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עשה תורתך קבע – אמור מעט ועשה הרבה

Appearing to Forget – Forgetting to Remember

Posted by rabbiart on January 18, 2009

As the parshah opens, Moshe hears the voice of HaShem. In a startling statement (Shemot 6:5) HaShem says that because he has heard the crying out of b’nei Yisrael, HaShem remembers the covenant that HaShem had made.

וְגַם אֲנִי שָׁמַעְתִּי, אֶת-נַאֲקַת בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל, אֲשֶׁר מִצְרַיִם, מַעֲבִדִים אֹתָם; וָאֶזְכֹּר, אֶת-בְּרִיתִי

Also I heard the crying out of bnei Yisrael whom the Egyptians are enslaving, and I remembered my covenant

Is it possible that HaShem forgets HaShem’s promises? That would be a most disturbing thought! It appears that HaShem has forgotten about the Israelite nation while they (we) suffered in servitude.  He says to Moshe that only when he (read “she” if you like) heard the Israelites crying out did she (read “he” if you like) remeber the covenant.  After all the effort, the multiple promises, the conversations, how could HaShem forget the covenant?

What does it mean to remember?  What does it mean to forget?  We are the people of long memories, and we have received more than one commandment to remember. (warning, some author license taken in this list, perhaps not each of these commandments is  literally a “remember” commandment. Functionally? that’s another matter)  We are told

  • remember Shabbat
  • remember what Amalek did to us, and remember to forget their name
  • remember to tell the story of yetziat mitzrayim (escaping from Egypt)
  • the Erev Shabbat Kiddush is made zecher litziat mitzrayim (remembering that we escaped from Egypt)
There are more, but let’s content ourselves with noting that the Ramban says that many, many mitzvot are zecher litziat mitzrayim. Rabbi Akiva Tatz in his lecture “Miracles, Proofs and Human Knowledge” (at about the 40 minute mark) notes that there are six subjects to remember. We have mentioned Shabbat,  Amalek, Kiddush and yetziat mitzrayim; the others are standing at Sinai and the incident of the Golden Calf. He points out that remembering that we stood at Sinai is both a positive and negative commandment, for we are told both to remember and to not forget. (Here’s an invitation – see if you can find this reference in the Torah – and make a comment to this post).

We are a people of long memories, could our creator be forgetful? Let’s go to the Rashi.  Commenting on our verse above, he says – commenting on “Also I heard” – “Just as I established and set up the covenant, it is incumbent upon Me to fulfill it. Therefore, I heard the complaints of the bnei Yisrael, who are moaning.  Going further, and reacting to the mention of the Egyptians in the verse, Rashi says – commenting on “I remembered my covenant” – “I remembered that covenant [which I made with Abraham], for in the Covenant between the Pieces, I said to him ‘And also the nation that they will serve will I judge”.  (Here’s another invitation – see if you can identify the “text hook” which enables Rashi to relate the Breshit verse to our verse here – and make a comment to this post).

It seems safe to say “there’s a whole lot of remembering going on” right here.  Which leads to thought, which should lead to action.  Which does exactly that. In verse six a new promise is given, not to the ancestors but to us (remember, and don’t forget, that we stood at Sinai after we escaped from Egypt).  HaShem makes this new promise; HaShem will take us out of Egypt and redeem us, and will be a God to us, and we will know this out of our own experience. (Last few words added in).  And, coming full circle to our ancestors and to our present day, HaShem will bring us to the land which was promised to our ancestors.

Apparently, at least according to this text, we can go home again.
Shabbat Shalom


One Response to “Appearing to Forget – Forgetting to Remember”

  1. […] Appearing to Forget – Forgetting to Remember […]

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