If you were to trace the history of the Hebrew people, I think you would discover that it is one with many twists and turns, ups and downs. From Abraham’s step of faith to Moses’ parting of the Red Sea, from Joshua’s leading the people into the Promised Land to David returning the Ark to Jerusalem, the Jewish nation has had a rich history. I guess that is why I was surprised to learn that up until fairly recently the word “history” was not in the Hebrew language.
I found it interesting that while there might not have been a word for “history,” there is a word for “memory.” In fact, zikaron (memory) plays a prominent role in biblical language and Judaic thought. At first, I thought this must be a game of semantics, but then I learned that understanding the difference between “history” and “memory” is at the very core of the Jewish understanding of the past.
When it was explained to me, the ancient rabbi’s thinking became very clear. I was told that “history” is his-story not mine. But the first two letters of memory spell “me.” So, “history” is apart from me, while “memory” is part of me. Without “me,” there is no “memory.” To put differently: History is made up of objective facts and memory of subjective experience.
As you might have guessed, Judaism is less interested in dry facts than in breathing experiences. It is for this reason that much of Jewish tradition and ritual draws on reenactment. We don’t just commemorate, we Remember (zakar). We don’t just recount someone else’s story, we relive our own.
Throughout the season of Lent, we are called to Remember. Each Sunday, we will look at Jewish feasts to discover not only how they influenced Jesus in the Gospels, but perhaps to actually see Jesus in the feasts themselves. And as we study and discuss each feast, it is my hope that we will do more than just learn the facts about them, but that we will experience each one as though we are there.
May we experience the rest of the Shabbat and the sweetness of Rosh Hashanah. May we feel the presence of God in our midst during Sukkot and the forgiveness of Yom Kippur. May we Zakar. May we Remember!
February 18 – Shabbat
February 25 – Rosh Hashanah (Feasts of Trumpets)
March 4 – Shavuot (Festival of Weeks)
March 11 – Feast of Purim
March 18 – Sukkot (Feast of Tabernacles)
March 25 – Yom Kippur /Day of Atonement