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My Mother Always Told Me

Fifty readers share the gems their mothers imparted

Mothers offered the best advice — even if we weren’t always open to accepting it. But years, or even decades later, those pithy lines echo in our heads and impact our actions. Fifty readers share the gems their mothers imparted

Congratulations to G.R. from Monsey, NY, who won our drawing


“When you have good news to share, tell your mother-in-law first.”

— Sorala, Southfield, MI


“Always cook a little extra, you never know when a meshulach (collector) may pop in.”

— Shulamith Katz, Lakewood, NJ


“Never leave a bottle of oil uncovered.”

— R.W.


“Her shoes must be too tight.”

That’s what my mother would say whenever someone would say something hurtful to me. She meant that people only speak that way because they’re unhappy or pained about something in their own life.

— S.L., Lakewood, NJ


“Your frustration is coming from unrealistic expectations.”

My mother was nifteres seven years ago, but I still hear her voice in my head.  When I was raising my young children, I’d often call her in frustration over the fact that they weren’t doing what they should be doing and that things weren’t happening the way I would have liked them to happen. For example, the house was messy, they didn’t get to bed on time, their teachers complained about their behavior. You get the picture.

My mother would say, “You’re raising young kids. They’re not perfect human beings. You’re feeling so frustrated because you have unrealistic expectations of yourself and your children.” It’s amazing how this one comment totally calmed me down, and continues to calm me down whenever I feel my frustration level rising.

— Surie Reich, Brooklyn, NY


“To remove grease, rinse your dishes with soap and hot water  —as hot as you can handle (it helps to wear gloves). To get a bad smell out, rinse with cold water and soap.”

Whether I have a fishy, garlicky, or spoiled smell, in glass, plastic or any other material, this trick works. Every. Single. Time. Thanks, Ma!

— Sorala, Southfield, MI


“Introduce yourself to others upon greeting them, especially those older than you, so they don’t have to recall who you are and be embarrassed if they can’t.”

I couldn’t understand this when I was younger, but did it anyway. I got thanked for it all the time, and I always attributed it to my mother.

— Batsheva F., Lakewood, NJ


“If you don’t bend, you break!”

— Chanie Meisels, Williamsburg, NY


“Never let your siddur get dusty.”

— Ciri Szydlo, Melbourne, Australia

(In memory of Breindel Brody a”h)


“Dress according to the weather, not the season!”

— Miriam Berkowitz, Brooklyn, NY


“No questions, no comments.”

My totally devoted and very wise mother, she’tichyeh, taught us the number one rule of bein adam l’chaveiro in those four brief words.

When you meet new people, don’t ask how many children they have… perhaps they’re being tested with the nisayon of infertility. Don’t ask why their child is in public school… perhaps he has special needs that can’t be serviced in a yeshivah. Don’t ask about someone’s marital status, even if someone is wearing a sheitel. Don’t ask how many children they’ve married off… perhaps they’re struggling to make shidduchim. Don’t ask what they or their spouse does for a living… perhaps they’re struggling financially or are out of a job.

If we live by “no questions, no comments,” we can spare each other much unnecessary pain and increase our sensitivity to the challenges we all face.

— Mrs. Michal Horowitz, Woodmere, NY


“Bring Shabbos in with calmness and warmth, even if it means freezing food or buying takeout.”

Your children won’t remember the homemade food as much as they will remember the tranquility in the home.

— T.F., Far Rockaway, NY


“Never stand when you can sit!”

My mother a”h always said that. I still adhere to that advice.

— Miriam Nussbaum, Pomona, NY


“I wish I was as nervous before Shabbos Shuvah as I am before Shabbos Hagadol.”

— Hindy (Erlich) Kviat, Brooklyn, NY


“If something smells too good while it’s baking, it’s usually burning.”

— Shulamis B., NJ


“You don’t have to say yes to every favor someone asks of you, but if you do say yes, do it graciously and with a smile.”

— Mrs. Chaviva Pfeiffer, Kew Gardens, NY

Rabbi Avrohom Krohn, Waterbury, CT

Mrs. Faige Kramer, Baltimore, MD

Mrs. Elisheva Perlstein, Far Rockaway, NY

Rabbi Eliezer Krohn, Passaic, NJ


“Hold it from the bottom!”

My mother always called that out when we were lifting a grandchild, a grocery bag, or garbage. Sometimes she’d add, “When they carry me out after 120, you’ll hear me calling that out.”

Alas, that day came much sooner than expected, 50 years short of the 120, and as my sisters and I stood at the cemetery and watched her aron being carried, we looked at each other and somehow some chuckles began to mingle with our sobs. We received some disapproving looks, but we knew that our mother had left us a wonderful legacy: the ability to find humor even in the most difficult situation.

— Chaya (Rosenzweig) Taub, RBS Gimmel, Israel


“If you’re riding in someone else’s coach, don’t make him wait.”

— Miriam Stark Zakon, Jerusalem


Men leebt nisht far anderen, ober in a jungle leebt men vater ooch nisht. We don’t live for others, but we don’t live in a jungle, either.”

In other words, dare to be yourself, you don’t have to be just like everyone else… yet don’t forget that at the end of the day you’re still part of a society. This is something I keep in mind all the time, especially when making important decisions.

— Hindy Lemmel-Zohori, Yerushalayim – Antwerp, Belgium


“Be nice to everyone because you never know, one day you might be related.”

— E. Sassoon, Yerushalayim


“Just throw yourself into bed; everything will look brighter in the morning!”

