Parashat Tetzaveh (Zachor)

Short Term Memory

When you talk to young people today about memory, it is inevitably about computers. This Shabbat, memory is also the central theme, but we are talking about a different process – a complicated process which takes place in our brains and not in a metal case.

However, this process, which seems so different from that of the computer world, is in actual fact quite similar. Computers also have a short term memory (RAM) and a long term memory. Every time we type letters into the computer they are stored in the short term memory (RAM) until we instruct the computer to store them in the long term memory (which is the hard disk). But if the computer should suddenly shut down for some reason before saving the data, these words would be erased from the computer.

We have thousands of files in the hard disk, but there are those which we do not generally open. We have saved them over the years – perhaps as a rough draft – and they are there somewhere in the disk, some of them probably never to see the light of day again. They will remain there until the end of time, until they are forgotten.

But sometimes there are files which we must save and back-up as these are the files which are vital to our lives, those without which, if lost forever, we would lose our way (and also mourn their loss!).

"Shabbat Zachor" is one of those backed-up memories which sees daylight every year. It is a vital file without which we would be lost.

"Remember what Amalek did unto thee, by the way, at your coming forth out of Egypt; How he met thee by the way, and smote the hindmost of thee, all that were feeble behind thee, when thou wast faint and weary; and he feared not God. And it shall not come to pass, when the Lord thy God giveth thee rest from all thy enemies round about, in the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee for an inheritance to possess it, that thou shalt blot out the rememberance of Amalek from under the heavens; thou shalt not forget." (Deuteronomy 25, 17-19).

RaSHI said, in his interpretation of the book of Deuteronomy, that the word "Korcha" is derived from the word "Kor" (cold):

"… All the nations feared to engage in battle with you (with Israel), but he (Amalek) came and made a start and thereby showed the way to others. It may be likened to a boiling bath into which no creature is able to descend. Then came a reprobate who sprang into it; even though he was burned, he cooled it off for others."

The war with Amalek was in some way a war which opened the door to terrorist warfare, a war which targets the weak, women, the elderly and the young. And even if Amalek is beaten in the war, we have to remember that same incident.

The late Rabbi Mordechai Hacohen had this to say in his book "Al Ha-Torah" with regard to the final words of the Amalek portion "Lo Tishkach":

We have already been commanded to remember what Amalek did to us, so how are we to fulfill the command "not to forget"?! And he answers as follows: "Lo tishkach" (Thou shalt not forget) is not a commandment - lest we forget, but a real story for the future and forever. That is to say that in every generation there will be an Amalek who will renew his decrees and his persecution and that you will never be able to forget him under any circumstances…"

Thus, this Shabbat we will remember once again because there are files in the history of the Jewish people which require back-up and opening up again each year, and because without the function of memory even an entire nation can lose its way.

Weekly Torah Portion