The importance of memory is vital to our Judaism

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Progressively Speaking

The importance of memory is vital to our Judaism

Rabbi Charley Baginsky takes a topical issue and looks at a Liberal Jewish perspective. This week: Remembrance Sunday.

The Cenotaph memorial in Whitehall, central London after a Remembrance service. Photo credit should read: Victoria Jones/PA Wire
The Cenotaph memorial in Whitehall, central London after a Remembrance service. Photo credit should read: Victoria Jones/PA Wire

“Only guard yourself and guard your soul carefully, lest you forget the things your eyes saw and lest these things depart your heart all the days of your life. And you shall make them known to your children and to your children’s children.” (Deuteronomy 4:9.)

At 11am this Sunday, a two-minute silence will be observed  all over the country – including in our Progressive Judaism buildings and offices.

Our silence on Remembrance Sunday is a tribute to all those who lost their lives fighting for our country in the two world wars and later conflicts.

In a modern age where everything is instant and we are often glued to our phones and devices, this is a rare opportunity when the world will stand still… even if just for those 120 seconds.

We should put thoughts of work or worries aside for that small amount of time and use it as the day is intended – to reflect and remember.

In Judaism, there is a very clear sense of the importance of memory.

Zachor (‘you shall remember’) is repeated nearly 200 times in our Torah, with both God and the Jewish people commanded to do so. We must remember the Sabbath, remember the covenant, remember the Exodus from Egypt and so on.

It is not only our duty to remember ourselves, but also to pass on our knowledge and history to our children and grandchildren. This is especially true when we think of Remembrance Sunday. We now have with us the last generation of British Jews who will have had any experience of the Second World War. It is vital we hear their testimonies. Not only those who fled here as children, escaping the Nazis, but those were already in Britain and whose parents will have fought in the war.

The reason why remembrance is so vital in Judaism is twofold. Firstly it is to learn about what took place but, more importantly, it is to inspire action for the future.

As we stand silent on Sunday, it is the ideal time to think about where we have come from and where we are going. And as we remember all those service people, including those from our Jewish community, who have died in war – we ask for their memory to be a blessing and for the day to come when such sacrifices will no longer be needed.

Rabbi Charley Baginsky  is CEO of Liberal Judaism

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