Monday, April 16, 2012

The Call to Remember

I had the privilege of writing the weekly drash for the UMJC last week (head on over to if you want to check it out).
Due to previous scheduling, I was also on tap to give the message at Beth Messiah this past Saturday. Given that I had already written the drash, I decided to use it as the foundation for my message.

Below is the message given at Beth Messiah this past Saturday April 14, 2012.

I want to talk today about remembering or the function of memory.

What is its purpose?

In order to dig in in a meaningful way we must first have a definition. There are few related definitions
a.   To bring to mind, or think of again
b.   To keep in mind for attention or consideration
c.    To retain in the memory
There are others, but these fit the modern idea of remembering accurately.

While I am generally not a fan of defining or describing something by saying what it is not, I believe in this case it may help illuminate my point if I do so here.

What is the opposite of remembering? Forgetting.

In a 2006 article Professor Victor Shepherd wrote:

“To forget in modern discourse, is simply to have an idea or notion slip out of the mind. To forget a person is simply no longer to have the idea of that person in one’s consciousness.”

But he isn’t done. He goes on to say:
“But in the Hebrew Bible to forget someone is much more serious; to forget someone is to annihilate that person, obliterate him; destroy him. When the Israelites cried to God not to forget them they didn’t mean, ‘Be sure to think of us once in a while.’ They meant ‘Don’t annihilate us; don’t blot us out.”
Within this context
“forgetting has to do not with ideas but with living realities. In the same manner to remember has to do not with recollecting notions but with living realities.”
If remembering and forgetting are so tightly knit to our lives and our lifestyles is it any wonder why we see so many warnings against forgetting in the Torah?

Deut 4:9- “Only take care, and keep your soul diligently, lest you forget the things that your eyes have seen, and lest they depart from your heart all the days of your life. “ It goes on later to say “Make them known to your children and your children’s children“ but that’s for another day =-)

Deut 4:23- “Take care, lest you forget the covenant of the LORD your God…”

Deut 6:12- “…then take care lest you forget the LORD, who brought out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.”

Deut 8-11- “Take care lest you forget the LORD your God by not keeping his commandments and his rules and his statutes, which I command you today.”

Deut 8:14-“…then your heart be lifted up, and you forget the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.”

And we read in 1 Samuel 12:9 the consequence of Israel’s forgetting- But they forgot the LORD their God. And he sold them into the hand of Sisera, commander of the army of Hazor, and into the hand of the Philistines, and into the hand of the king of Moab and they fought against them.

Ok…so enough about forgetting! I said I was going to talk about remembering, didn’t I?

I recently read that Jews are not simply commanded to believe the Torah, but that commitment to faith in the Torah also requires the act of remembering. Whether it is remembering the Shabbat, or remembering to blow the shofar at the appointed times; the call is to “Remember”.

Of course, this “remembering “is not simply an action of our brains recalling events; tied to these remembrances are actions designed to shape not only our thoughts, but to transform our very reality.  

Professor Shepherd wrote:
“To remember is to bring a past event up into the present so that what happened back then continues to happen right now – and is therefore the operative reality of our existence.”
Every morning this week I woke up and got out of bed. I walked to the kitchen and found myself staring at matzah. Dry matzah. Even looking at it makes my mouth yearn for water. "Oh yeah, I remember. No bread." I am sure that this experience is familiar to many of us. Yes, this is part of how we remember God's rescue of the Israelites from Egypt. This is how Jews are commanded to memorialize the journey that the Israelites undertook in hast one day long ago. Jews all over the world are re-enacting and identifying, through personal experience, God's wonderful deliverance from slavery into freedom saying "I do this 'because of what Adonai did for me when I went free from Egypt'" (Exodus 13:8). Remembering is at the heart of who God has created us to be and what he has called us to do.

Of course, this deliverance from Egypt was just the beginning of Israel's journey. Following the exodus, G-d provided manna.
He brought them to Mount Sinai.
There he gave them the Torah and established an everlasting covenant with them.
He tabernacled among his people.
He led them to victory over their enemies and into the Promised Land.
He promised the Messiah.

In modern times, we stand poised to remember the victims of the Holocaust. Next week on April 19th The State of Israel will deliberately come to a complete standstill at 10 am for 2 minutes. Amidst the sound of sirens people will stop talking, stop walking and even stop driving- deliberately altering their normal routines in order to remember.

As disciples of Yeshua there is another vital call for us to “Remember” that is intimately tied to this Passover season: “Do this in remembrance of me”.

Luke 22 brings us to the evening of Yeshua’s last meal. He asked Peter and John to go ahead and find a place where they could all eat the Passover meal together.  While at dinner Yeshua “took a cup, and when he had given thanks he said, ‘Take this, and divide it among yourselves. For I tell you that from now on I will not drink of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.’ And he took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” (Luke 22:17-19 ESV)

One of Yeshua’s last acts with his disciples was to give them and us a memorial, a ceremony whereby we purposely disrupt our normal routine, quiet ourselves and actively engage. Through our participation today we are able to, in part, join that final meal and we are able to keep close the memory and reality of his sacrifice for all of us here and now.

What unfolded back then, altered forever those whom it touched. To this day Yeshua’s sacrifice continues to actively operate having the power to forever alter those who continue remember/commemorate/memorialize it.

Through our participation we are also actively remembering Yeshua’s promise to triumphantly return and set creation right. We remember and hold fast to the promises that Israel will once again be “a crown of beauty, in the hang of the LORD, and a royal diadem in the hand of your God.” When Israel will “no more be termed ‘Forsaken’ “, and when the “land shall no more be termed ‘Desolate’”, but instead she will “be called ‘My Delight Is in Her’” (Isaiah 62: 3-4 ESV). While scripture is clear that God has not forgotten his people we still see instances of people crying our to God asking him to “remember!”

In Exodus32:13 we see Moses interceding on behalf of the Israelites- “Remember Abraham, Isaac and Israel, your servants to whom you swore by your own self, and said to them, ‘I will multiply your offspring as the stars of heaven, and all this land that I have promised I will give to your offspring, and they shall inherit it forever.’”

Psalm 74 opens with “O, God, why do you cast us off forever? Why does your anger smoke against the sheep of your pasture? Remember your congregation, which you have purchased of old, which you have redeemed to by the tribe of your heritage! Remember Mt. Zion, where you have dwelt.”

As ones who are devoted to our Messiah, our participation in these memorials is a prophetic plea for God to remember his promises and his people Israel; to once again bring deliverance, redemption and restoration to His people and to all of creation. That what was announced in Yeshua’s death and validated by his resurrection would finally and completely come to pass.

Deut. 7:18-19 says "Remember... the mighty hand and the outstretched arm with which the Eternal your God brought you out [of Egypt]."

As we close out this season of Passover let us continue to remember in full not only HaShem’s deliverance of the Israelites from Egypt but also the redemption of the entire world through Yeshua’s sacrifice. May each of us remember with solemnity and gratitude the Mighty Hand that reached into our past and guides our present and may we continue to look forward, filled with faith and hope, at his outstretched arm reaching into our future.

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