“Mamma knows best” – the cliché that haunts you every time you find yourself engaging in verbal war with your mother. What makes anybody think that a mother could possibly know best? She could know something, or know well, but for her to know best seems a bit ambitious don’t you think? Let’s talk about one kind of mother in particular – the Jewish mother. We’ve all heard the stereotypes; we all understand what embodies the “sMother” and how she operates, right? She’s overbearing and incredibly difficult to deal with. She nags; she is controlling; she constantly sticks her nose in everybody else’s business; she is overprotective; she infantilizes her children well beyond the time they reach adulthood. Essentially, relative to American familial hegemonies, the prototypical Jewish mother served to raise her children in an abnormal manner.
Personally, I was raised by a Persian-Jewish mother, which is a whole other phenomenon. My mother definitely fits into the stereotype of the typical Jewish mother, but not in the way you would assume. My mother is the single most incredible human being on this planet. She is a certified “boss lady” and she totally runs the show – both at home and professionally. She is both bad cop and good cop; she kills others with kindness like a Persian, female Bruce Lee. My mother has this way of asserting authority, expressing disappointment, and suggesting a fitting solution all in the same breath, and with the most tact possible. I tell her all the time that she’s a superhero, because I literally cannot comprehend how one human could, on his best day, accomplish half of what she does on her worst. I hold my mother in the highest regard, and although she sometimes drives me absolutely insane, I hope to one day be for my kids exactly what she has been for my sister and I – and I feel this way, not in spite of, but because of the way she fits into the stereotype of the sMother.
Here are the five stereotypical qualities in her that most prove sMother knows best:
1. She Pays Attention
No matter how busy she is she finds time to smother you. She is constantly asking you what you’ve eaten and whether it was enough; when you went where with who; and why you aren’t dressed warm enough for the evening time, even though it’s 80 degrees outside right now. She notices when you neglect to brush your hair and tells you that you look homeless every time she sees you in anything that has begin to fade. She knows when something’s wrong with you and one way or another, she’ll figure out what has been bothering you by the end of the night. She’s nosey, but not in a gossip-hungry kind of way.
2. She’s Always 10 Steps Ahead of You
It doesn’t matter how different you think it was when she was your age, you’re wrong. She has experienced every hormonal, romance-related, identity-revealing conundrum you’re living right now in her own way at her own time – she gets it, and she can get you through it. She is not concerned with what will be the most fun for you right now – which no doubt, can sometimes make her seem like an absolute monster whose goal is to ruin everything – because every decision she makes with regard to both herself and you are solely based on what is in your best interest long-term. She looks toward the future and conditions you to do the same. She rags on your high school boyfriend because let’s face it, he sucks, and although you haven’t quite figured out how you deserve to be treated yet, she has. She teaches you how to expect more and accept less both for yourself and from yourself; she never allows you to settle.
3. She Leads by Example
She knows the most effective way to lead is by example. She expects excellence by way of maximum effort, which is justified by her achievements and work ethic. She shows you how to carry yourself and how to treatothers. She has got it all together and even though she can come across as total show off and it can all be a bit much at times – I mean honestly, how could anyone ever actually be that presentable all the time – you’re glad to have such a flawless illustration of grace and hospitability to follow.
4. She Values Honesty
She is brutally honest with you because she knows that what you don’t know actually does hurt you. She calls you out, always, for every seemingly insignificant thing you somehow find a way to screw up. She reminds you that being a slacker will get you nowhere when she sees that you’re not doing your best; and she makes you change before leaving the house when you’re not aesthetically enticing enough to impress your potential Prince Charming, incase you happen to run into him at the store. She’s annoying, but it’s okay because all of her critiques come from the most loving place possible, and she pushes you to be the best version of yourself in all facets.
5. She Has What You Want
She is a functioning adult with a family. She may not have everything you want, she may not have attained her goals in the way you hope to attain yours, her goals may not even be remotely similar to yours, but she is well put together and she has a life. She is family oriented and deeply involved in the lives of her loved ones. She overextends herself and is received well by others as a result. She has impacted many lives in simple and significant ways – she makes a difference, just like you want to. Fundamentally, she is at least part of what you aspire to be, so she must have done something right.
