Thursday, November 19, 2009

Rabbi Hirsch on the Mother's Grief

I really liked this insight by Rabbi Hirsch, taken from Twerksi's Positive Parenting:

Commenting on the verse in Proverbs, "A wise son gladdens a father, but a foolish son is the grief of his mother" (10:1), Rabbi Hirsch states:

It is interesting that joy from a successful son is foretold here to the father, while sorrow from an unsuccessful son is linked with the mother. We believe this may be based on the following consideration: No matter how much a father does for his child, it cannot be compared to the sacrifices and privations of a mother. For her, months and years of suffering and renunciation set in from the very beginning of the child's existence. By the time the father directs his personal attention to the child's development, the mother has already devoted years of constant care to his physical, spiritual, and moral growth. It follows that if the child turns out to be well-brought up, and the parents are fortunate enough to find joy in a wise and successful son, the father has won a big prize - in return for a comparatively low stake. If, on the other hand, the child becomes an inept, foolish person, then who can fathom the grief of his mother? She is forced to admit that she has wasted years of anxious days and sleepless nights, that she has spent the best part of her physical strength and mental energy, and all of this for what result? - a foolish son.

Rabbi Hirsch continues with a quote from Proverbs, "What, my son? And what, son of my womb? And what, son of my vows?" (31:2)

Thus begins a mother's admonition to her son, the king. A true mother has been preparing her thoughts fro the spiritual future of her child while he was yet in her womb; her solemn vows accompany his entrance into the world. He is the son of her womb and the son of her vows. A mother's thoughts and emotions during the time that she bears and suckles her child are not without effect. The saying "to imbibe something with one's mother's milk" is no empty phrase. That is the time when the seed is planted for the child's qualities of character, for gentleness or violence, for modesty or sensuality, for a conduct of nobility or vulgarity. This seed is planted within her child by his mother's thoughts while he is still physically connected with her. After that it is his mother's example which shows his awakening soul the ideas that he should follow - truth, decency, purity, or their opposites! Showing her child the right way takes intelligence and firm resolve on the part of a mother, for the success of his future behavior depends on her teaching him the first requirement: to control his own will.

The father's teachings are of great importance, but just as the value of a finished product made by the finest craftsmen depends on the material he was given to work with - gold, silver, tin - the child produced by the father's education cannot be better than the substance provided by the mother; i.e., the basic traits of love, trust, consideration, reverence, and patience.

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