Parashat Ki Tetze
Remember! Don't Forget!
The many commandments in Judaism relating to remembering both positive and negative experiences motivate us to work towards redemption.
The act of "not remembering" also seems to be important. Danny Siegel reminds us that the Torah instructs us, here and elsewhere (Leviticus 19:9–10), to leave a portion of the harvest behind for the poor and the stranger. Do you need to be reminded to do the right thing? What reminds you to leave "the edges of your field" (Leviticus 19:9) for the less fortunate?
The root of the Hebrew verb for "remember," z.ch.r, begins with the letter zayin. In The Book of Letters, Rabbi Kushner links the themes of memory and redemption. Do you feel that there is a connection between the two? What is it?
The act of remembering recurs throughout Judaism: Our calendar is full of remembrances from our past. The pinnacle is, of course, Pesach. On Pesach we remember the time: we were freed at midnight; the consciousness: we are told that each of us should feel as if he or she were freed from slavery in Egypt; and even the menu: we eat specific foods at the seder meal.
It should be apparent, however, that we Jews don't stop there, content with our happy memories of past triumphs and prior journeys. Our memories shape us and guide our mission to build a better world. Our memories of bondage should remind us to wipe out slavery and to treat all people with dignity. Our memories of leaving the corners of our fields untouched should remind us to take care of "the stranger, the fatherless, and the widow" both within and outside our community. Our memories of Amalek should remind us of our role to blot out evil in the world.
Ours is an active existence: We do not live in a state of forgetfulness or "forgottenness" but in a state of memory and consciousness that induces us to seek to make the world a better place. By doing so, we help realize the Baal Shem Tov's words that "in remembrance lies the secret of redemption."
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