Mothers’ Day is rapidly fading in our collective rear-view, and before it is gone completely from mind I am in the mood to reflect on moms. Motherhood sure takes some unusual forms in our culture, doesn’t it? How will the 14 kids of Nadya Denise Doud-Suleman Gutierrez, a.k.a. the Octomom, turn out? How will Angelina Jolie’s international adoptions turn out? Would Madonna be a good adoptive parent for an African child?
One of my favorite “characters” in the Bible is Jochebed, who was simultaneously Moses’ mom and great-aunt (her name in Hebrew would have sounded something like “Yo-KHEV-ed”). She had the misfortune to live in terrible times—delivering a male child in Egypt at the very time that the hostile Pharaoh (Thutmose I?) had initiated an imperial policy of universal infanticide upon the male children of his Israelite slave laborers.
Jochebed chose to give up her son in order to save his life—probably just about the hardest thing any woman could ever do. She did it twice—one time in the famous little papyrus boat and again after she had performed as hired wet nurse. She had to witness another woman now calling the boy “her” son, giving him another name. Perhaps in heaven we’ll learn what Jochebed originally had called her little boy.
Jochebed’s heartbreaking but courageous story reminds me of some other Jewish women who chose to give up their children. A recent Hallmark TV movie told the story of Irena Sendlerowa, a Polish Christian nurse with access to the Warsaw ghetto from 1940-43. Under the pretense of conducting typhus inspections she managed to smuggle over 2,500 Jewish children out of the ghetto, but only by persuading their mothers to give them up. How amazing that it took 60 years for the story to surface. Irena and Jochebed may not be well known, but their courage and self-sacrifice are an inspiration to all who learn of them.
Are there some quiet mother heroes in your family?
Straight talk. Real hope.