Memory is a fascinating phenomenon. We speak about it as if it were a passive activity, one often beyond our control. Imagine that feeling of a word just beyond reach, whether or not it eventually comes to mind, is not up to us. Yet, memory can also be an active process.
The Hebrew Bible extols us to remember the Sabbath day. It does not mean to simply remember it, but to live it. Memory, in this sense, is not merely a mental experience but is performed through actions and deeds.
We remember facts and figures passively; this is just information for us to recall. But moments we recall actively; we relive them in our minds. The same is true of people.
When we recall the memory of those we’ve loved and lost, it is an active experience. We remember how they made us feel because we experience that feeling. We remember the love they gave us because we feel their love. We remember the values they taught us because we live those values in our own lives.
Remembering a person is an act that brings them to life, even if only for a moment. It is our task then, as the ones who carry a memory, to live as often as possible with those we’ve lost in our hearts. The purpose of such remembrance is not to continually grieve, but rather to keep their memory alive in our lives.
In the Jewish tradition, when someone loses a loved one, we say, “May their memory be a blessing.” What we mean is a prayer that the memory of a loved one will help guide the bereaved in their own life. A prayer that the memory will be not only a source of strength and comfort but that it will lead them to action. We pray that they will live their life in the presence of those they’ve lost.
May the memories of those lost in the horrific Yonge Street Tragedy be a blessing to the families and friends of those lost, and a blessing to our Willowdale community as well.
~ Rabbi Louis Sachs, Beth Tikvah Synagogue & Coordinator for Willowdale Interfaith Coalition.