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Mad Libs and Mothers

Faigy Peritzman

What we need to achieve our tafkid is already within us

Wednesday, March 13, 2019


he Jews had light and joy, and gladness and honor” (Megillas Esther 8:16).

Chazal in Taanis (29a) tell us: “When Adar enters, we increase happiness.”


There are many facets to happiness. Rav Chaim Vital writes that the trait of sadness is rooted in the soul’s element of earth, whereas happiness comes from the element of fire. That’s why in the Megillah it states that the Jews had light (fire) and simchah, as they are dependent on each other.

How can we acquire the fire of happiness?

Man is all-inclusive. All middos, good and bad, are contained inside of us. When a person wants to acquire the middah of simchah, he may assume he needs to look externally to acquire it. But in actuality, he needs to look within himself and see how much of the middah he already utilizes and how much more he needs to find within himself to maximize his simchah. (Rav Itamar Schwartz, Bilvavi Mishkan Evneh)

Regardless of what your last name is, your children are born with the natural ability to find your areas of weakness. You could be the most accomplished and calm mom, and they’ll still find that one little detail where you’re lacking and hassle you about it.

It’s like Mothering Mad Libs. Have your kids fill in the blanks:

“Everyone else in my class has a [noun, something expensive] except for me!”

“A [p.m. hour] bedtime is ridiculous!”

“No one else’s mother forces them to [verb] every day!”

These direct hits translate in your brain to mean: “You are a [adjective, something negative] mother!”

Chazal say that we should first give gratitude for what we have, before we ask for what we need. This is the concept of having an “ayin tovah,” having a good eye and being happy with one’s lot. Once we’re used to focusing on the positive, then we realize how little we’re really missing; life is so full! Only then can we ask Hashem to fill in the small voids.

The Vilna Gaon said that this concept applies to our spirituality as well. Before you ask Hashem to help you accomplish more in ruchniyus, recognize how much you’ve already accomplished. When we take stock of how much we’ve grown, as opposed to how much we still need to grow, we’re filled with a sense of accomplishment. This galvanizes us to accomplish more.

Years ago (I refuse to disclose how many), we celebrated my 40th birthday with much pomp and ceremony. “Mommy,” my five-year-old said as he snuggled into my lap that night, “Are you one of those old people who don’t think they are old?”

Gotcha there, Mom!

Of course, I don’t think I’m old. Does that make me one of those old people? Help.

I tried diplomacy. “You know 40’s not that old,” I said. Diplomacy. It always fails.

“Of course it is! I told my friends how old you were and they didn’t even believe me!”

You don’t fight a whole class of five-year-olds. So let’s face it, I’m old. And that in turn makes me feel… creaky, has-been, and over the hill.

In any matter of avodas Hashem, whatever we need to achieve our tafkid is already within us. To illustrate, Rav Shimon Shkop said that in order to love others like yourself, you can’t do it by trying to access more love outside yourself. Rather, you expand your own love for yourself — which you already have in you — and then let it extend to others.

This applies to any aspect of avodas Hashem: learning, davening, purity, good middos. Everything is already in place inside of you to be utilized and maximized in your service of Hashem.

Instead of swallowing their complaints and criticisms hook, line, and sinker, I’ve learned to fill in my own answers.

Kids: “Why can’t we have [gourmet dish] like the Levys do? We have chicken every [day of week]!”

Me: “You don’t like gourmet and you do like chicken. Our suppers are healthy and taste [adjective, something positive].”

Kids: “This family is completely [adjective that indicates dysfunctionality]!”

Me: “Our family is energetic and fun and [positive adjective].”

Kids: “When I’m a mother, I’m never going to [verb, name of punishment]. And my house will always be [adjective that indicates superlative cleanliness].”

Me: “When you’re a mother, zeeskeit, I hope you realize, as I have, just how many unique qualities you possess to fill in your blanks.”

(Originally featured in Family First, Issue 634)

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