Rabbi Jonathan Gewirtz – Never Forget

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Operation Inspiration

For many people, the phrase, “Never Forget,” could be strongly linked to “Never Forgive,” and refers most often to remembering the atrocities of the Holocaust. The truth is, this phrase is an important one in Judaism, though I don’t think the true purpose is to remember how evil people oppressed, hated, and murdered our fellow Jews or ancestors.

Of course, there is an example of this, which may relate to these people. That would be Parshas Zachor, which we read every year about a month before Pesach and we are reminded of the enemy that is Amalek and what we are to do to them. However, though physical annihilation is called for in the Torah, we also have a spiritual eradication to do on them. So, by reading this Torah portion every year, we are reminded of what Amalek is all about and how we should react to them.

On Pesach, each year, we relive the story of the slavery in Egypt and our redemption from it. We don’t just retell the story of the miraculous salvation, because that’s only part of the story. The slavery and deprecation we suffered had a purpose. They were intended to purify us as a smelting pot purifies metal. Along the way, some of the metal is burned up and lost, but the overall material remains, ready to be used for quality vessels and implements.

By telling and retelling the story, by delving into the various miracles Hashem did for us, we get an appreciation for what the experience of Mitzrayim was about, and how we became who we were because of it. The focus is not the harsh slavery, but rather how that was the conduit for the birth of the Jewish nation.

In fact, that awareness of Hashem as our guide and protector should be with us all year round. Each week when we make Kiddush, we recall Hashem’s might in two ways. One is Zecher l’maaseh Beraishis, that Hashem created the world, and the second is Zecher l’yetzias Mitzrayim, that He continues to run the world. In that case, since nothing is ever in our control, or out of His, we should look for the positive in every situation because He has a plan.

Speaking of never forgetting and remembering the positive, I recently saw something that I really liked. The funny thing was, it was something I had shared on social media seven years ago, and someone commented on it, so it popped up for me. I didn’t remember posting it, and don’t even recalling hearing it, but it bears repeating, so I will.

I had written:

FROM THE LOOK ON THE BRIGHT SIDE DEPARTMENT:

A woman was lamenting that she was at Kever Rachel and the whole compound is blockaded, unlike the days when it was open and visible from the road.

A fellow commented: Missile are kept in silos. When you have a powerful weapon, it is kept in a secure location.

KEEP SMILING – AND NOW, BACK TO OUR ALREADY SCHEDULED PROGRAMMING, WITH A BIT OF A BOUNCE IN OUR STEPS.

The point I was making then is much the same as I want to make now: that we should look at the world with a positive outlook, and through this we will be happier and able to achieve much more. Not only that, but we should repeat this to ourselves over and over, so it becomes a part of us.

The Dubno Magid famously comments on the words of Hallel which we will say in a few days, “He’emanti ki adaber.” This is normally understood to mean that “I believed in Hashem even when I said, “I’m suffering.”” The Dubno Magid translates it to mean that we believe BECAUSE we say. When we repeat something enough, it sinks in and remains locked in our psyches. The more we declare our faith in Hashem, the stronger it will get.

That’s why we make sure that every Pesach, for the past 3,300+ years, we repeat how much Hashem loves us and chose us and wants us to be His. We tell our children, and they tell theirs. If we have no one to tell it to, we ask ourselves the questions at the Seder and give ourselves the encouraging, empowering answers.

Even when accosted by the Rasha, the son who thinks this is a waste of time, we don’t give in. He tries to take a bite out of us with his cynicism that we aren’t protected; that our serving Hashem is a waste of time. But we don’t forget. We recount all the things Hashem has done for us and how He put us in situations precisely designed to perfect us and He was with us the entire time, ready to pull us out. We blunt his teeth by showing that Hashem will never give up the Jewish People. He has never let us down and He never will. That is something we can never forget.

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