When I think about mother-daughter relationships, I’m often reminded of the fifth commandment: “Honor your father and mother.” In addition to speaking and acting respectfully, we are also required to view you in a positive, and even special, light. Interestingly, though, there’s nothing in the commandment that states we need to love you back.

The commandment to respect our parents is anything but simple. Indeed,Why do we struggle to honor our parents? Rabbi Simon Ben Yochai, the second-century sage, considers this mitzvah the most difficult commandment. Despite all you’ve done for us, or at least tried to do, why do we sometimes struggle with this commandment?

Perhaps part of the answer is that G‑d’s mission for the children that you, our loving mothers, help bring into this world is G‑d-driven. While we may inherit our parents’ genes, Judaism teaches that our souls—and their distinct missions—come from above. It hasn’t always been easy for you to decipher that mission: when to direct and when to stand back, especially when we, your daughters, change and grow so quickly. Life challenges, misunderstandings, unfulfilled hopes and expectations—on both sides and sometimes of a biblical proportion—don’t make the challenges any easier.

Of course, as young children our respect and even love for you came naturally. We soaked in the myriad ways you loved us. For many of us, you, mom, were our galaxy: our sun, moon and stars. We admired your voice and your dress, your cooking and knitting, and the way you kept our homes, despite your busy schedule. We respected your profession and admired the ways you helped those in need. We noted what a talented artist, writer, tennis player and all-around good person you are. In response to your loving care, many of us wanted to make you happy. We listened to you, we helped you and continued to admire you, sometimes to the point of wanting to be just like you. Through your love, we also began to understand G‑d’s love for us.

Then adolescence hit. Our more self-centered, all-knowing critical eyes often saw a very different mother than when we were kids. In our attempt to establish our own identities, we sometimes found failure with your ways of caring that were annulled, we felt, by overkill. Or we believed that you were not there in the way we wanted you to be—the ways we thought we needed you to be. For some or all of these reasons, we began to eschew some of your direction, guidance and advice. There were times when we failed to respect you. Times, in all honesty, when we felt we were better off finding a different mentor. And yet, we were still polite and tried to do what you asked (most of the time anyway).

IfWe were suddenly unsure of all the things we thought we knew we failed to demonstrate the bountiful respect that G‑d commanded of us beforehand, many of us were given another chance when we experienced the humility that, by definition, accompanies motherhood. We were suddenly unsure of all the things we thought we knew. When our children carelessly struck out at us in their own frustration, forgetting the golden rule, many of us called you for advice, while praying really hard. In time, we realized that regardless of what we do or don’t do, our children will experience suffering, and regardless of how very hard we tried, we will be unable to stop some of it—that suffering itself is necessary for growth. In understanding just how difficult parenting is, we found new reasons to respect you for all we put you through. But the journey hasn’t been easy.

The seasons have passed far too quickly, and we now find ourselves taking care of you, rather than the other way around. We visit with you in the family home, where you raised us, and the downsized home where we helped you move. We pick you up in your independent-living facility and take you out for dinner. We sit with you in nursing homes, where we monitor your care. As daughters, we receive talk about your aches and disappointments with renewed sensitivity. We find ourselves listening with greater care, and often talking with greater volume, in our attempt to understand what you’re saying when your memory or hearing starts to fail. We often answer with a warm smile, an arm around your shoulder and a comforting hug. We more fully realize how blessed we and our children are just to still have you here.

And we make a more conscious vow to show you respect, gratefulness and admiration. In the process, we grow to understand why your love for us, and G‑d’s love for us, has been so great. Love is largely a product of giving, and you, our loving mothers, gave to us bountifully. If we still have gripes and disappointments, they vanish in time and recognition of the many ways you demonstrated that love.

Then some of us take the leap. We begin to understand that there was really no needLove is largely a product of giving to be commanded to love you. That by acting respectfully to you—and caring for and about you—love cannot help but grow. That respect and love, in many ways, are the same thing. Even when our feelings of love were obscured, G‑d commanded us to respect and honor you. We were commanded to do so, even if providing respect and honor felt like an arduous task. In the process, our loving mothers, our love for you has been, like the Shabbat candles, perpetually kindled and rekindled.

With respect AND love,

Your Jewish daughters