On Psalms and Mother’s Day by Ayala Emmett

On Sunday May 14, I opened the door and found, right next to my home delivered newspaper, a beautiful Mother’s Day bouquet of yellow roses and a card from my family.

Every Sunday I open my front door to pick up The New York Times. I read the paper leisurely over what I consider a feast cholesterol breakfast of several kinds of cheeses, an egg-white omelet, toast, fruit and strong coffee.

Today in my dinning room there is a sudden burst of sun through an otherwise cloudy morning and the light streams in with a glow. I am joyous at the sheer gift of bright sunshine that fills the room, the table, greeting cards from friends and kin, the food, and now the flowers of beauty, of care, and connection.

I am having one of those moments of happiness and enormous gratitude for what I have. Moments in which those of us so privileged count our blessings, a home, food on the table, work that we love, good health, kin and community and for those of my generation, the added delight of adult children and utterly amazing grandchildren.

In such moments of thankfulness and privilege, Jewish tradition has put in place an ancient and constant companion. At such times we are enjoined to remember all the marginalized, those left behind and we are called to give. The instruction to share appears numerous times in the Torah, reminding us when things are going well, when we prosper and reap that once we were slaves and strangers in the land of Egypt. Rabbi Bin Noon has written recently that the power of the obligation to remember, and most importantly to share our abundance comes from the fact that, “We, all of us, were slaves, poor, impoverished. In Egypt we were all equal in slavery and in poverty.” The Torah narrative underscores that God took us out of that total shared economic deprivation and social suffering, and it forever shapes our values and informs our actions. We must always treat people for whom these are the worst of times with a sense of Tzedek, of justice that is compassionate and inclusive.

On this Mother’s Day of 2017, we acknowledge that there are mothers around the world with very few rights, mothers who have lost children, refugee mothers without minimal safety, incarcerated mother, and mothers seeking asylum who are placed in detention centers in our own country. Ahavya Lauren Deutsch, the Rochester lawyer who went on behalf of JWCR to Dilly Texas, wrote, “Every single woman I spoke to (approximately 30 or so) described a terrifying journey to the US, including rape and other sexual assault, violence, robbery, exhaustion, and near starvation. They are incarcerated because they want to live here, and have risked their lives to get here. One woman said to me, ‘America is the only country on earth where people follow the law.’”

We are now facing a president who speaks and acts as though he is above the law. We live now in a presidency of chaos of threats and shaming and humiliating. It is frightening because Trump is not alone, there are plenty of Republicans aiding and abetting him. We have an administration that has created great anxiety and uncertainty here and around the world

Yet, with all the current political turmoil we are more privileged than many around the world. We are also collectively more powerful than the wayward president when we unite in resistance. We have seen our power in the legal action against the Muslim ban.  And we can still in good moments, personal and communal, recall the words of Psalmist, Kosi R’vaya, My Cup Overflows. And right then in the midst of celebrations we can commit to contribute to organizations dedicated to improve the lives of mothers and others in need.

And we mothers/fathers/women/men/humans, across borders and numerous divisions, will continue to resist and assist, to reunite and rebuild, to radicalize and rejoice. That is the Psalmist’s vision of  how we stay in God’s presence all the days of our lives.