The circles on the water

The Rosh HaShana Torah reading comes from Genesis 21, where the intimate story of one couple’s discovery of God becomes the story of two nations. In this short passage, the Torah touches upon one of the most important themes of the New Year. The barren Sarah becomes fertile after the direct intercession of God. The Torah states “And God visited Sarah as He had promised and did to her as He had spoken.” The Sages have taught us that the “visit” here really means the “remembrance.”

This an exceptionally powerful concept. Our memory can manifest itself through different channels. We might actively remember by performing certain deeds, for example, visiting the grave and leaving there a stone, according to the custom. Or we might choose to remain physically inactive, while at the same time studying and learning to preserve the memory of the deceased person. A clear-cut way of remembering does not exist  but the first layer of this text specifically reminds us that active and passive remembrance is equal.

The circles created on the water by a stone cast into it, are extremely fragile. They disappear within couple of seconds. However, the wave created by them influences the surroundings and changes their nature just like the simple act of remembrance, whether manifested in word or deed, ensures the memories are never forgotten.

About the Author
Nelly Shulman is a journalist and writer currently based in Berlin. She is an author of four popular historical novels in the Russian language. She is working on the fifth novel in this series and on her first English-language novel, a historical thriller set during the Siege of Leningrad. She a Hawthornden Fellow and an alumna of the Nachum Goldmann Fellowship.