Rabbi Marc Gellman writes about religion for Newsday.
I'm not a big fan of secular, made-up holidays, but Mother's Day is different. I love Mother's Day, and tomorrow I will call my mother, Rosalie, in Milwaukee and tell her that I love her. She'll tell me that she loves me and thank me for the fruit. I know Mom would love me without the fruit, but I also know that she loves me just a little more with the fruit.
If your mother is no longer alive, I join you in praying for her soul in heaven. Pray hard, think about what was the most important life lesson your mother ever taught you, then write to me and tell me what it was. Then go eat some fruit.
My Mother's Day gift to you is a true story I heard last week at the unveiling of a monument stone in a cemetery for a wonderful woman named Frances Szmulewicz (pronounced Szmulewicz!). Frances is buried next to her beloved husband, Harry Szmulewicz.
Their daughter, Ruth Broitman, told this terrific story at their graves. She graciously gave me permission to tell it to you, in honor of Mother's Day.
One spring day, Frances said to her husband, "Harry! We are Americans now, and I want you to send me a Mother's Day card. You never send me any cards, and here in America they send cards to their mothers and their wives if they are also mothers. I want you to go out yourself to the store, and I want that you should pick out a Mother's Day card for me yourself."
Harry was in a panic because he was clueless about how to buy a Mother's Day card. He had no idea where to buy such a card or what one looked like or what to write in it. Harry ran a carpentry shop, and he asked Mr. Miller, one of his employees, to help him.
Mr. Miller was happy to help Harry, who was not only his employer but also his friend, so he went out on his lunch hour, found a Mother's Day card, bought the card, filled out the card, put it in the envelope, licked it closed and gave it to Harry, who presented it to his wife, Frances, on the morning of Mother's Day. Frances smiled and before opening the card, gave Harry a hug and said, "Now, that's better! Harry, today you are a real American." That card was placed in the corner of the dining room mirror, and every time Ruth would pass it she would read it and smile and laugh the way Frances smiled and laughed.
The card read: "For Frances Szmulewicz.
Happy Mother's Day from Your husband, Harry Szmulewicz."
QWhy are there so many different Christian denominations? God is God, and Jesus is Jesus, so no one denomination is better than another, yet churches often don't behave that way.
-- T., via email
AThe first reason for the differences in Christian belief occurred in the first century following the death of Christ, when the Apostle Paul split off from the Jerusalem church by teaching that Christians no longer had to observe Jewish law, such as keeping kosher.
The next big split came during the Reformation in the 16th century, when Martin Luther and other Christians split off from the Catholic Church, primarily over the authority of the Pope. In the 20th century, there was another split among mainline and evangelical Protestants.
The reason these splits occurred is that Christianity is a religion defined by belief, not by birth. If you are born a Jew, a Hindu or a Native American, you are automatically a member of that ethnic/ historical/theological community, whether you believe everything or none of the religious teachings of the group.
Christianity and Islam are different. They define membership in the religious community based on belief, therefore these groups are more susceptible to schisms and denominational disputes.
I would urge you to look beyond the divisions to the broad areas of agreement among all Christian denominations: All Christians believe that Jesus died to atone for the sins of all humanity. All Christians believe that God is one, but that God appears in the triune form of the Trinity: Father, Son and Holy Spirit. All Christians believe that Jesus was the Messiah and that he will come again to save the world and resurrect the dead.
What joins Christians is, I hope you can come to believe, far more important than what divides them.