It is the season of memory. We’ve recently emerged from the holiday of Pesach, remembering the exodus from Egypt. Soon after we mark Yom Hashoah, commemorating the millions of Jews that perished under Nazi rule.
The month ushers in Yom Hazikaron and Yom Ha’aztmaut. We carve time to honor the fallen soldiers in Eretz Yisrael and blend sorrow with joy as we celebrate the birth of the Jewish state. But our tradition doesn’t merely equate remembering with the mental exercises of thinking and lamenting. Whether we remember a loved one or event in our history, we ritualize the moment.
We chant kiddush and sing about our ancestors leaving Mitzrayim. We light a memorial candle and encourage each other to share the stories of those that endured the unthinkable. In Israel, a siren sounds, traffic stops, and the country is still, remembering those that gave their lives, protecting and defending our holy land. And when a family member dies, we stand to recite Kaddish, intertwining the memories of our loved ones with our ability to perpetuate the legacy of their lives. We remember by doing. We remember by sharing. We remember by modeling. Our history does not stay stagnant in the pages of forgotten books. Our history becomes part of daily life, so that the lessons of the dead inspire the steps of the living.
Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel taught, “To us, recollection is a holy act; we sanctify the present by remembering the past. To us Jews, the essence of faith is memory. To believe is to remember.”
May our remembering, through thought and ritual, enable our lives to be a blessing. A blessing in the name of the departed and a blessing to the future generations that will hold our legacy within their hands.
In partnership with The Jewish Journal, you can also find Rabbi Guzik’s blog post HERE.