As we mark Mother’s Day Weekend, we celebrate and appreciate mothers and the hard and holy labor of mothering. We honor all of our different stories and emotions that rise up around mothers and motherhood. We acknowledge all of the women in our Torah who gave life to our people including Sarah, Rebecca, Rachel, Leah, Bilhah, Zilpah, Shifra, Puah, Miriam, and Ruth.
We’d also like to lift up the work of the American activist, poet and abolitionist, Julia Ward Howe, who dreamed up a day for mothers in 1870. As our country mourned those who died in the Civil War, Julia Ward Howe set out to establish a Mother’s Day for Peace. She appealed for an end to violence and for a centering of women’s leadership, proclaiming:
“Arise, then, women of this day!
Arise all women who have hearts…
From the bosom of the devastated earth a voice goes up with our own.
It says: Disarm, Disarm!
The sword of murder is not the balance of justice.
Blood does not wipe out dishonor,
nor violence vindicate possession.
As men have often forsaken the plough and the anvil
at the summons of war,
let women now leave all that may be left of home
for a great and earnest day of council.
Let them meet first, as women, to bewail and commemorate the dead.
Let them then solemnly take council with each other as to the means
whereby the great human family can live in peace,
each bearing after his own kind the sacred impress, not of Caesar,
but of God.”
As we celebrate Shabbat, Julia Ward Howe’s, “Mother’s Day Proclamation for Peace” will sit with our prayers for our human family to live in lasting peace, unafraid. This week, we have woken up to news of rocket attacks in Israel and yet more mass shootings in our country. We cry for the unyielding cycles of violence. We pray for the vision and courage to become unstuck, to find new ways, and to see different days.
Our Torah portion this week, Behar-Bechukkotai, includes the laws of the shemitah/sabbatical and Jubilee years, radical visions for a world that is just and free. In Leviticus 25:10, we find the verse:
וּקְרָאתֶם דְּרוֹר בָּאָרֶץ לְכׇל־יֹשְׁבֶיהָ
“Proclaim release throughout the land for all its inhabitants.”
May this be the year.
May we know release,
as together, we give birth to an era of peace.
In the meantime, may it be a life-giving Shabbat for us all.