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Jewish Mother's Day

Jewish Mother's Day

Rachel & the 11th of Cheshvan

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One of the most important days in the month of Cheshvan is the 11th, which commemorates the day of passing of our matriarch Rachel. Rachel was Jacob's most beloved wife and was the principal of his household and thus the principal of the entire house of Israel. From the first day of the year, the 1st day of Tishrei, the 11th day of Cheshvan is the 41st day. 41 is the numerical value of the Hebrew word "eim," which means "mother," thus the 11th of Cheshvan is truly the Jewish Mother's Day.

The month of Cheshvan is the time to recommit to our mother's guidanceThe figure of our matriarch Rachel is the one most associated in Kabbalah with the building of Jewish nature, the inbred character of an individual who walks willingly and naturally in the path of G‑d. Jewish nature and character, best exemplified by the patriarchs and matriarchs, calls upon an individual to perform G‑d's will out of his or her own accord, a state described by the sages as "acting without dictation [from Above]." Just as our matriarch Eve, "the mother of all life," is the mother of human nature, so our matriarch Rachel is the mother of our unique Jewish nature. The month of Cheshvan is thus the time to recommit to our mother's guidance and reconstitute Jewish nature and character.


"Rachel cries for her children, she will not be comforted…" Rachel constantly mourns over the exile of her children, the Jewish people, and the Almighty comforts her with the words: "Withhold your voice from crying and your eyes from tearing, for there is a reward for your actions… and the children will return to their border." Literally, "return to their border" refers to the return of the Jewish people to the Land of Israel. But, more deeply, it refers to the return of our people to our natural spiritual environs: Judaism and our ancestral Jewish nature. These are the borders that truly circumscribe the uniqueness of our people. Amazingly, numerically, the value of the Hebrew word for "border" (g'vul / גבול) is exactly the same as the value of the word for "mother" (eim / אם); both equal 41. How much more beautiful are the words of the prophet who promises our return to our border, our mother Rachel.

The mother defines and guards the uniqueness of the Jewish people, both physically and spiritually: physically, because one's nationality as a Jew passes through one's mother; and, spiritually, because the culture, atmosphere, and nature of being Jewish are nurtured by the Jewish mother. Our ability to return to, defend, and hold on to our physical borders, i.e., to the Land of Israel, depends on our success in returning to and guarding the spiritual borders of our people. Thus, Jewish mother's day is also the day for reclaiming Judaism. The month of Cheshvan is therefore the month to return to our religious, cultural, and spiritual territory and to the actual physical borders of our physical territory, the Land of Israel.


Let us gain some insight into the month of Cheshvan and Jewish mother's day by making some numerical observations. In Hebrew, Cheshvan is written with the four letters: חשון. The borders (the first and last letters) of Cheshvan are chet / ח and nun / ן, which together spell the word chein /חן, meaning "beauty." The word chein / חן, "beauty" equals 58. The 58th day of the year is the 28th day of Cheshvan.

Rachel is described as the most beautiful woman in the TorahThe numerical value of the two middle letters, shin and vov, שו, is equal to isha /אשה, meaning "woman." Thus, the name of the month itself hints at the special and unique grace endowed to women. King Solomon says that external beauty by itself is deceitful. If external beauty is all that a woman seeks then the name of the month becomes Marcheshvan, which means Bitter-Cheshvan. It is of such a woman King Solomon says: "And I find the woman to be more bitter than death." But, of true beauty, the beauty of a Jewish woman that emanates from within, he says: "The woman of beauty shall support honor." This true beauty is given to us, the Jewish people, by G‑d through the Torah, for "there is no truth but Torah" and "there is no honor but Torah." It was Rachel, who was first endowed with this real beauty. Rachel is described as the most beautiful woman in the Torah, "She had a beautiful face and a beautiful figure." Thus, Rachel was the embodiment of the verse: "A woman who fears G‑d, she shall be praised," praised both for her grace and true beauty.


The beauty of the Jewish woman is not just a passive agent of spirituality. The sages teach that the offspring of Esau and his grandson Amalek can be defeated only by the children of Rachel.

