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Are Jews Hung Up About Memory?

One could tell from his voice that his intention is not to mock them, but to inspire them. His message was simple. You are here only because of the sacrifice of those who preceded you. Many gave their lives for the freedoms you take for granted. You are on the verge of squandering them forever. You have little right to do that. Sacrifice by others creates moral obligation. It starts with memory, with asking yourselves where the good around you originated, and remembering those who made it possible for you to have it.

Remembering brings many blessings, even remembering the pain of the past. It can obligate and motivate, and give people the determination to find solutions to problems rather than be overwhelmed by them.

The Talmud teaches that those who mourn the loss of the ancient Jerusalem will merit seeing its consolation. A good part of this, perhaps, applies to all people—not just Orthodox Jews. Mourning the past makes us sensitive to the sacrifices and commitment of those who came before, and more likely that we will value what they have bequeathed us. This itself can sometimes be the first step toward recovery of what we once had, and lost.

8/8/2011 4:00:00 AM
Yitzchok Adlerstein
About Yitzchok Adlerstein
Yitzchok Adlerstein is an Orthodox rabbi who directs interfaith affairs for the Simon Wiesenthal Center, and chairs Jewish Law at Loyola Law School in Los Angeles. He is hopelessly addicted to the serious study of Torah texts.