the immediate and visible impact that we have on those around us, or is there something more?