This Shabbat is 9/11. If you ask someone where they were on 9/11, you will hear vivid memories of exactly where they were when the towers came down. Here in New York many of us lost family and friends. The shock of that day is still in our memories…20 years later.
The Hebrew word for memory is Yizkor. Yizkor is also the name of the ceremony of remembrance on Yom Kippur, that takes place in six days.
What does our tradition say about memory? “Memory is the path to redemption,” wrote the Baal Shem Tov. When we remember the ones we lost, may we focus on the moments when they were at their best. May this inspire us to become better people. None of us will live forever. We are all on this earth for only a finite time.
For Jews, memory is a sacred act of prayer. The example of our loved ones will lead us to become better people. May we continue their best examples of good deeds and kindness. I believe this is the meaning of the teaching “Memory is the path to redemption.” If we can remember and learn from their lives, and commit ourselves to good deeds (mitzvahs), then we can bring our broken world another step forward toward redemption.
At this time of memory, may I ask you to meditate on what the departed would have most wanted you to do to best honor their memory in this world. Then go and fulfill their worthy wishes. This is our sacred duty of Yizkor.
May the memory of our loved one inspire us to good deeds as we start this New Year 5782.
Gemar Hatima Tova. May we all be written and sealed in the Book of Life.
Rabbi David Wilfond