Intermountain Jewish News

Banner
Tuesday,
Sep 30th
Home Columns View from Denver Selective memory

Selective memory

E-mail Print PDF

“Is there any person who would want everything he ever did or said in private to be remembered?” — Rabbi Ron Y. Eisenman

THE additional (“musaf”) prayer of Rosh Hashanah contains three sections not found in any other Jewish prayer during the entire year: “Kingship,” “Remembrance” and “Shofar.” This past Rosh Hashanah, I heard Rabbi Ron Y. Eisenman ask: Doesn’t the Remembrance section seem out of place?

The other two sections seem directly pertinent to Rosh Hashanah. The holiday is all about G-d’s “kingship,” His power and judgment of the entire universe. (Rosh Hashanah, parenthetically, is the true universal Jewish holiday, on which the lives of all of humanity, not just Jews, are judged.) And “Shofar”? Obviously pertinent, for the sounding of the shofar — that elemental, mysterious ritual — is the essence of Rosh Hashanah, the mitzvah unique to the day.

But look at “Remembrance.” Its verses make it perfectly clear that no action of any human being is ever forgotten.

“Every secret is revealed to You . . . from the time of creation.”

“You [G-d] see until the end of all the generations.”

“You remember every deed.”

Why would Jews want to include a prayer like this on Rosh Hashanah, when the Divine judgement, culminating in Yom Kippur, begins?

“Is there any person who would want everything he ever did or said in private to be remembered?” asked Rabbi Eisenman.

Who can possibly be uplifted under G-d’s total recall?

THE key to the inclusion of “Remembrance,” the rabbi suggested, is the one person focused on in its many verses: Noah. Yes, G-d’s remembrance of Noah is positive.

“And G-d remembered Noah and every animal and every beast with him in the ark; G-d made a wind blow over the earth and the waters abated” (Gen. 8:1).

But there is a more to the story of Noah than the ark — a lot of very uncomplimentary deeds in Noah’s life. After the flood, he became a drunkard. In his inebriated state he committed incest with his daughters. He sired bastards. (A bastard in Jewish tradition is an child born of a relationship forbidden to a married person, not the offspring of two unmarried people.)

Note well: The story of Noah is not recorded in full in the Remembrance prayer. The story is truncated. The unseemly parts of Noah’s story are omitted. The Remembrance prayer, in short, is incomplete.

It is an exercise in selective memory.

SELECTIVE memory, suggests Rabbi Eisenman, is critical in human relations. The Remembrance prayer, in its selective memory of Noah’s life, is stating: During the High Holiday season, beginning on Rosh Hashanah, do not remember everything. To do so is to risk destroying marriages, friendships and other relationships.

People may be friends or business associates for years or even decades. Then, unexpectedly, something is said, something is done. An unkind cut. A crude remark. A betrayal. A most unpleasant surprise. All to often, the relationship unravels. All the years of closeness are thrown away, due to one incident.

What is called for, suggests Rabbi Eisenman, is selective memory.

Yes, G-d remembers everything, but in citing the one, specific human example of G-d’s omniscience, the Remembrance prayer engages in revisionist history. It edits out those parts of Noah’s life that broke the trust G-d had placed in him. Dastardly details are deleted. The message is clear: Remember selectively. Forget judiciously. Play deaf. Be blind. Move on.

Would one want all of one’s own warts and mistakes to pop up on someone else’s computer screen as ubiquitously as those annoying, unwelcome pop-ups that flood our computer screens?

Why can’t the computer just delete them?

Indeed, why can’t we just delete certain memories from our friendship history and business relations?

Not to mention, from our marriages?

Excepting some monumental transgression such as infidelity, why do we allow the normal if rare slip in good sense, the foolish remark or deed that we all sometimes fall prey to, to damage our marriages or other relationships, and in some cases end them?

Sometimes, it’s not even a slip in good sense that arches our backs. It’s a social slight: not invited to this occasion or not seated with the right people at that event.

We certainly wish G-d’s memory of our own failings and betrayals to be selective. We want Him to remember our best selves; or, at a minimum, to remember us for our potential for good.

We want G-d to remember us as the Remembrance prayer remembers Noah: selectively. In our human relations, therefore, the watchwords should be: Remember selectively. Forget judiciously. Overlook. Let it pass. Remember, yes, the good years, the closeness. Hold your tongue.

Silence can redeem and rescue.

Heard in Passaic, New Jersey, on the second day of Rosh Hashanah, 5774.

 

IJN e-Edition

This is only a taste! Get full access to the IJN via our e-Edition, only $14.04 for IJN Print subscribers.

E-Edition subscribers get access to a complete digital replica of the IJN, which includes all special sections.

Get the IJN's free newsletter!

Shabbat Times

JTA News

Israeli cargo ship blocked in Oakland port heads to LA

Marcy Oster An Israeli-owned cargo ship prevented by pro-Palestinian demonstrators from unloading in the Oakland Port will try to unload in Los Angeles. ... [Link]

Frenchman probed for telling TV he might kill Jews

Cnaan Liphshiz French police opened a criminal investigation against a young man who made anti-Semitic statements during a televised interview. ... [Link]

The Jewish stars of ‘Star Trek’ shill for VW

Julie Wiener Could the twin appearance of Leonard Nimoy and William Shatner soften the hearts of Jews who refuse to buy German cars? ... [Link]

At U.N., Abbas attacks Israel, but Netanyahu’s mind elsewhere

Uriel Heilman Between Benjamin Netanyahu’s show and tell and Mahmoud Abbas’ genocide tirade, there was some drama at the U.N. General Assembly — but few real surprises. ... [Link]

Belgian far-right party to push for ritual slaughter ban

Cnaan Liphshiz Belgium’s far-right Vlaams Belang party said it will submit a bill proposing a blanket ban on ritual slaughter. ... [Link]

Yaalon: IDF took out 80 percent of Gaza rockets during offensive

Marcy Oster Israel destroyed some 80 percent of Palestinian rockets and mortars in Gaza during Operation Protective Edge, Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon said. ... [Link]

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s 2014 U.N. General Assembly address

Uriel Heilman Read Benjamin Netanyahu’s Sept. 29, 2014 speech. ... [Link]

Petition calls on El Al to protect female passengers from haredi harassment

Marcy Oster Hundreds have signed an online petition calling on El Al Airlines to protect female passengers from being harassed by haredi Orthodox men. ... [Link]

Intermountain Jewish News • 1177 Grant Street • Denver, CO 80203 • 303 861 2234 • FAX 303 832 6942
email@ijn.com • larry@ijn.com • lori@ijn.com