Growing up, I recall that one of my favorite Yomim Tovim was Shavuos. While my father and older brother went to Shul to study Torah for an entire night, I remained home with my mother and helped her make the blintzes for tomorrow’s lunch.
Making blintzes was no easy task. It required a special kind of double whisk which you cranked by hand. (If you still have one of these contraptions, take it to your nearest antique dealer, it’s probably worth a fortune!)
I had the great honor of cranking the egg whites and the eggs and folding them into the flour mixture. My mother would gently pour the batter into the buttered frying pan with such finesse that the sotile crèpe (A.K.A. the “bletalach”), would be translucent, and you could actually read through them.
I imagined that my mother’s recipe was authentically preserved from antiquity, and that the first batch was probably made by Mrs. Moses herself, at the foot of Mt. Sinai!
Those family recipes were more than just food for the body. They, in a way, preserved the very spiritual nature of the holiday. They came to embody the holidays and define them.
When my mother was ultimately forced into retirement by old age some years ago, the holidays were simply never the same. Sure I continue to enjoy blintzes, and cheese cake on Shavuos, but they are just not my mother’s blintzes and cheese cake!
Rabbi Soloveitchik was fond of saying that his father taught him the laws of Shabbat, but the essence of Shabbat, its special flavor, its unique glow, the sheer joy of Shabbat – that, he learned from his mother.
Interestingly, the month of May also celebrates Mother’s Day. This Shavuot, let us take pause and remember our mothers, and their sacred contribution to our very beings.