Jerusalem Report

Memory can be redemptive

We remember Korah and his companions to learn from their mistake. By so doing we redeem them, and ourselves.

What do we do with what remains from our mistakes? After we have a terrible argument and say things to each other we are not proud of, do we never speak of it again? When we steal, should we pay a fine and, having fulfilled the punishment, move forward as if the crime never happened? If our children hit or tease someone, do we make them apologize and then forget about it? We should forgive, and forgiving means allowing others, and ourselves, the space to stumble, get up and move forward into the future without being crippled by our past. The Talmud teaches that to remind a sinner of his past is ona’at devarim – a form of cruelty with words (Baba Metzia 58b). Memory should not be crippling, but neither should we live as if the past never happened. Memory can be redemptive.

In this week’s Torah portion, Korah challenges the leadership of Moshe and Aaron. Moshe responds by letting God decide. “Take fire pans for yourselves, Korah, and all his company. Put fire in them, and put incense in them before Adonai tomorrow. It shall be that the man whom the Lord chooses, he shall be holy; you take too much upon yourselves, you sons of Levi.”

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