Two weeks ago, our family went on a Sunday outing to see Thomas the Train in Fillmore. This once a year event includes fun activities such as a train ride and a carnival with games. (The day also had some tedious parts such as waiting in line for half an hour in the beating sun for the train to come.) Overall, the kids had a wonderful time.
On the drive home, I asked my son Jeremy, “Did you have fun today?” “Yes,” he replied enthusiastically.
Looking for more specifics, I asked: “What was your favorite part?” He responded immediately with confidence. “All of it!”
I pressed him further, “Which did you like best – the moon bounce or going on the train?” “All of it!” he replied again. Despite the tedious components of the day, his favorite part was “all of it.” Perhaps he didn’t understand the concept of having a favorite part. … Or maybe he did.
On the holiday of Passover (which we observed last month), there is a custom of eating a special concoction, called the Hillel sandwich (after its inventor Rabbi Hillel who lived in Israel in the first century B.C.E.). This sandwich is made of maror (bitter herbs which represent the bitterness of slavery in Egypt), and haroset (a sweet mixture of fruits and nuts which represents the mortar used by the Israelites to build the pyramids). The maror and haroset are placed between two slices of matzah (unleavened bread which the Israelites took with them as food for their desert trek to the Promised Land). The sandwich symbolically represents bitterness and hard work which when combined with risk lead to liberation.
In her book, Parenting as a Spiritual Journey, Rabbi Nancy Fuchs-Kreimer uses the Hillel sandwich as a metaphor for the experience of parenting. Like the Hillel sandwich, parenting includes both bitter and sweet times and lots of hard work mixed together into one. This combination transforms and liberates us.
This month, Jewish tradition instructs us to count the days from Passover (which recalls the Exodus) to Shavuot (which celebrates the giving of the Torah). This practice means that the journey which begins with struggle leads to understanding. Like the desert trek, the path of parenting, which also involves sweat and tears, cultivates its own wisdom. Like the Hillel sandwich, parenting is a package deal. The tough parts and the good times are inextricably linked. Somehow despite the bitterness, the sandwich is delicious.
So, if I you ask me what my least favorite part of becoming a mom has been, I have several answers – morning sickness, sleep deprivation, and especially labor. Yet, if you ask me what my favorite part of motherhood has been, I would answer emphatically: “All of it!”
Happy Mother’s Day to you and to all our mothers!