It’s true, Jewish mothers are generally more involved than most – they really do criticize and nitpick and smother constantly, but the reason for the overwhelming negative connotation with regard to these qualities is something that I don’t understand. On the surface, these things seem exasperating, but in reality, when you think deeply about the stereotypical characteristics of Jewish mothers, you come to realize that these are rare and favorable traits. Jewish mothers are the foundation of their families; they hold everything and everyone together, and their initial instincts are always to serve others. Jewish mothers inundate their children with both grief and affection because they care more about their offspring than anything else in the world; they deny us of instant gratification, because they know that sustainable happiness is worth much more; they nag about appearance and tableside manner, because they know that in the future we will be the hosts and they want to be certain that we are prepared to entertain; they raise our awareness with regard to our shortcomings so that we can constantly grow and improve; Jewish mothers raise their children to be informed, caring, and selflessly selfish individuals who are prepared for anything at any time. We are so incredibly lucky to have them. I am so appreciative of every crazy culture driven thing my mother hassles me with, and I know that one day I will bother my kids with the same kibbitz. Getting schmaltzy? I apologize, but come on; our mothers are much less aggravating than they are astonishing – let’s give them some credit, eh?
How To Thrive On Yom Kippur: Three Tips For An Easier Fast
Yom Kippur, one of the most sacred Jewish Holidays of the year, is upon us. As much as we dread the idea of not eating for 25 full hours, it can be an inspiring time to engage in deep spiritual practice. Here are ways you can prepare yourself for the 25 hour fast. These pointers will help keep your stomach from grumblin’ and your breath from stankin’.
1) Cut down on the caffeine For all you coffee/tea lovers out there, your morning cup of caffeine is a must. In fact, some of you are quick to develop headaches/migraines if you don’t have that cup. What to do: Days preceding the fast, try to minimize your caffeine intake as much as possible. Try some herbal tisanes, perhaps. Hydrate. Hydrate. Hydrate. There is nothing better you can do for yourself than to drink. Stay away from alcohol; poppin’ bottles will only make you more prone to dehydration, causing unpleasantness during the fast.
2) Did I mention HYDRATION? The difficulty we experience during the fast is not usually linked to lack of food; rather, it is the lack of fluids. Best choices: You can never go wrong with the good ol’ H20. Experts suggest drinking EIGHT 8 oz cups of water per day. Try to reach that goal or even surpass it by drinking more the day of. Eat your way to hydration by eating up plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables that are naturally full of water. Some of the most hydrating foods include: Cucumber, iceberg lettuce, celery, grapes, tomatoes, watermelon, green peppers, and spinach, to name a few. A handful of these ingredients mixed together sounds like a delicious salad, no?
3) What to eat the day of? On the day of the fast try eating balanced meals. For the meal before the fast, eat a proper meal that includes protein, carbohydrates, and plenty of vegetables. Eating more carbohydrates will help make you feel fuller longer (you can never go wrong with potatoes, pasta, and bread). Try to avoid salty and spicy foods as much as possible. The over-consumption of salt causes thirst because the body requires more water to absorb the extra salt. Knowing that we won’t be able to eat for 25 hours drives us to eat as much as possible before the fast begins. However, do yourself a favor and try not to eat a heavy 5 course meal fit for a Prince. The more you eat, the more water is needed from the body to digest it.
Now, you are fully equipped to a have a meaningful fast! May we all be inSKRIBED and sealed in the Book of Life!
High Collars, High Holidays
Never in a million years did I think I would be fond of the ‘high collar’, also known as the ‘turtle neck.’ I still cringe everytime I hear the name. I remember my mom making me wear them when it got cold outside… But hello, we live in Los Angeles. When does it get cold?
Dressing already modestly, by covering my knees, elbows (song playing in my head), the thought of covering my full neck is like dude, can I show any skin!? It almost felt like I was covering too much, as if I couldn’t breathe! It is as if someone is choking and restricting my head!
Seeing this trend all over magazines and fashion blogs, I decided to give it another chance! Lo and behold… I fell in love. The choking high collar has NOW become my ultimate favorite thing. Just ask Judith, co-founder of our fashion line RaJu. I keep adding turtle necks to all our styles to the point where we’re almost tired of it. The high collar has a sense of class and elegance to it. It has personality, dimension and is more mysterious. Wearing this dress, with all of its details, print and ruffles, I felt like the high collar tied it all together. The high collar makes you of high end, it’s a luxury, a lifestyle. It forces you to carry yourself in a certain way by maintaining a straighter back and a better posture. Everything manifests differently because of this magical collar.
The high collars forces you to hold your head up high, like a princess. When I see someone wear it, it really adds a beautiful sense of royalty and confidence. As we come into the High Holidays (the Jewish New Year, Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur), a solemn time, a time for judgement and reflection, we must remember that we are all daughters and princesses of a king. Wear what you may, during these High Holidays… you know what I’ll be wearing!
Six Mindful Eating Tips for Your Body and Soul
The average person spends at least one hour a day eating. So by the age of 30, you’ve spent the equivalent of two years just putting food in your mouth. How can we make this a more pleasurable, productive and meaningful experience?
