The Power of Memory

There is something powerful about Memory. Memory is the greatest gift of the mind, the greatest miracle of being created in God’s image. We are able to remember and bring ourselves back to a particular place in time. We remember the bitter and the sweet, the joyous and the mournful. 

In response to the Torah’s command to remember, I recently wrote the following on the website Jewishvaluesonline.org:

“It is then no surprise that the book of Devarim is filled with commands to remember – to ignite memories within ourselves about all that God has done for us, all that we have done (both positive and negative,) and all that tried to destroy us throughout our history… [These] remembrances not only ensure that we are connected to our past. They also ensure that we remember the good and the bad, the miracles as well as the events that leave us questioning “why?” Remembering both allows us to connect to our past and make sense of the present.”

The Israeli Government made the decision that that Yom Hashoah, Holocaust Remembrance Day, is observed on the 27th day of Nisan. However, we are also taught that we cannot begin such a mournful day immediately after the joy of Shabbat. So if the 27th of the Hebrew month of Nisan is a Saturday night, then we postpone and observe Yom Hashoah, as we do on this day, and observe it on Sunday night and Monday. While we acknowledged Yom Hashoah and mourned together as a community at the Holocaust Memorial service and program yesterday at the Jacksonville Jewish Center, today, on Yom Hashoah, we take the time to remember.
We remember so that we never forget. We remember to ensure that such tragedy never happens again. We remember to acknowledge that this world is imperfect, that hate exists, and that only we can put an end to hate. We remember so that so many million innocent men, women, and children murdered just because they were deemed “different,” just because they were Jewish, are not forgotten. We remember because there are so many who have no one to say Kaddish for them. We remember because it is easy to remember the blessings, but important that we also remember the darkest moments in history. As theologian and social activist Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel (of blessed memory) taught: “We are not all guilty, but we are all responsible.”
Remembering reminds us of our responsibility, of our obligation, to stand up to hate. We remember to ensure that such hate and such genocide will never happen again. We also remember to ensure that never again will the world stay silent, will WE stay silent as hate spreads throughout the world. Together with the Middle School students of the Martin J. Gottlieb Day School, we are visitng the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum today in Washington D.C. This museum is a reminder to “Never Forget” and a promise of “Never Again.”
Let the memories of the six million Jews – and eleven million innocent lives – murdered by the Nazis be for a blessing. May we always remember and may such memory always bring us to tears, and ultimately lead us to action.

– Rabbi Jesse M. Olitzky

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