Memory’s Big Hits

When I was 9, my father took me from Harrisburg, Pa., to Baltimore for my first live baseball game. The Orioles won, 6-2. (I remember that Elston Howard hit a home run for the Yankees.) We drove back home and I slept the entire way, shocked and muddled when we pulled up in front of the house.

Memory is a peculiar thing. Some events stick in mind while others, arguably as important, vanish as though they never were. Why do I remember Elston Howard and forget the name of my teacher that year? There are inflection points in lives, flashes of significance that endure in our minds.  

What is true of a person is true of a people. The Jewish people elevate certain moments and events in our history while others are forgotten. Memory is not a tape recorder but an editor. We shape our stories as we shape our selves. From the Torah until today, Jews recount those elements of our tale that highlight sacred values, deepen our connections and emphasize our relationship to God. Much is no doubt forgotten; not everything that happens is equally significant. The Jewish past is shaped by a collective memory that enables us to endure.

Rabbi David Wolpe is spiritual leader of Sinai Temple in Los Angeles. Follow him on Twitter: @RabbiWolpe.

About the Author
Named the most influential Rabbi in America by Newsweek Magazine and one of the 50 most influential Jews in the world by the Jerusalem Post, David Wolpe is the Rabbi of Sinai Temple in Los Angeles, California.