As our older kids returned from Camp Ramah, they regaled us with tales about new friends, hobbies and experiences during their four weeks away. They were thrilled when we decided to visit Camp Ramah just a week after their return. We explained to the kids that camp might look or feel different. They shook their tween heads and proceeded to discuss everything they would find back in Ojai.
But sadly, it was different. The kids ran to their bunks. Different kids and different counselors. While the space felt safe, there was a strong, pervasive feeling that this was now someone else’s camp.
For anyone that has visited a previous home with new owners, it is a similar experience. There is a desire to run through the hallways, find old bedrooms and see familiar trees in the yard. But hurt ensues when a beloved tree has been uprooted, and old bedrooms are now renovated into offices. It is seemingly impossible to replicate our most formative of moments.
It is a profound realization: the power of memory is often more comforting than trying to recreate what was. So much of Jewish ritual asks us to remember. To remember the exodus out of Egypt. To remember creation and Shabbat. Next week we will sit on the ground, chant Eicha and remember the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem. We recall these pivotal occurrences in history, not for means of replication but to allow collective Jewish memory transcend generations, gleaning wisdom over the span of thousands of years to shape our present. Memory is the medium in which we share our personal and communal stories, connecting past with future.
The Baal Shem Tov, founder of the Hasidic movement teaches, “Forgetfulness leads to exile; remembering is the key to redemption.” It is the remembering of what was that will inform what can be.
For those that wish to return to what was, whether it is a return to camp or “the good old times”, if we let them, our memories hold the power to nudge us forward.
May our memories cause us to be a blessing, for God and for each other.
Rabbi Nicole Guzik is senior rabbi at Sinai Temple. She can be reached at her Facebook page at Rabbi Nicole Guzik or on Instagram @rabbiguzik. For more writings, visit Rabbi Guzik’s blog section from Sinai Temple’s website.