2011-03-04 / Columnists

Point of View

“The Rabbi’s Personal Column”
by Rabbi Allan Blaine
Temple Beth-El, Rockaway Park

Many years ago, an eminent jurist was asked, “Can you forgive and forget?” His reply was, “Forgive, perhaps, but if you ask me to forget, you rob me of a vital part of my existence, my memory.”

Every human being, in the course of his lifetime, reacts to various experiences. These experiences, as they are recalled to consciousness, become memories. The mark of a person is in the memories he selects to perpetuate.

Joseph, the Biblical figure, is an excellent example. Sold into slavery as a child by his brothers, his memory patterns could easily have led him to become an embittered, revengeful man. Instead, when confronting his helpless brothers years later, he embraces and forgives them. The memory he selected to perpetuate was that of family provider, not of avenger of old wrongs.

Just as the role of memory is vital in shaping personal life, so too is it a determining factor in national existence. The memories a nation chooses to perpetuate and the manner in which it recalls past experiences shape its destiny and many times alter the course of world affairs. Think how different the Middle East might be if the defeat in 1948 had led the Arabs to realistically assess their position, rethink their philosophy, and rebuild their national character. A rich Arab/Jewish symbiosis with an eventual fructification of national Arab life might have taken place. Instead, bitter memories of revenge and retribution have blighted Arab life for almost one-quarter of a century.

When Germany lost the First World War it looked into its past for reassurance of its greatness. It selected memories of pagan gods, of demons, blood feuds and Wagnerian heroes. The German people identified themselves with memories of a legendary world of barbarism, violence, blood and nobility of death. Is it any wonder that these memories eventually molded the brutal character of the Nazis?

Normative Judaism throughout its history consciously and deliberately chose to perpetuate and accentuate memories which place in bold relief the basic principles of Judaism. The great lawgiver, Moses, implanted within his people the unforgettable memory of slavery in Egypt so that the Jew would always recall his humble origins and empathize with the less fortunate. For the Jew the memory of the destruction of the Temple thousands of years ago became part of every aspect of Jewish ceremonial life, at the joyous wedding ceremony in the breaking of the glass, in the house of mourning with the recall of “Avele Tzion – mourners of Zion and Jerusalem.” The manner in which the Jew remembered this moment in the past gave him hope, faith and optimism in the eventual rebuilding of Israel and return to Jerusalem.

On the Sabbath which directly precedes Purim, the Jew reads a passage in the Bible in which he recalls the cowardly attack of the Amalakites on the children of Israel. This is called Shabbat Zachor, or the Sabbath of Remembrance. The architects of our people consciously selected this memory to perpetuate not in order to brood on the evil and treachery in man, but rather to teach the need of fighting, Zecher Amalek the seeds of hatred in every generation symbolized by Amalek and Haman. The Rabbis were realistic enough to know that one must hate tyrants and tyranny, slums and war, poverty and the ravages of illness before one can love peace, freedom, health and happiness.

The Jew remembers and because he remembers, the Jewish people live.



Saturday night, March 19th
7:30 P.M. promptly – Main Temple

Megillah Reading – Refreshments – Supperette
Concert: Cantor Wolk with his acoustical guitar
Dancing – Raffles – Children’s Costumes

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