Who embodies the spirit of Amalek in our day and age? In Hebrew, the words "Amalek" (עמלק) and "doubt" (safek / ספק) have the same numerical value. Thus, the spirit of Amalek that continues to plague each and every Jew is doubt; doubt in our faith, doubt in our Torah, and doubt in ourselves and the moral justification of our path.

But, sometimes the spirit of Amalek becomes bolder and captures a Jew (whether he be a private individual or a political figure) to the point of driving him or her to unconscious or even conscious self-hatred. This can result in a Jew's cooperation with the enemies of our people.

Finally there are the direct spiritual offspring of Amalek: those enemies who threaten the lives of Jews and our return to the Land of Israel.

The sages say that beauty is a woman's weapon. With everything that we have said about Rachel, her role as our matriarch, as the progenitor of Jewish nature, and of her beauty, it should now be clear that our weapon for defeating Amalek is the special beauty and grace of the Jewish mother. Joseph the tzaddik (righteous one) inherited his mother Rachel's beauty and he too is described as having a beautiful face and a beautiful figure. That is why the prophet says about him that "the house of Jacob will be fire and the house of Joseph its flame and the house of Esau straw, and together they will ignite him and consume him; and there will be no remnant for the house of Esau."

True Jewish beauty and grace destroy the enemy indirectly But, beauty is no regular weapon. True grace and beauty work by attracting the sparks of holiness that are bound within the enemy. These sparks are G‑d's will that the enemy still exist. Yet, when they are redeemed by their attraction to true beauty, they escape the enemy's grasp, leaving him void of any Divine source and causing his demise. True Jewish beauty and grace destroy the enemy indirectly by leaving him void of any beauty or grace himself, making him irrelevant and powerless.

The battle against Amalek in our generation must be conducted primarily with our ability to communicate to all around us the true nature of Jewish beauty and grace. It is to this beauty of Jewish nature and character that we return during the month of Cheshvan by reconnecting with our matriarch Rachel, with our own Jewish nature, and with ourselves.

Rabbi Yitzchak Ginsburgh is the founder and director of the Gal Einai Institute: The Institute for Advanced Interdisciplinary Study of Torah, Art and Science. A foremost expositor of Kabbalah and Chassidut, Rabbi Ginsburgh has written over forty books illuminating the Torah's understanding of topics such as psychology, education, medicine, politics, mathematics and relationships.
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Discussion (15)
May 31, 2014
Matriarch
A family can start as a patriarchal family but end up with a woman as its head.It depends on who keeps the Torah . No one should use the favour of God to do injustice on others.
Anonymous
toronto
October 23, 2013
Thank You Rabbi Yitzchak Ginsburg. As a mother i am truly blessed by your teaching on Jewish Mother's Day. Thank you and bless you indeed
irene jiah
London
January 30, 2013
what a wonderful inspiration your article has given to me. it is a very deep teaching with a very deep corresponding learning to me. thank you rabbi.
anayochukwu nweke
nigeria
October 22, 2012
beautiful and inspiring article
Thank you so much!
Shulamit
Melbourne,Australia
October 19, 2010
Great
I am blessed by your article.Thanks
Mariam
Bahawalpur, Pakistan
October 30, 2009
Dear Yitzchak Ginsburgh, thanks for amazing article giving light on to many aspects, giving clearity. (I will hold your hand, just keep going.)
Anonymous
Vilnius
October 29, 2009
Reading this article is so inspiring! Thank You! Thank G-d I had the merit to pray last night at Kever Rachel, Rachel's Tomb. How blessed I am to merit living in the Holy Land of Israel!
May HaShem bless us all in the merit of Rachel Imeinu and send us Machiach Now!
Ilana
October 29, 2009
Attraction to Beauty
Attraction to true beauty works.

I have escaped the worst situations with it, but it has to be attraction from the inner heart.

True beauty, for me, has always been that experience which shows that all things are one, and all things are good, and all things love you, and then you respond to all things with the same love...and that is HaShem.
Anonymous
October 29, 2009
Meaning
Thank you for making the month of Cheshvan more meaningful
Panina Klein
chicago, IL
October 27, 2009
Thank you
The article enlights me. Thank you.
Amin Wahyudi
Semarang, Indonesia
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