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Memory

Memory

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...But let us get back, for a moment, to the impoverished age of European exile. The general populace in those days had become somewhat disengaged from the web of memory, and therefore tended to fall back upon the prevailing winds of the time. Imagination was on fire. There were demons dwelling in the attics, and devils stalking the streets. Distraught mothers of skittish young girls would swear that their daughters were possessed. While dybbuks played hide-and-seek, people would slit open their mattresses for the cash to shop for amulets, or to pay the exorcist his fee. Audiences, avid and ingenuous, would stand spellbound as storytellers spun wild fantasies before their eyes.

Imagination was the opiate, and it served its purpose well. It gave rest and regeneration to the depressed. It was a snuff to the strait-laced. It was all that, and more, for those who could reap neither nourishment nor incentive from their tradition. It was often used as an escape. Therefore it had its limitations. In those days, it meandered like a ship on a leisure cruise. At its best, it looked like an archer shooting arrows in all directions, hoping to spear some secret information. Thinking he has hit the target, he runs to the spot where he believes the prey has fallen and meets with a mirage. He repeats his attempt over and over again and yet never seems to be disappointed, because for him, the capture is not as important as the excitement his experience provides.

By comparison, today's imagination seems less obsessive. It derives little from superstition or religion, as it did then. Yesterday's dreamer is an extinct breed. The few who are left attribute the too rapid loss of creative imagination to science. They accuse science of being single-minded. They can't stand the fact that, nitty gritty, it has appropriated for itself all five dimensions. They cannot forgive it for subordinating the human vision to the unremitting scientific suggestions of the machine.

As imagination and science debate, memory -- who is the mother of them both -- stands aside, to observe their performance and growth. She towers above their path. From her vantage point, the mind is galvanized by what it sees. There, it is easier to view how history could, at any moment, reach a full term; how redemption is only a matter of midwifery. There we are given to observe souls slipping off their corporeal cloaks and leaping suddenly to their primordial origin, to then bounce back to and don plainclothes again, thrusting blithely past the present toward the future. Once there, they proclaim the climax of their life on earth. Moments later they swing back to the source, where they arrive as diaphanous as the wind. On each trip, in their human form, they carry with them further news of realities yet to be revealed. They travel through the present moment at such a speed that they must resort to metaphor in order to give weight to the messages they bear.

A metaphor is a transfer that can only be carried out by flesh and blood. We humans ship truth, properly transformed, to distant places. In heaven there is no darkness, and therefore no need to use oblique figures of speech. Angels are not charged with the perilous mission of smuggling the holy from a place of bliss to a place of crime. But we spend quick instants in darkness, quick instants in light. We have not yet begun to arrive and then we are already gone. We swing like pendulums whose speed is determined by the urgency of our mission. We stutter, in apprehension of not being able to fully express what it is we mean to say. The clarity of our visions and dreams depends upon the skill with which we maintain balance between two extremes. Our swaying is sometimes steady, at other times erratic, according to our degree of conscientiousness, and the depth from which our memory is revealed.

But memory is not something that is exclusively reserved to the mind. The body also has ways to store it. It can either run in the blood, the genes, the kidneys, or the liver. It resides in the hands of the weaver and the pianist. It is a prime mover in the hand of the giver of charity. Old age cannot dissuade the foot to abandon its mission. Now that every deed has purified the body in corresponding measure, memory turns to redemption.

The process of rememberance begins from the place that we choose, providing that its actions are carried out with pleasantness. For memory is lost in anger. Pleasantness, however, does not need to obliterate one's strength or character or revolutionary zeal. At the core, we Jews are revolutionaries. We stand up to rebel against injustice and stagnation of thought. Our insurrectionary character has never let us fall into complacent forgetfulness. It is with that spirit that the outnumbered Maccabees defeated a mighty army. It is also with that spirit that we cannot tolerate the seemingly wise passivity and placidity of the compromiser. It is evident that, in such a case, you have to resist the temptation to seek justice. At times, however, you must act. Especially when memory itself is at stake. You must not spare the reproof. You must revolt to remember. You can show kindness without falling into easy acceptance of people's cowardice. Accept them as they are, but at the same time prepare your rebellion. Do not fight the person. Confront the forgetfulness that is within them. Fight Amalek in them and obliterate his memory. He is one evil force which seeks to erase any good feeling the nations might have for the Jews. He attacked us when we came out of Egypt. Now he is in the air, making suggestions, telling people of our vulnerability He causes rifts among us. The worst he does is to deaden the heart, to the point of training it to hate for no reason at all. As opposed to common hatred, which could just be an aspect of love that took ill, Amalek's instilled hatred has no roots. It comes from nowhere. All we know is that if it is aggravated by an ever-growing hole in the memory, there is only one antidote: you have to bang your head against the wall of your heart until your heart bleeds.

From The Possible Man by Meir Michel Abehsera
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Seeking the truth Brook;yn , NY February 28, 2010

My question wasn't about killing I was just asking for clarity, to understand.

I have no desire or inclination to 'go out and look for people to kill' or anything like that. Reply

Tzvi Freeman February 28, 2010

Re: Isn't Amalek, real? Not it's not just a metaphor. We suffered from Amalek in the last century, and we are still suffering from him now. The problem is, how are you going to prove someone is Amalek before you kill him?

The spiritual Amalek is the true essence of Amalek. If we will rid ourselves of that, we will be rid of the physical Amalek as well. Reply

Seeking the truth. Brooklyn, NY February 26, 2010

Isn't Amalek, real? The metaphor of memory and fighting hatred within ourselves and within others, comes from the real nation of Amalek who were physical and had an army that Moses and those he led had to fight against.

It is not "just" a metaphor, the descendents of Amalek (like Haman the evil one) were real and physical as well and descendents of Amalek still exist today, do they not? Reply

Anonymous October 4, 2004

Memory is redemption Earlier today I gave thought to the class I'm taking in Judaism. In the classroom there's one desk (mine), books (mine), one computer (mine). That's it. I'm both teacher and pupil. I can attend class whenever or not at all. I choose what to study. If I have problems with something, who do I take them to? AskMoses has live scholars; it's 1 on 1, 24/6, and I'm deeply grateful that these helpful people are there. But I know that they're often quite busy, and so I try to 'zip in and out.'

Looking at my classroom earlier, I became so very angry. How can G-d leave me so completely on my own with all this? I wondered if I had learned anything of worth and came up with 0.

When the anger had gone, I looked back, and do you have any idea what valuable things I have learned??? About Judaism, as well as about myself? Was and is it all worth it? Now, THAT'S a truly stupid question!

Perhaps I'm just a tiny bit closer now- finally, finally- in my comprehending: "Memory is redemption." Reply