Sunday, March 13, 2005

29. Memory

Yesterday the rabbi spoke about memory, and its loss. Even in a religion where the past is always present and history remains a part of our daily prayer and, therefore, our lives, forgetting is not always a bad thing. The broken tablets were placed in the Ark along with the whole ones; there is holiness and goodness even in what's fragmented. And the place left open by forgetting becomes fertile ground for new discoveries.

It struck me as a pretty wild concept, especially for Jews. I don't think it applies to most situations. But I do see how it applies to me. By the time I came to my synagogue, I had forgotten almost everything from Hebrew school. I could barely read Hebrew, now spoken by the Upper West Side with a Sephardic accent that ignored half the vowels I had learned in proper, old-fashioned Ashkenzic style. For awhile I tried to pronounce everything my way, the right way, but I crawled painfully along the page while everyone else sped past. I gave up. I decided to follow the crowd, and discovered I remembered so little of my way that it was no problem to re-learn it their way. The space from forgetting left room for this new information, and for everything else that followed.

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