I often joke around with my family, saying that if I could only purge my brain of sports trivia and TV show theme song lyrics, I could make room for some useful and important information.
I don’t know exactly how human memory works, but I do know that I can’t just will myself to forget certain things. However, I also know that sometimes we allow ourselves to forget painful experiences to protect ourselves so that we don’t have to live through them over and over.
Sadly, there are individuals and organizations that rely upon this human response to tragedy to make a profit and to make our world a more dangerous place. In particular, I am thinking of gun manufacturers and their apologists in government. So far, they have been remarkably successful. They have continued to prevent a meaningful conversation on gun safety as American children have been murdered in schools in places like Jefferson County (Colorado), Newtown and Parkland (just to name three – a complete list would be far too long).
Legislation takes so long. Elections are so far away. Some other issue arises that grabs our attention. And we forget.
It’s easier to forget than to think about one student killed while blocking the door so that other students might live. It’s easier to forget than to think about a father and son text messaging about how to play dead while still blocking one’s head with a textbook. It’s easier to forget than to think about the surviving student who saw her best friend riddled with bullets standing just feet apart.
But our responsibility is to remember – no matter how painful it might be. Our challenge is to remember no matter how long it takes to bring about the change that our nation is calling for. Our obligation to the dead is to remember that no child should die this way again.
In anticipation of next week’s celebration of Purim, this Shabbat is called “Shabbat Zechor” – the Sabbath during which you should remember. We will take out a second Torah scroll and read the following words from the end of the Book of Deuteronomy: “Remember what Amalek did to you on your journey, after you left Egypt—how, undeterred by fear of God, he surprised you on the march, when you were famished and weary, and cut down all the stragglers in your rear.”
There is an ‘Amalek’ in this country – people who place the manufacture, distribution and ownership of killing machines above the lives of our children. They assume that we will forget before we have an opportunity to make necessary changes. I pray that this time, finally, they are wrong.
In the final verse that we will read this Saturday, the Torah tells us, “You shall blot out the memory of Amalek from under heaven. Do not forget!”
Please join me in remembering – and NOT forgetting – the victims of Columbine High School, Sandy Hook Elementary School and Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School even though it might be easier to try and forget. And may their memories inspire us to make our society better – and SAFER – for the next generation.