Thursday, 02 Mar 2023

Written by Rabbi Dr Charles Middleburgh

Remembering, one of the key themes this Shabbat, is a complex process often fraught with challenge. In 2014 my colleague Rabbi Dr Andrew Goldstein and I published our second Anthology, A Jewish Book of Comfort, and we had a chapter of readings under the overall heading of Memory.

The passage which follows, by Harry Halpern and reproduced with the kind permission of our colleague Rabbi Jack Riemer, expresses the nuances of remembering, and memory as well as any piece I know.



Where does yesterday go?

What happens to the days which have passed?

Are they consumed as objects which are destroyed by fire,

leaving only ashes behind?

Or is there perhaps some indestructible quality

which can save the past from annihilation?

The answer lies not in the days themselves,

but rather in us.

It rests within our power to save the yesterdays

and the means for achieving this is memory.

What is memory?

It is the God-given gift

of being able to behold the

golden days of the sunset

which went before

while standing in the ensuing gloom.

It is the ability to hear the sweet melody

after the instruments have ceased playing.

What is memory?

It is the ability to feel the zeal and spirit of youth

in the midst of the disillusionments of the later life.

It is the ability to dance in the heart

when the legs can no longer keep up with the music.

What is memory?

It is the gazing at the bride beneath the canopy

and remembering the infant in the crib.

It is playing with the grandchildren

and seeing their parents.

It is celebrating a boy’s Bar Mitzvah

and simultaneously attending the Bris.

What is memory?

It is experiencing today the heartache of yesterday.

It is the sorrow in the present for an agony of the past.

It is a conversation with someone who can no longer speak.

And the sight of a smile on a face no longer here.

What is memory?

It is all that is left to us

from the burnt out hopes and strivings,

as well as the pain and sorrow of the past.

What is memory?

It is that in which, above all else,

is to be found the source of our immortality.


Rabbi Dr Charles Middleburgh Dean of Leo Baeck College

The views expressed in this D’var Torah do not necessarily reflect the position of Leo Baeck College.