As a young married mom, I’d lie awake and agonize over and analyze things that worried me, replaying all the possible scenarios, until my mother said that line to me. Those late-evening worries are always the worst; everything seems so overwhelming. In the morning, everything will seem more manageable. Now that I have married kids, I find myself telling them that.

— Joanne Lorkis, Oak Park, MI


Lo ke esta ariento de la supa, solo la kutchara ke lo menea, lo sabe. Only the spoon that stirs the soup knows what’s in it.”

My mother always reminded us not to make assumptions (good or bad) or judgments about how others handle their challenges. They have “insider” information on the ins and outs of the challenge. I repeat the expression often… in English.

— Esther Cohen, Toronto, Canada


“The prettiest thing you can wear is your gorgeous smile.”

I was a teen, and then an adult who loved to wear pretty clothes, have my hair done nicely, and dab on a light touch of makeup. Whenever she saw me getting ready, my mother said that line to me. Now, many years later, I’ve repeated that to myself many times, especially when I attended weddings post-birth and I wasn’t yet back to my pre-pregnancy weight. It held true again and again! Thanks, Ma.

— S.F.


“When feeding solids to a baby, always give him or her another spoon to hold.”

— Chaya S., Lakewood, NJ


“Just TRY IT ON!”

— Lea Pavel, Lawrence, NY


“Use Bon Ami on everything from shining pots to polishing silver and everything in between.”

Kids colored on the table? Sprinkle some Bon Ami on the stain, wet a paper towel, and scrub! Stainless steel looks grungy? Sprinkle on some Bon Ami, wet a paper towel and scrub! It’s a staple in my home!

— Ahuva Herman, Baltimore, MD


“Children who seem to deserve our love the least are the ones who need it the most.”

My mother received that advice from our pediatrician and passed it along to us.

— Dena Mayerfeld, Passaic, NJ


“You can’t take something away from someone until you’ve replaced it with something else.”

— Leah F., Melbourne, Australia


“Don’t talk on the phone while you’re eating. Take the time for yourself and enjoy your meal.”

— Miriam Berkowitz, Brooklyn, NY


“No stage lasts too long.”

My mother-in-law gave me this piece of advice, and I utilized it often. I’d share the trials and travails of the terrible twos… and threes… and fours…. and she’d respond with that line.

(I shared this with my co-worker when she complained about her son’s difficult behaviors, and she came back to me to tell me I was right. The hard stage passed… and the good ones did, too.)

— C. Finkel, Yerushalayim


“Don’t do that! I don’t have time to go to the hospital today!”

— Chaya S., Lakewood, NJ


“Don’t criticize someone if you can’t do it better.”

— Chavi Gold, Brooklyn, NY


“Use many different colored vegetables when making a salad, the colorfulness makes those who are down happy.”

For many years my mother used to make vegetable salad for a bikur cholim organization. We were peeling vegetables together when she made that comment. It has stuck with me throughout my life. A person can do chesed because it’s a nice thing to do, and they need to fill the daily quota, or they can do a chesed and put their heart and soul into it because they truly love their fellow Yid.

— Leebi, Monsey, NY


“If you’re putting something away, just take those few extra steps to put it in the right place.”

This is a quotable quote from my mother, Betty Goldberg, which taught me to be conscientious and diligent in all my actions.

— A. Goldberg, Boca Raton, FL


“If you’ve looked for something in the place where it was supposed to be, and you didn’t find it, look again.”

In my house we call this “Bubby’s rule,” and whenever one of the kids (or myself) can’t find something, we invoke Bubby’s rule, and almost always she’s right.

— Sara Cohen, Yerushalayim


“It’s never too late to say thank you or give positive feedback.”

I learned this from my mother. If you missed showing appreciation to the rebbe/morah on the last day of school, send a thank you in the summer. No one ever returned a thank you or compliment to you because it came too late.

— S. K.


“Let your husband help you.”

My mother told me this when I had my first baby. She said I don’t need the help now, but one day im yirtzeh Hashem I will need help with things like diapering or bathing a young baby. And I can’t expect him to know what to do then if he doesn’t learn along the way.

— R.B., Cleveland, OH


“When there’s a restroom, USE IT. You don’t know where the next one will be.”

Those were my mother’s parting words when I went to seminary. Needless to say, this was wise advice.

— K.S.


Loz nisht kein agmas nefesh gein veiter fun dem knepl. Never let aggravation get past this button…”

My mother used to say this whilst grasping her shirt button above her heart.

— D.W.


“Take an extra pair of clothing in your hand luggage and bring a lot of food with you.”

We used to travel a lot, and my mother told us this before each trip. This advice saved us so many times, when we were stuck somewhere overnight, or when we gave our extra food to a family with a six-week-old baby and no food or kosher meals on their next flight.

— Shaynee Herskowitz, Gateshead, UK


“If it’s important  to you, it’s important to me.”

— Malkie, Montreal, Quebec


“Life is too short for faribels.”

My mother a”h never, ever got into petty fights with people, never held grudges. That line she used to say really encapsulated her attitude.

— M. Green, Yerushalayim


“Add sugar to compote, fish, or tomato sauce dishes after it has come to a boil and cooked a little already. It usually needs much less sugar that way.”

— Gitty Rapaport, Monsey, NY


“Draw a line in the sand and move on!’’

— E.M.


“If someone offers you help and you need it, accept it graciously. Sometimes we’re on the giving end and sometimes we’re on the receiving end.”

— M.F.


“Don’t wait for a phone call.”

If you want to speak to someone, call him or her. My mother regularly keeps up with lots of family and friends without getting calls in return, and it doesn’t bother her at all.

— Liz Rothstein, Baltimore, MD


(Originally featured in Family First, Issue 813)

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