Locking into our collective long-term memory…writes Rabbi Chaim Ingram

May 30, 2017 by Rabbi Chaim Ingram
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One of the symptoms of growing old is forgetting what you did yesterday – and remembering with stark clarity something you did fifty years ago!

Rabbi Chaim Ingram

While we may regard the loss of short-term memory associated with ageing as an ailment and an affliction, it is also possible to view the removal of the ephemeral clutter and detritus of our minds as a kind of mental liberation enabling the long-forgotten watershed memories and messages of long ago to break through.

It is no accident of the Hebrew language that the word for “eternity”, olam, stems from a root meaning “hidden” What is hidden in the recesses of our consciousness often provides the key to our eternity.

The word olam addresses the dimension of space as well as time. It means “world” – both in macrocosm and microcosm.  The latter is a reflection of the former.  If there are benefits to the release of long-term memory in an individual so there are too in the release of such memory for the nation of Israel.

And if, in an individual, short-term memories are often suppressed as a response to crisis and pain (forgetfulness, as we all know, can sometimes be the greatest blessing) so does it unfold in the macrocosm of Klal Yisrael, the Jewish nation.

We are bidden not to forget the torments, the hurts, the pogroms and the persecutions of our galut history (the last two thousand years) culminating in the butchery and attempted genocide of three generations ago.

Yet for the sake of our collective sanity and sense of self-esteem, we dare not remember all the ghastly and gory details of victimhood.  Instead we may seek to evoke more distant long-term images of glory, monarchy, priesthood, synodhood and independent, autonomous, undisputed statehood.

In the initial years of what the world calls the twenty-first century we experienced ailment, torment, crisis and pain as in our homeland suicide-bombers strove en masse to strike, maim, kill and attempt to bring our people to its knees.  More recently, the pain inflicted upon us from without and even within (from self-hating Jews) has been a war-of-attrition of a more subtle, verbal and psychological kind. As an ageing nation in an ageing world, how do we attempt to counteract these afflictions?

Perhaps it is time to plumb the furthest reaches of our long-term memory and lock into our most precious national memory of all – the Revelation at Sinai.

We experienced it in all its vivid reality – testified to by three million witnesses (600,000 heads of household and their families)  – and while the centuries have sadly dulled our collective awareness of the event and have even led some to deny the fact of its existence, it still remains as the only essential defining point of our peoplehood, the only raison d’etre for our continuing separateness, the only existential justification for our stubbornness, our refusal to assimilate, our willingness to endure the unspeakable trials, torments and tribulations of two millennia of galut (exile).

May that memory, that source of our inalienable right to Erets Yisrael, strengthen, sustain and inspire us as we enter the golden years of our (and the world’s) existence culminating in a new Messianic plane of existence, yavo b’karov.

An essay for Shavuot

Comments

2 Responses to “Locking into our collective long-term memory…writes Rabbi Chaim Ingram”
  1. Lynne Newington says:

    Yet for the sake of our collective sanity and sense of self-esteem, we dare not remember all the ghastly and gory details of victimhood. Instead we may seek to evoke more distant long-term images of glory, monarchy, priesthood, synodhood and independent, autonomous, undisputed stateh

    Absolutely.

  2. Michael Barnett says:

    I find the label “self-hating Jew” divisive and ugly. To my mind it is designed to strip away all humanity from a person and reduce them to an unacceptable identity. When the Moral Authorities deem that identity is incompatible with the values of the community they are daubed “self-hating”.

    These Moral Authorities do not tolerate a person expressing their individuality, their personal identity, their own values or what being Jewish (or not being Jewish) means to them without forcing the label “self-hating” on that individual.

    To me this label demonstrates intolerance by those who use it, for fear any dissent or freedom of expression beyond the acceptable will destroy everything they stand for. Surely their values are *not* that fragile.

    If a community is going to claim a person a Jewish from birth, it must own the results of that person’s life choices, irrespective of how palatable it feels they are, and not degrade them along their life-journey by labelling them as a “self-hating Jew”.

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