Why is it important to remember?
This week’s parashah, Ki Tetze כִּי־תֵצֵא (When you go) contains more applications of the commandments than the others, giving us clear examples on how to apply them in relation to others and to the rest of creation (to animals, the land and even to plants).
Unlike Western thought, where the so-called “law of love” must rule our society, the Torah places justice and merit first, teaching us standards of behavior in a variety of situations for example, when we have to go to war. It tells us that we must not forget, or give Sinat Chinam (free hate) a clean slate, but rather it warns us that we must “remember what Amalek did to us.” Notice that the Torah does not teach us to hate others nor to continually live in the past rather it tells us to “revive” the past to prevent them from happening again.
Looking at each of the commandments in this portion from afar, I can see the picture described by Micah 6: 8, “He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.”
Devarim chapter 21: 10 – 22:12, teaches us about the regulations related to property, caring for animals and family. From chapter 22:13 to 24: 5 it gives us civil and criminal laws in areas such as sexual behaviour, family, interaction with non-Israelites, vows, divorce, and loans. From chapter 24:10 to 25:16, we learn about commercial law (loans, fair wages and just weights or measures, as well as labor protection). The portion ends with remembering the injustice at the level of human rights between nations; we were told to remember when Amalek attacked and murdered the old, weak, and sick when Israel left Egypt. That is why, when Micah understands that the Eternal has declared what is good, the prophet refers to the practical commandments taught in the Torah that we learn in this portion.
Now, there are different levels of understanding the commandments, which are all good, but our challenge is to grow – to go from reading them to understanding them, to believing them, and to trusting that they are the best for us, despite the fact that at some point fulfilling a commandment can go against my nature. And finally, to internalize them in such a way that I live them, that is, that I obey not thinking cognitively that I am forcing myself to comply with these laws, but that I subconsciously live the Torah. For example, if a person threatens me, the Torah tells me, first offer him peace (Devarim 20:10). My first reaction may be to defend myself or attack, but the Torah tells me: “Offer him peace”; What’s the purpose of that? Internalizing this knowledge in such a way that no matter from whom attack comes, I will first offer peace even if it causes me fear, anger, or aggression. When we manage to control our impulses, we contribute to fulfilling what is described in Micah 4: 3 ” Nation will not take up sword against nation, nor will they train for war anymore.” Why? Because one of the goals of the Torah is to promote living in peace.
This portion, also give us wisdom, “Ki Tetze- When you go”, we can understand it to mean “When this situation arises, you will behave in such a way”. When the Eternal told us that we must be “light”, it implies that our actions are worth a thousand words, and that our behavior defines who we are, – a separate nation, a holy nation.
I would like to focus on the fact that the Torah restricts the situations that we should remember or not; today many atrocities are being repeated from one generation to another due to the irresponsibility of “forgetting” or there are nations that are polarized because they “cannot forget their past”. If we look at the situation in Afghanistan, for example, how is it possible that the Taliban can return after 20 years to rule over that country, after all the evil they inflicted upon the world? This is a clear example of how forgetting does not come from the Torah. We also see other nations such as India, divided into various groups and cannot advance as a country, due to the rivalries that arise from not accepting their differences and not reconciling the lawsuits generated ages ago. The Tanakh invites us to remember:
First: The Exit from Egypt. In Shemot 13:33, Devarim 5:15 and 24: 18-22 we remember that God’s desire is for man to live in complete freedom, and we have the responsibility to fight and retain our freedom. In the same way, we cannot enslave other human beings. The Torah bids us to live with justice.
Second: The Manna in Shemot 16: 32-33, we remember the miracles that the Eternal manifested in the desert and His care to provide sustenance for us daily.
Third: The Shabbat in Shemot 20: 8). We must remember that we are taking time to consecrate this special day to the Eternal, so that we can reconnect with Him. Remember, God gives us life, life equals time, therefore God, gives us time for ourselves, and in gratitude we must return time for Him.
Fourth: What Amalek did to us (Devarim 25:17), remembering the actions provoked by free hate, Sinat Chinam (שִׂנְאַת חִנָּם). According to tradition, by not remembering, we lost the second temple.
Fifth. The revelation at Sinai (Malachi 4: 4, 1 Chronicles 16:15, Psalms 105: 8). To recall the Divine origin of the Torah is not simply any reading or any entertainment book, but it’s the key to understanding how to live a full life in this world.
Sixth: The testing in the wilderness (Devarim 9: 7). In this passage, we remember the consequences of idolatry, how it produces death, division, and the breakdown in our relationship with the Bore Olam.
Seventh: To remember Yerushalayim in the context of this Psalm 137: 5, “If I forget thee, O Jerusalem…” which according to our sages was written by Jeremiah, inviting us to remember our origins, our dwelling place and the dwelling place where the Eternal chose to manifest Himself, in order to revive our closeness, our relationship with the Divine Presence, no matter how far away we are from it, physically or spiritually or in whatever situation we’re in.
Eighth: Micah 6: 5 reminds us of the Actions of Balak and Bilaam. Let us remember that no matter what evil is spoken against us, Israel will enjoy Divine protection and that any evil or curse desired against us can become a blessing. Let us remember the false prophets or those who speak what the Eternal has not commanded them to utter.
Ninth: Miriam’s action (Devarim 24: 9). Remember the consequences of Lashon Harah, whether we are prophets, leaders or people of influence in society, the consequences are the same.
Tenth: That God is the source of our strength and our wealth (Devarim 8:18). We must remember that He is the owner of everything, so that we live with humility recognizing that we receive blessings from His Hand.
And last to remember that God is God – Isaiah 46: 9 – Remember the former things of old: that I am God, and there is none else; I am God, and there is none like Me and that He is good (Tehilim 103: 1-2, 17-18; 42: 4-11).
To remember is to relive a situation as if we were in that place and time. It is not our imagination; it is not about ruminating over a situation. It brings benefit to the plasticity of our brain and our concentration. What things do you remember today? Are you ruminating on your good or bad past experiences that do not allow you to grow or develop? Or are you remembering the Words of the Eternal?