Shmini-Parah, 5779/2019 ~ "I love Mommy Because..."
Tish Talk” by Rabbi Shalom Rubanowitz
Thoughts from your Rabbi for Your Shabbos Table
Did you know that this Sunday is Irish Mother’s Day? Thanks to an Irish friend, I know! -It's this Sunday, March 31. So if you or your friends are members of the Loyal League of Yiddish Sons of Erin or otherwise have an “OYrish” connection (many believe the Irish, a Celtic nation, descend from the “lost” Tribe of Dan…), you now have ample time to prepare Mum a Colcannon Breakfast or some great Barmbrack to go with her Tea. For the rest of us, it gives us pause to consider a new thought on an oft utilized Mother’s-Father’s Day game called “I love Mommy, I love Daddy because___________?
As a Parent of seven I’ve heard every answer imaginable. Here is a sample of what I might call the “1”, “5” and the “10” scaled answers-without naming kids or ages:
1. “I love Tatty because he buys me stuff”- 1 on a 0-10 scale;
2. “I love Tatty because on Sundays he doesn’t work and takes us on great trips”- 5 on a 0-10 scale;
3. “I love Tatty because he teaches me so many ways how to be a good person” -10 on a 0-10 scale;
Now every one of these great things “Tatty” (or “Mommy”) does are really terrific and display wonderful parental attributes. One might argue that my “ratings” are wrong, however. After all, isn’t a parent really all about providing needs (#1)? Isn’t spending personal time with the children the ultimate sacrifice (#2?) So why did I list #3 as the winningest answer? Sharing lessons and values are critical, but are they less important than #1 and #2?
Our Parasha I believe answers this, in what I share as a novel twist on a Rashi-I have not seen this idea expressed before, and I welcome your comment. Here goes:
In describing the Kashrut, or “impurity” of the “Chasidah” (the bird known as the Stork according to Rashi), Rashi notes its interesting name, which is sourced/related to the word “Chessed” (literally: "Kindness"). Here is how Rashi is most often quoted (Leviticus 11:19):
החסידה:זו דיה לבנה ציגוני"ה [חסידה]. ולמה נקרא שמה חסידה, שעושה חסידות עם חברותיה. Chasidah is the Stork. And why is she called a Chasidah? because she practices kindness with her kind” (Author speaking: I wonder whether this Rashi might be revealing the etymology of the word “kind").
A classic comment on this Rashi by commentaries over the millennia is-if the Stork is so kind, why is she impure? Why isn’t the Stork Kosher!? Answer: Well, as Rashi says, she is kind to her KIND. To Chavroteha”-to her FRIENDS. But if you’re not in her “clique”-forget about it!
Truth be told, I always had a problem with that interpretation. After all, the Stork is identified per Rashi as taking care of her own. Loving her friends, her “peeps”-her family and inner circle. Why is that kindness maligned just because it isn’t complete? Isn’t it natural and normal to worry about our families and inner circle first? Doesn’t Halacha and Jewish law also demand that “the poor of your city come first"-before the poor of neighboring cities, countries? That seems to be a normative and healthy manner of social "prioritizing". We have all heard the adage- “charity begins at home”. Why is that social dictum not applied to the lovely and kind Stork?
Here is my Chiddush, my new twist on an age-old Rashi: Admittedly, I intentionally failed to relate the entire Rashi to you. I left out one word. The last word in the sentence: במזונות – “with food”. For some reason, that word is not quoted by most when the Rashi is cited. But the full Rashi says that the Stork is called Chasidah not because she “is (just) kind to her friends, but that “she is kind to her friends with food”-i.e. she shares her food with her kind. And what’s not kosher about that?
Well, yes, we can love Mommy and Daddy because they provide for us. We can appreciate and thank others because they give us material things. But when our love and respect is based on what we physically GET from others, and if we define our relationship with others based on what material things that we GIVE them, we set the limits of our relationship. It’s not about depth, essence, substance. But rather surface. "Scale rating 1"-You love me because I give you beautiful clothes. But if the money runs out-where will you be? I shower you with love by buying you things. By feeding you the best I can afford, clothing you in the most beautiful manner I can, making sure you look and feel good all the time. But what does that say about my appreciation of your mind, your talents, your internal qualities? As we go up the scale, and sacrifice our TIME, our love and relationship gets deeper. Develops substance. It creates a stronger bond. If we move the scale up even further, and view our relationship with another as one where we share not just “Mezonos”-material things, not just “good times”, but actual values that will carry the other through life on a heightened level, allowing the receiver to become the best human being she or he can be-THAT is a sharing that creates a love, respect and appreciation that far outshines any piece of jewelry or shiny car a mom or dad might buy, or any exotic vacation or cruise grandma can offer.
So for me, the ”10” is when I hear my kid telling me how much she or he loves me, on Irish Mother’s Day or American Father’s day (or every day-the way it should be!), because her and his most cherished inheritance is that of the gift of becoming a more developed human being, a more impact-capable participant in creating true and good change in this world, someone who will bring glory and grace to not only themselves but to all those who surround him or her-and to the entire human family embodying this glorious world.
On this “What makes something Kosher?” Shabbat let’s think about taking this time to re-evaluate not the fact that we give to others-that’s a given for you all (no pun intended). Rather, let’s focus on what we give. Are we sharing values, depth? ideas? Life lessons? Here’s a tip: For your next birthday gift, consider giving a new book, instead of an Apple Gift Card-you’ll be sharing something eternal and I promise: the rewards will be there for you, whether you are Irish or not!!
Shabbat Shalom Umevorach! A beautiful and Peaceful Shabbos to All!
Shalom Rubanowitz, at the "Shul on the Beach, Venice, California.
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