Celebrating The Chutzpah of Crazy Jewish Moms

Confession: following Crazy Jewish Mom on Instagram is one of my social media guilty pleasures.

Kate Seigel created the account just a few months ago, and already has nearly half a million followers. On it, Kate shares “daily posts of actual texts with my neurotic, Jewish mother,” screen shots of her Mom’s hysterical (in both senses of the word) concerns about Kate’s safety (she lives in Brooklyn), her weight (hit the gym already), and most frequently, about Kate’s PROSPECTS.

254769CB00000578-0-image-m-51_1422906021199

Despite the fact that Kate has a job (she works as an associate producer at Conde Naste) and has a boyfriend (Superjew), her Crazy Jewish Mom is relentless in her zeal to see Kate married to a Jewish guy with Money Prospects; preferably a doctor. So she can have babies. Stat. Because, at 25, Kate’s eggs are catapulting towards their expiry date and She. Wants. Grandchildren.

254769C700000578-0-image-m-60_1422906243749

enhanced-25673-1421959179-14-1

screen-shot-2015-01-29-at-8-30-34-am

My husband caught me wheezing with laughter late one night, and asked what was going on. I showed him the Crazy Jewish Mom account, which he immediately ruled out as being a fake. Surely no-one could be that crazy? But Spiegel insists that the texts are legit, and Heavy recently ran an expose on the mother’s identity.

I’ll admit that Crazy Jewish Mom’s texts seem alarmingly Over The Top: I can’t imagine my own Mom ever sending me anything in the same vein, but as I’ve been thinking over Crazy Jewish Mom, I’m reminded that what this Crazy Mama wants is remarkably recognizable: she wants her child to marry well and have children. She wants her to be safe. And if she has to call up her Crazy Side to make it happen, she’s willing to do it.

Crazy Jewish Mom may be a one of a kind Instagram sensation, but she is one in a very long line of sensational Jewish moms whose behavior may have seemed crazy at the time, but was borne out of love. One of the first Jewish moms in history, Rebekah, pioneered the path of crazy mama-bearness as she orchestrated for her favored son Jacob to receive his father’s deathbed blessing rather than his brother. The deception involved tricking a hearty stew and dressing smooth-skinned Jacob in goat’s fleece, so that their near-blind father would mistake him for his significantly hairier sibling. “Obey me,” hustled Rebekah, “so that he may bless you before his death,” (v10), and when Jacob protests she accepts full responsibility: “your curse be on me, my son; only obey my voice, and go.” (v13)

Anything, anything, to secure a blessed future for her darling boy.

Just a few generations later, Tamar worked up a highly sketchy plan when her Father-in-law, Judah, reneged on his promise to give her, a widow twice over, a third son by whom she could bear children and continue the family line. Knowing that Judah had no intention of giving her a Sperminator, she took matters into her own hands and stationed herself dressed as a prostitute along one of Judah’s trade routes. (She may as well have been following CJM’s advice: No ring on finger? Do not linger!)

Not recognizing her, Tamar’s Father-in-law propositioned her, and she secured his signet ring and staff as a downpayment for the fee which he promised later. Months went by, and Judah heard that his widowed daughter-in-law was pregnant (SCANDAL!), and sent for her to be stoned to death for her infidelity. Instead, she sent a note. With a signet ring and staff. “Remember these?” was the message.

Judah’s verdict on the situation is stunning: “She is more righteous than I,” he concludes (v26). He knew he owed her a family, and had failed to do so. And so, Tamar too, joined the ranks of famous Crazy Jewish Mamas, giving birth to twins by Judah.

I don’t think a discussion of Crazy Jewish Moms would be respectable unless we also made mention of Naomi, the Crazy Jewish Mother-in-Law, who herself showed something of a flare for the dramatic: “Don’t call me Naomi (which means pleasant)!” she cries in her grief. “Call me Mara (which means bitter), because the Almighty has made me bitter.” I’m so sad I’m changing my name.

However, her screaming soon gives way to scheming, and when Ruth providentially finds herself scouring a neighbors field for left-over food, Naomi is quick to point out that this neighbor is in a position to be more than a little neighborly towards them, as he is in fact Boaz: a relative who can bail them out of their situation. This, then, is the plan she suggests to guileless Ruth: take a bath, dress up fancy, put on perfume, and then wait until after the work party when Boaz is sleepy and full of wine and passes out on a pile of wheat on the threshing floor. Then sneak up to him in the dark, and uncover his feet (and here, read Jewish for “feet”, which means “nether regions”). When he wakes up, coaches Naomi, he’ll tell you what to do.

I’ll bet.

Crazy. Jewish. Mom.

Each of them careful, clever, and risking all to secure the best future for their children. Each of them wanting their children to receive the full blessings of Abraham’s promises.

Jesus had some crazy Jewish grandmothers: Rebekah, Tamar and Naomi’s schemes all gave them featured spots in the Messiah’s genealogy. And so it seems to me that there’s something innately blessed about that heritage of Crazy Jewish Moms: seeking the best for their children, and God being able to redeem the crazy in surprisingly wonderful ways.

Of course, not all ambitious moms were so honored. Samuel and Kings tell of a host of crazy Jewish moms who hatched EVIL plots to bump off contesters for the throne so that their sons might be king (I suppose these days, if you substitute “Cornell Plastic Surgeon” for “King” you might see some parallels), and Jesus himself had that famous conversation with James and John’s mom who came over to quietly negotiate a “spot in glory on his right and his left” for her two boys.

Maternal ambition doesn’t get a free pass on the crazy.

But I do think God knows that Moms have a soft spot for doing what we can to see that our children have every opportunity, and miss no blessing. And I am mindful that, on this side of history where the blessings of Abraham have been fulfilled in Jesus and are passed down to all those who are of his “seed” by faith, that wheedling to make sure our kids are best positioned for a full life remains part of my job as a Mom.

Of course, that has nothing to do with introducing them to a man with an Ivy League education, and everything to do with introducing them to Jesus. Even if that means crazy things like reading them the same book at bedtime year after year after year, being nosy about who they date, and insisting that they go to church.

Because I want them to have the very best prospects for the future, I’m embracing a little Crazy Jewish Mom in me, too.