While we Jews excel at many things, I believe that memory must occupy the top of that list. Throughout history, we have elevated the act of remembering to an art form, as a way of eternalizing fleeting existence. Think of all the examples: The Jewish State, Israel, has the most memorials of any country in the world, in per capita terms and almost in absolute terms. The walls of synagogues bear witness to our actions and prayers as the yahrzeit boards testify. As if it were even possible to forget, we see it each time we pass by the synagogue on Jefferson. Indeed, the very word is engraved into the facade of our building as part of the Ten Commandments: Zachor / Remember!
One cannot escape the sacred role of memory in Judaism, and especially not at this point in our calendar. Yes, we must remember to show up for Corned Beef Sandwich Sale tomorrow night and Sunday. Yes, we must remember the proper technique to fluff the corned beef just right so it hugs and highlights.
And YES, there is another act of memory going on as well. This Shabbat is a unique one in that it is Shabbat Zachor, the Shabbat of Remembrance, the Shabbat that always immediately precedes the holiday of Purim. As the words of Deuteronomy exhort us, Lo Tishkach / Do not forget what Amalek did to your ancestors. We read this prior to Purim because we learn the tyrannical and genocidal Haman was a descendant of that same Amalek. We say those same biblical words, Lo Tishkach, as we remember the Holocaust and the actions of another genocidal madman.
Evil persists throughout history, and this oldest hatred of Anti Semitism continues to resurface in new forms. As we hear its familiar notes in the halls of the United States Congress, we recoil in disgust. Congresswoman Omar and her apologists stand defiant in their self-righteousness, especially as Congress could not even muster the courage to pass a simple resolution singling out her vile comments.
Memory is a noun. Remember is a verb that leads to action. It is something that we must commit ourselves to doing regularly.
Im Lo Achshav, Eimatay / If not now, when?
I regret that I will not be with you for this Shabbat or Corned Beef Sandwich Sale. I will be in New Jersey celebrating my nephew becoming Bar Mitzvah. I hope to see you next Wednesday evening at 5:30pm for our Purim celebration. Together, we remember. Together, we are stronger.
Blessings to you all, and save me a sandwich!