LONG TERM MEMORY

2 Posted by - April 6, 2014 - Chagim

LONG TERM MEMORY

Everybody

knows at least some of the mitzvot of Passover: clearing out the chametz from one’s home, eating matzah, and reciting the haggadah are mitzvot even some of the most assimilated Jews keep on some level.  Less known, however, is the reason we perform these mitzvot: zecher leyitziat mitzrayim (remembering the miracles G-d did for our ancestors when He redeemed them from Egypt).

The Torah provides us with mitzvot in order to “joggle our memories.”  But should we really need such assistance?  True, the exodus happened 3,324 years ago – but could any Jew ever forget such a monumental part of our history?   Apparently, especially in our high-speed generation, we need to put in effort to make this ancient memory relevant.

Even if one has a bad memory, who could ever forget his wedding day, or the moment one of his children was born?  This is because we remember things which are personal and important to us. For many of us, in the 21st century, it is difficult to relate to the emancipation of an Egyptian slave on a personal level.  The freedom our ancestors felt at that moment has been forgotten over generations of persecution and trial.  Still, we are obligated by the Torah to find a way to relate to that feeling of freedom , making it eminently relevant for us, so that it will stay emblazoned on our hearts and stay in our memory forever.

There is another factor which makes our task of feeling the redemption from Egypt even harder.  At the moment of the exodus, we were a nation in the desert without a homeland.  It wasn’t until 40 years later that the Jewish Nation miraculously captured the land of Canaan and drove out the seven nations who lived there.  There is no religious Jewish holiday to commemorate the miraculous victory and inheritance of the land of Israel, our national homeland.  On Passover, then, we are celebrating the fact that we went from being slaves to being a homeless People in the desert! How is this supposed to elicit feelings of freedom?

The answer reveals to us the essence of the Passover holiday. G-d created man with the ability to choose.  Although we are commanded to do good, G-d gave man the gift of freewill and choice.  Since this is part of the fabric of how we were created, people who do not have freedom of choice feel miserable.  Today, Fortune 400 business advisors suggests that employers give options to their employees instead of only giving orders, because a person thrives when given the opportunity to use this freedom of choice.  When a parent gives a child different positive options from which to choose, the child is less likely to feel animosity toward the parent. Currently, in the Middle East, we are seeing how people who have been denied the opportunity to exercise free will are rebelling against their governments.  Many would rather die for a belief or lifestyle which they choose than live without freedom to choose.

Passover is a holiday of free choice. The Jews in Egypt were denied the freedom of choice, robbing them of the ability to serve G-d.  This was the most difficult part of their servitude. On the 15th of Nissan, each Egyptian Jew took his wife and children and left Egypt, walking into a barren desert on foot, with just one set of clothes and no plan for procuring food and water, while the burning sun beat down on him. Still, his joy knew no bounds.  Finally, he could do what he wanted to do; every Jew, deep down, wants to serve his Creator and serve his purpose in this world.  We were ready to choose and accept the Torah at Mount Sinai.  On that day, we didn’t even care if we had a land to go to.  We were happy just to be ourselves, and we understood the importance of our freedom of choice.  This joy can be celebrated by a Jew, even in exile.

It might be difficult for someone today to relate to concepts of slavery or dictatorship.  From the signing of the Declaration of Independence in the United States in 1776, a new era began. The success of America was its discovery of the power that free choice gives. Control techniques of other nations simply went out of style.  However, even in the 21st Century, a new slavery and control technique hides behind the mask camouflaged in ‘green’. Digital addiction and cell phones fog up family time.  Our children’s potential is all tangled in web addiction and text-messaging.  We must realize this and get back our free choice, at least on the holiday of Passover. There is an Armani perfume advertisement which says, “It’s not about being noticed; it’s about being remembered.” This Passover, instead of us just “noticing” an event in ancient Jewish history, we can merit “remembering” our freedom of choice as a Jew and relive the experience. Remember that we can make a choice as to how to live, and that we are free to choose to live a life of serving G-d.

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