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.

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The second text says that we should both "remember what Amalek did" to us and "blot out the memory of Amalek." Are these conflicting instructions? Why or why not?

By the Way…

When I bring clouds over the earth and the bow appears in the clouds, I will remember My covenant between Me and you and every living creature among all flesh, so that the waters shall never again become a flood to destroy all flesh. (Genesis 9:14–15)

Remember the Sabbath day and keep it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath of Adonai your God: You shall not do any work--you, your son or daughter, your male or female slave, or your cattle, or the stranger who is within your settlements. For in six days Adonai made heaven and earth and sea and all that is in them, and God rested on the seventh day; therefore Adonai blessed the Sabbath day and hallowed it. (Exodus 20:8–11)

Rabbi Abahu said: Why do we blow on a ram's horn? The Holy One of blessing said, "Sound before Me a ram's horn so that I may remember on your behalf the Binding of Isaac the son of Abraham and account it to you as if you had bound yourselves before Me." (Talmud, Rosh HaShanah 15a)

[Writing about Deuteronomy 24:19] This is the mitzvah of shichecha, forgetting. One may not perform this mitzvah with any premeditation. Our ancestors could not "plan" to forget 50 or 100 sheaves per harvest to provide that much more for the need to their communities. It just had to happen. They forgot. Good! (Danny Siegel, Forgetting, a Mitzvah, Gym Shoes and Irises: Personalized Tzedakah)

And because with [the Hebrew letter] zayin there is memory, there is also a light, which shines from one end of the universe to the other. Zohar. The Book of Light, the volumes of splendor…Many believe the light has been forever lost. But this is not so. It is only because we ignore the sacred vessel of light: memory. (Lawrence Kushner, The Book of Letters)

In remembrance lies the secret of redemption. (attributed to the Baal Shem Tov)

Your Guide

Memory has always been a part of our Jewish tradition. In the passages above from Genesis and Exodus, who is doing the remembering? What is being remembered?

Probably based upon biblical texts like Genesis 9:14–15, the Rabbis of the Talmud seem to have no problem "thinking" for God, as evidenced in the Talmud, Rosh Hahanah passage. What are some of the other reasons we sound the shofar on Rosh Hashanah? Do you think that God needs a reminder "on our behalf?"

What is the significance of the "signs" of remembrance that are discussed in the first three texts above? What techniques do you use to remind yourself of important names, events, etc.? Do these methods work for you?

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Richard Abrams, M.A.J.E., earned his master's degree in Jewish education at the Rhea Hirsch School of Education, HUC-JIR, Los Angeles. He is currently the director of marketing for the UAHC Press.