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Ta Shema: June 29, 2023

To Remind You of What You Already Know

Has anyone ever found a note that you wrote to yourself but you have no earthly idea what you were trying to remember? It’s not an uncommon phenomenon to forget information that you would rather have at the front of your brain. 

Earlier in June, the Torah portion hints at this problem, and the rabbinic tradition suggests a remarkable reason for such frustrating lapses of memory. In our portion, Moses “told the people of Israel that they should keep the Passover.” Nothing surprising here, Moses often tells the Jewish people what they should or should not be doing.

But in the book of Leviticus, just one book ago and not very long ago in Biblical real time, Moses taught us all about Passover. So why does he have to repeat himself now?

Because he knows just how forgetful people can be. Recognizing that even the most intelligent, learned, and scholarly people forget much of what they learn, Moses knew that the Jews would have to be reminded of the appropriate mitzvot just before the time of their observance—and the people in the book of Number now are gearing up to celebrate the holiday of Passover in real time. 

Keen student of the human heart that he was, Moses knew that learning is ever renewed, or it is lost. Learning is not a possession, something to have. It is a process of growth and ingestion that is a permanent accompaniment to human life. 

Midrash Kohelet Rabbah understood that point, insisting that, “It is for our own good that we learn Torah and forget it; because if we studied Torah and never forgot it, the people would struggle with learning it for two or three years, resume ordinary work, and never pay further attention to it. But since we study Torah and forget it, we don’t abandon its study.”

In other words, forgetting is a point of connection. When we forget we have the chance to remember and forge newer connections. 

At the semi annual meeting we tried to be like Moses—to remind you of what you already know. That we are a growing and vibrant congregation. That we serve congregants ages 0-99 (with a few God willing turning 100 this year). We have so much going on, and sometimes too much going on, that you might not even know it’s happening or in the busyness of your own life you forgot. 

We reminded the congregation of who we are and what we stand for. Our hope is to spark new points of interest, connection, or reconnection for you. 

The Mishnah teaches us that Jews in study together experience the presence of God. So let us continue to learn together as well as commit to a new holy point of connection between now and our next meeting.

B'Shalom, 

Rabbi Chaya Bender 

Sun, March 3 2024 23 Adar I 5784