Traditional Jewish thought has much to say about what we eat, how we eat, when we eat, and even why we eat, and much of it is also recommended by modern scientists.
- Eat Hungry.
When was the last time you pulled over at a gas station to fill up your tank that was already full? Probably never. However, when was the last time you ate something when you weren’t hungry?
Checking your hunger gauge before popping in that random bite will allow you to keep your weight in check as well as build your self-control.
Going to your second event of the evening, already fed, and still have an urge to pop down some more food? Like the modern day nutritionists, King Solomon advises against the unnecessary consumption of food, saying “The righteous eat to satisfy their souls” (Proverbs 13:25).
- Sit Down.
Late to work? Running after the kids? Doing errands? No problem–it’s just not the best time to be chomping down your meal. Although it may save time, it’s a bad idea. The Talmud uses harsh terminology against those who eat while standing. The Rambam, in his magnum opus Mishneh Torah, says that one should never stand or walk while eating.
Modern day scientific research also claims that this kind of eating is fattening and unhealthy. In fact, there is even a diet based on this understanding, called ‘The Sit-Down Diet’, which suggests that we consume fewer calories when we eat sitting down versus while standing up or walking. We are also more likely to digest food better when we sit down and chew our food properly.
You’re hungry and sitting down to your meal, now recognize where the food comes from. Taking three seconds to acknowledge basic details of the culinary dish placed before you can set the tone for rest of the meal. Something as simple as verbally acknowledging the work of the cook, especially if it is a parent or spouse, can have a profound effect on your mood. Paying attention to all of the individual ingredients can make the experience even more tasty.
On a deeper level, every time any food is consumed, Jewish sources tell us one should recite a blessing of recognition prior to taking the first bite. A common misconception is that the blessing or bracha that is said before eating is a form of thanksgiving. This is not accurate; while the after-blessing of Birkat Hamazon clearly mentions the act of thanksgiving, the initial blessing makes no mention of thanks. It is a statement acknowledging that God is the Creator of the food (Blessed are you Hashem … Creator of ….).
- Remove Distractions
Imagine our reaction to someone in a movie theater who is on their phone half of the time. Would we have the same reaction to the ever-so-common sight of someone munching down an entire meal while consumed with an iPhone, TV or computer screen? One cannot fully enjoy a meal while answering emails or scrolling through their Facebook newsfeed.
Unlike many other religions whose ordinances promote abstinence from physical pleasures, Judaism incorporates the pleasure of eating in every one of its holidays. However, we rob ourselves of this enjoyment every time we mindlessly eat.
Don’t care about enjoyment? Distracted eating causes your digestion to be less effective in breaking down your food, leading to less flavor and increasing the possibility of bloating, gas and constipation. Trying to lose weight? Research shows that the more you distract yourself during a meal, the more pounds you add. Doing simple acts of mindfulness, such as paying attention to the smell, taste, appearance and texture of the food, can keep the focus on your meal.
- Chew, Swallow, Wait… Repeat.
Ever mindlessly wolf down a meal in one minute? Scarfing down an entire meal can leave you feeling disheartened, but it can also leave you with unwanted extra fat on your hips.
Taking your body off of autopilot mode while feasting has great spiritual benefits as well. In describing ways of going against animalistic eating habits, the great nineteenth-century Iraqi sage Rabbi Yosef Hayim, in his famous book, Ben Ish Hai, gives a recommendation that is sure to slow your scarf. He writes that one should not reach for the next bite until the previous bite has been completely swallowed.
Speaking from experience, this one tip is much easier said than done. However, once mastered, this habit is sure to leaving you feeling in control and elevated, especially if you take it to the next level and put down your utensil between bites.
Now that you’re satiated and your spirit is recharged, it’s time for some thanksgiving (without the turkey). Saying thanks is much harder when you have somewhere else you want to go. Maybe that’s why the only biblically ordained blessing is the Grace After Meals and not the blessing before the meal (Deuteronomy 8:10).
Being appreciative is a core Jewish value. In fact, Jews are called Yehudim from the word L’hodot, or to thank. Messages of appreciation are found in the stories of our forefathers and foremothers. Gratitude permeates the entire Jewish experience, from the first words that are uttered by our lips when we wake up in the morning, “Modeh Ani”, to the thrice-daily communal prayer service throughout the day.
Surprisingly, recently discovered side benefits of gratitude include improved health, increased self-esteem and even better sleep. Taking the extra minutes to appreciate our privileged satiated stomachs should now seem more meaningful and hopefully a little easier.
Although not practical for every meal, striving towards these goals should help us lead more meaningful, in-control and healthy lives. For what it is worth, I will personally vouch for it!
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