Historical Memory as the Foundation of Man & Nation
The culture of memory is not expressed by way of memorialisation but rather by way of creative methods, which accompany life as a dimension of significance. The root feeding the human experience – is memory. Memory enables man to create a bridge and a connection between the passing everyday life – and the eternal life, to the life of man which is outside of physical existence even when he passes from the world. Therefore memory awards significance to the daily existence and purpose of man’s life in his generation.
In the Avot Tractate 3, Akiva Ben Mehallal said: “Know from whence you come – to where you are going and to whom you will be giving your accounting”. Rambam interprets this: observation of his way of life brings man to humility, because the memory of from whence you have come? – comes from his observation of his responsibility – and then he will hurry to carry out the commandments in his everyday life.
In terms of the present the Rambam means to say that the existential actuality of man is when he experiences his affinity to the past and looks to his future, as living actuality. If you do not know from whence you came – you will also not know where you are going, and then the moment of the present is unimportant.
The memory is the basis for all human culture. All culture is an accumulation of experience in lifestyles from generations. Culture is created in a process of improvement, enhancement of the spiritual and material creation. The historical-spiritual cultural principle – is exposed as a process of improvement and sophistication of the individuals in the collective creation, in a combination of aspirations of past generations, with the creation of the generation for the improvement and genius of the joint creation. The reserve of the collective memory serves as a introducing ray for the national culture and impresses its image on man, the individual. Memory in its spiritual-conceptual meaning, is the ability of the individual to raise in a moment – that which has been raised for him in his past and his effort to penetrate into his future coming into being tomorrow.
The linguistic concept: “foresight” – does not imply that the prophets of Israel were visionaries, but rather that they could see in the nuclei of the present the tree that would sprout and rise in the future. This power of foresight enables man to overcome his modern distresses.
Forgetfulness accompanies memory. Memory is selective, because no man or society remembers everything. Man remembers what seems to him to be important, and forgetfulness is the need for the selective memory and the creator, that passes from generation to generation. Therefore the culture of memory is a creative culture, which restricts the forgetfulness to what is not essential for its existence.
The culture of memory accompanies the living settlement, which creates for itself frameworks and symbols which leave an impressive on the generations of that same settlement. Memory of those missing in action is not for individuals; memory of those missing awards a dimension for those continuing in their footsteps.
Rachel the Poet wrote: “Only what I have lost – is my property forever” – this is the truth in turning life from its futile experience to the significance experience of the future. Life that was full of failures and efforts to overcome – leave a good taste for our passing experiences. Because we should not suffice with what we experience and live through on a daily basis but rather to connect with larger life cycles of aspirations and exchanges and messages.
Memory creates personality: the personality of man is a one-time event: “For me the world was created”, therefore the individual wants to express it in his own way, and to leave in it his fingerprints – his share of building the world. Memory grants an individual with a personal and unique biography, including the memory of his connections with his fellow man; that which shines from his personal experience of people in his surrounding area and his contacts.
The culture of Israel is the culture of memory, as established in the Torah, the prophets and the chronicles. The people of the bible warn about abandoning the memory: “Remember everyone that you were slaves in Egypt – therefore – remember what Amalek did to you – therefore “remember the death of the world (listen) between the years of the generation”.
The culture of Israel is directed at a dimension of time and its values and says what can be done with continuing time. Because time – starts with creation and ends with redemption. Memory of those who fell memorialized during a festival – gives the correct dimension of the festival. The festival is not the shadow of the fallen but rather as a result of their memory.