Why is it Important to Remember?

Monday, 31 July, 2017 - 6:09 pm

Why is it Important to Remember?

A story is told about Napoleon who was being given a tour of the Jewish Ghetto in one of the cities he conquered on Tisha B’Av. As he hears the sounds of wailing and crying coming from the synagogues he asks his tour guide if it is a recent tragedy the Jews are mourning.

The guide explained to him that they were mourning the destruction of their Temple and their exile from their homeland that happened close to two thousand years ago. Napoleon then answered (according to some versions of this story) “A nation that remembers it’s past will certainly be around for many years in the future”.

In Judaism there is a great emphasis on remembering. We don’t relegate the past to ancient history but we use it as a tool to make a better future. We see this in the special name for this Shabbat and in the Parsha that we read.

The name Shabbat Chazon has a dual meaning. On a basic level it refers to Isaiah’s prophecy of destruction that we read in the Haftorah, the past. On the other hand, one of the great Chassidic masters R’ Levi Yitzchak of Bertichev said that it means that on this Shabbat we are shown a vision of the future third Temple.

Similarly in our Parsha, as the Jewish people prepare for a future in the land of Israel, Moses reminds the Jewish people of their past journeys in the desert – starting with the giving of the Torah at Mount Sinai. The Torah is the common denominator that unites the Jewish people throughout the ages and has given us the strength to survive all challenges. The Jewish people have not lived together in Israel for over 2,000 years, nor have we spoken the same language, eaten the same foods or dressed alike. What has remained the same, in all places and times, is the Torah.

So as we remember the many tragedies of our history we also remember the secret of our survival. If we listen to the lessons of the past we can face the future with hope.


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