My mother used to say: "The hand that rocks the cradle rules the world."
In my younger days, I thought that the statement was a bit overblown to say the least. Influenced by the second wave of the feminist movement, I wondered if the saying was simply an excuse to not venture out into the world to do great things. To stay on the pedestal and bow to patriarchy.
When I was growing up, I had two best girlfriends. The three of us had much in common, not the least of which was that we were all certified members of "geekdom." In those days, being geeks was not cool, but it did have its compensations. One of these was permission to read science fiction and watch Star Trek and dream of doing great things in the future. Together, we three girls dreamed of becoming scientists, engineers, physicians, philosophers. In short, we were to become builders of worlds. Our motto was: "To summon the future!"
As we left school and started our lives, we did realize some of those dreams. We did become scientists and engineers, philosophers and anthropologists. But we also became speakers of many languages, teachers, care-givers, and mothers. And, although it took a while, we began to realize that it was in our roles as mothers that we took on the title of "builders of worlds."
Our most enduring role models are the mothers of Israel: Sarah, Rebekah, Leah, and Rachel. Our mother Sarah, who laughed at the Eternal, and not only lived to tell the tale, but also named her son for that laughter. Rebekah, who wondered about the purpose of her existence and yet determined the leadership of Israel for all time. Leah, who, as the matriarch of the tribe, managed the family and brought her husband prosperity. And Rachel, who nurtured the gifts and dreams of her son Joseph, who saved an entire land from famine.
And more: Yocheved, mother of Moses, whose look was toward life in a dark time. Miriam, the prophet, whose well of sweet water gave life in the wilderness. Hannah, Deborah the Judge, Hulda the prophet, Esther the Queen. And all of the women and mothers whose names we do not know; a web of women that kept the Jewish people alive. The influence of the mothers of Israel lives down the centuries. Their legacy is affirmed every Shabbat when Jewish women light candles and bless and pray for their children.
When we were young, my intrepid girl friends and I, we dreamed of glory. We imagined a legacy of fame and fortune. Well, we are all fortunate. But although we have achieved much, none of us have won Nobel prizes or ruled countries. We are grateful that some women have done so. But I think that each of the three of us has, at one time or another, realized that our power to summon the future comes from our efforts to bring up our children to be menschen. To be on the path of the true human being. If we teach our children to be good, true, compassionate, just and loving, and if they, in their turn treat others this way, then imagine how far we can "pay it forward." Our names may not be known, but our influence on the future can be very great. It can endure down the generations.
How great is our power. There is a Jewish saying: "To save one life is to save a whole world." Here is our corollary: "To nurture one life is to nurture whole worlds." Our influence can determine if those worlds are healthy and loving, or not. If they are places of joy and compassion, or not. If the truth is spoken in those worlds and if justice is done.
The hand that rocks the cradle rules the world.
Like Esther, we can change the world. So this Mother's Day, I will be standing in order to begin to make a difference. Sometimes small acts, when done together, can lead to great changes. When Julia Ward Howe, author of the Battle Hymn of the Republic, wrote the Mother's Day Proclaimation in 1870, she meant it to be a call to action. She wrote:
"Arise, then, women of this day! Arise all women who have hearts, whether our baptism be that of water or of tears!Say firmly: 'We will not have great questions decided by irrelevant agencies. Our husbands shall not come to us, reeking with carnage, for caresses and applause. Our sons shall not be taken from us to unlearn all that we have been able to teach them of charity, mercy and patience. We women of one country will be too tender of those of another country to allow our sons to be trained to injure theirs.' "
I want to answer her call all these years later, and stand for a better world for our children. So I will joining the Standing Women all across the world at 1 PM (local time) on Mother's Day to renew my commitment to Tikkun Olam, the repair of the world. I invite you to join me on that day. Go to the link above and let them know where you will stand. All across the world, we will make a wave of women, hour after hour, standing to commit themselves to the following pledge:
Remember: The hand that rocks the cradle rules the world.
What kind of world do we want that to be?
Happy Mother's Day!