This week I want to focus on memory. I am especially drawn to memory this week because it is the 2nd anniversary of my mom's death and the 20th anniversary of my dad's. On the Hebrew calendar, they died exactly 18 years and 1 day apart. I dedicate this week's post to their memories.*
In this week's Torah portion, there is a first of its kind mitzvah (divine exhortation) involving memory. In the Torah narrative up until now, there have been people remembering places or things that God did to help us. But this week for the first time there is a mitzvah for people to remember a person. The stage is set for this new type of memory with the dramatic parting and crossing of the sea as Moses and the ancient Israelite slaves are running from their Egyptian pursuers. Safely across the wilderness journey begins.
Early in this journey, the Israelites are attacked by Amalek and his tribe. A fierce battle follows, which the Israelites win. Then, Torah instructs us to remember Amalek by writing his name . . . which God will erase from existence. (Exodus 14:17). This is the first time in Torah when we are told to remember a particular person. Just to observe the name being erased!?! What good is a recorded memory if it can so swiftly be erased?
A story about memory and erasing it …
Almost ten years ago this winter on an icy day in Maine, a Reform rabbi, Alice Goldfinger, slipped on ice outside her synagogue. Her brain crashed into her