A growing number of studies indicate that our memory of a speciﬁc event is signiﬁcantly “edited” as time goes on. This is not to say that we deliberately distort events; rather, each time the memory is recalled, it is somewhat modiﬁed, and we either add or subtract details, so that the memory seems real but does not actually match the event that occurred. Even with traumatic memories, each recollection leads to a slight modiﬁcation of the original memory, to the point that the original memory is weakened.
These studies point to a new direction in dealing with persistent troubling memories. There are biochemical means of “erasing” memories, speciﬁcally by inhibiting certain proteins involved in memory transmission between neurons. Furthermore, a memory can be decoupled from its emotional setting so that it no longer has the power to evoke dread.
In Jewish history there are certain events that we are commanded to remember every day. The very ﬁrst memory is related to Redemption: “Remember the day you went out of Egypt.” Another memory, which also is related to Redemption as we will see later, ironically has to do with obliterating memory: “Remember what Amalek did to you on the way out of Egypt. How he happened upon you on the way and cut off all the stragglers at your rear, when you were faint and weary, and he did not fear God. ...When the Lord your God grants you respite from all your enemies around [you] in the land which the Lord, your God, gives to you as an inheritance to possess, that you shall obliterate the remembrance of Amalek from beneath the heavens. You shall not forget!”
The Amalekites were the ﬁrst nation to go out in battle against us, but they were followed by many others. In every generation there arise those who are determined to inherit the mantle of Amalek and do harm to the Jewish people. Understandably, many Jews prefer to forget the painful past. They want to make “peace” with their murderous enemies, even while their hands drip with the blood of our brethren. These attempts have failed every time, and unfortunately, often lead to more bloodshed.
However, the day is approaching when the memory of Amalek and all his successors will be obliterated forever. One of the ﬁrst tasks for King Moshiach, when he reveals himself, will be to ﬁght the wars of G-d and erase the memory of Amalek, together with all those who hate G-d’s people. G-d promises that His name cannot be complete until the memory of Amalek is wiped out. Moshiach will come and restore the unity of G-d’s name, when “the kingship will be to G-d.”
Prof. Yirmiyahu Branover is chairman of the Center of Magnetohydrodynamic Studies and Training at Ben-Gurion University.