I happen to be a pretty calm woman. So far, I’ve lived through major earthquakes and fires, terrorist attacks and wars. I have accompanied dozens, if not hundreds, of women on births, and evenHe was crying, holding his arm delivered a baby or two. In an emergency situation, I’m usually calm, cool and in control of my emotions. Well, this past Sunday I stayed calm and I stayed cool, but I certainly wasn’t in control of my emotions.

We were at the park with our four children. I was talking to my husband and carefully watching my toddler, making sure he didn’t put any of the interesting objects on the ground in his mouth. The older children were playing on the climbing structures in the playground. Suddenly, we heard a cry: “Avraham fell, and he can’t move his arm!”


I hurried over to my son. He was crying, holding his arm. I looked at his pale face and saw so much pain in it. I couldn’t stop myself, and I too started to cry.

Emergency mode set in, and I was able to go through the motions of calming my son down, having him drink some water, asking him what happened (he fell off a play structure and broke his fall with his arm, fracturing it), and sending him off with my husband to the emergency room. I stayed behind with the other children, and we said Psalms for Avraham’s recovery.

Now, when I look at things in perspective, I can tell you that yes, thank G‑d, it was just a broken bone, and that yes, as a mother of four children (three of whom are boys), I know that these things are common. I truly was calm about the situation, and we were able to take care of our son as quickly as possible. But emotionally, when I saw such pain in my child’s face, I fell apart. Whenever you see pain in your child’s eyes, whether the cause is emotional or physical, all you want to do as a mother is take away that pain, whatever the cost.

As human beings, we have compassion and can be empathic. We see someone in pain and want to help. But only very few righteous and holy people are at the level where they would be willing, if they could, to take away that pain and feel it themselves. Yet this is how a mother (or father) feels any time her child is hurt.

How does that happen? Where do these altruistic feelings come from? They come from giving. Day after day, night after night. First, a woman gives her body over to the baby inside of her. Her legs swell, she feels back pain, nausea, exhaustion. She carries the baby inside of her, engaging in 24 hours of holy work—acts of lovingkindness. The baby is born, and then there is round-the-clock feeding, rocking, cooing and diaper-changing. The child grows, and she has daily (and nightly) opportunities for giving. Cooking meals, doing laundry, helping with homework, picking up clothes and toys, tending to sick children and playing—day after day, night after night. Mundane, everyday tasks, acts of kindness and giving. Does it ever end? No. The child grows, the needs change, the ways of giving change, but not the actual giving.

The prophet Jeremiah describes the bitter exile of Israel after the destruction of the First Temple. He then writes: “A voice is heard on high, lamentation, bitter weeping; Rachel is weeping for her children, she refuses to be comforted for her children, for they are gone [in exile].”1

Our mother Rachel is inconsolable as she sees her children, her nation, in pain. Oh, does Mama Rachel cry for us and want to take away our pain and suffering! The Midrash relates how the patriarchs and Moses prayed before G‑d to save Israel. Each one’s plea was valid and heart-wrenching, but G‑d refused to listen. At last came Mama Rachel, mother of the Jewish people. Rachel pleaded with G‑d to remember how she traded places with herOur mother Rachel is inconsolable as she sees her children in pain sister on her wedding day in order to save her sister from humiliation. Rachel reached a level of complete and total self-nullification for her sister. She saw her sister’s pain and said: “Let this pain be mine instead.” This is the level of a mother who sees her child in pain and wants with all her heart to take it away.

“So says the L‑rd: ‘Restrain your voice from weeping and your eyes from tears, for there is reward for your work,’ says the L‑rd, ‘and they shall come back from the land of the enemy.’ ”2

The prophet continues in the name of G‑d. Yes, Rachel, all those nights and days, all those acts of lovingkindness, are seen and will not go unrewarded. Because of your tears and your selflessness, your children will return and the redemption will come.

Mama Rachel died in the only month of the year, Marcheshvan, “Bitter Cheshvan,” that contains neither a festive holiday nor a communal fast day. She died in a mundane month devoid of festival, devoid of tragedy. It’s a month of daily routine. A month of laundry and packing school lunches, a month of changing diapers and making dinners. It’s the month of the mother. The incredible Yiddishe Mama, the Jewish mother, who puts her heart, her soul, her sweat, into taking care of her children.

This mundane month, the Midrash tells us, is the month in which the Third Holy Temple will be dedicated. It’s a messianic month, a month in which mundanity is transformed into holiness.3