The tradition of Mother’s Day flowers began with Anna Jarvis, the woman who successfully petitioned Woodrow Wilson to make it into an official holiday (which he did in 1914). To honor her mother’s memory, she wore a white carnation. It became the tradition to bring one’s mother a pink carnation or, if one’s mother was no longer living, to wear a white carnation.  In time, this tradition expanded to full bouquets, cards of poetry and small gifts.

To the discussion of Mother’s Day, Jewish Treats would like to note that Jewish tradition does not set aside one particular day to honor either parent, as it is expected that honoring and appreciating (and even revering) one’s parents be part of everyday life.

It is interesting to note that perhaps one of the earliest written records of a mother receiving flowers from her child takes place in the book of Genesis. “And Reuben went in the days of wheat harvest, and found duda’eem (mandrakes) in the field, and brought them to his mother Leah” (Genesis 30:14). This act, in and of itself, is little commented on by the scholars. It is noted that even as a young boy, Reuben was careful only to take an ownerless plant. These duda’eem are best known for the fact that Leah gave them to Rachel in return for having Jacob come to her tent that night.

Similarly, within the Book of Proverbs (31:10-31) is a 21-verse poem known as Aishet Chayil, “The Woman of Valor,” which is traditionally sung at the Shabbat table on Friday nights. Among the several different understandings of these verses, it has been suggested that they were written by King Solomon as a tribute to his mother, Batsheba.

Copyright © 2012 National Jewish Outreach Program. All rights reserved.

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