Zachor/Remembrance: Remembering the Past Gives Power to the Present
April is a month filled with remembering. We entered it having just finished two Passover Seders recalling, perhaps in vivid detail, the Jewish people’s Exodus from Egypt and their transition from slavery to freedom. On April 12, Yom HaShoah–Holocaust Remembrance Day, we remembered the loss of 6 million Jewish lives in World War II during memorial services around the world.
This weekend, we will be remembering the soldiers and civilians who have died in the struggle for Israel’s independence on April 18, Yom HaZikaron–Israeli Fallen Soldiers and Victims of Terrorism Remembrance Day. Israel’s Memorial Day is followed closely by Yom Ha’atzmaut-Israel’s Independence Day on April 20, when we remember – and celebrate – the date, now 62 years ago, when Israel became an independent nation.
Why so much remembering, you might ask? The first time we see and read the word Zachor in Torah is in the story of Noah:
“God then remembered Noah and all the beasts that were with him in the ark, so God caused a wind to sweep over the earth, and the waters subsided. “ (Genesis 8:1) In Torah, when God remembers, God also acts. God goes on to create a reminder – a memorial if you will – the rainbow: “And when I cause clouds to form over the earth, and the bow appears in the cloud, I will remember My covenant between Me and you and all living things, all flesh, and never again shall waters become a flood, to destroy all flesh.” (Genesis 9:14-15)
When we remember – The Exodus story, the Holocaust, fallen soldiers, victims of terror or Israel’s independence – what should our action be? Is it enough simply to attend a Seder, a memorial service, a celebration or is more expected of us? In God’s case, there was more. God created the rainbow as a sign, a reminder to God not to flood the earth again, a memorial to those who perished in the floodwaters. If God requires actions, reminders and memorials, don’t we as well?
When a loved one dies, how should we remember that individual who once had a significant impact on our lives? When something wonderful and significant happens in our life, how do we remember what took place?
There are some wonderful books that teach us how to move through life’s ups and downs and find creative ways to help our children remember the significant moments of life whether it is the death of someone important to them or a major milestone. These are a few of my favorite titles:
The Keeping Quilt by Patricia Polacco. © 1988, Simon and Schuster Books for Young Readers. Ages 5-9. Winner of the Sydney Taylor Book Award for Young Readers. A babushka and a dress are the only items that come from Russia with Anna. When she outgrows both, her mother uses the cloth to make a quilt. The quilt is used as a Shabbat tablecloth, a picnic blanket where Anna got engaged, the chuppa for Anna’s wedding and a baby blanket for her children. The quilt followed the family and was present at all the births, weddings and even at Anna’s death. The quilt is now waiting for the arrival of the author’s grandchildren, Anna’s great-great grandchildren. A beautiful story about memories and memorials as carried forward in a family quilt.
The Memory String by Eve Bunting. Illustrated by Ted Rand. © 2000, Clarion Books. Ages 4-8. Laura’s mother has passed down her memory string filled with buttons from the coats and dresses of generations of relatives in the family. Laura’s most special button is the little white one that was on her mother’s nightgown when she died three years ago. Her father has remarried and although Jane is nice enough, she isn’t Laura’s mother. To make sure she knows that, Laura pulls out her memory string a lot in front of Jane. When Laura’s cat breaks the memory string causing buttons to fly everywhere, everyone helps in the search, but one button remains lost. When Laura overhears Jane explaining to her father why that button is so important, she begins to think accepting Jane into her life may be a good idea after all.
The Milestones Project: Celebrating Childhood Around the World. Photography by Dr. Richard Steckel and Michele Steckel. © 2004 Tricycle Press. All ages. Do you remember losing your first tooth? Getting your first haircut? What about your first pet? These are just a few of the milestones described in this wonderful book. In the words of kids themselves and from some of today’s most well known authors – Eric Carle, Cynthia Rylant and J.K. Rowling to name a very few – we read about the memories of major milestones and remember our own.
Monumental Verses by J. Patrick Lewis. © 2005 National Geographic Society. Ages 5-10. While I literally see God’s work in nature and all its grandeur, I find the creations of humankind to be amazing works of profound genius. More often than not, these buildings, statues and monuments created for some purpose, live on well past their intended function. They become icons, landmarks, historical treasures. Monuments to another time, we visit, stand in awe and take our pictures. Or maybe we write poems like these. Gorgeous photographs and beautiful poetry take you on an around the world trip to view some of the world’s most incredible sites with an entirely new perspective.
Talking Walls by Margy Burn Knight. Illustrated by Anne Sibley O’Brien. © 1992, Tilbury House, Publishers. Ages 5-10. One of my favorite books describing a few places on earth where humankind has lived, worked, prayed or suffered and left messages for generations to come. The effect is that no matter the time or our gender, faith, language or culture, people the world over create monuments to remember the important events in their lives. What is happening right now, in your life that you want to remember?
When Dinosaurs Die: A Guide to Understanding Death By Laurene Krasny Brown. Illustrated by Marc Brown. © 1996, Little, Brown and Company. Ages 4-8. In simple, yet direct language this book helps explain to young children what it means to be alive and what it means to be dead, how we may feel after someone we know dies, what various faiths and backgrounds do when saying goodbye and how different traditions talk about the afterlife. The most important section of the book, however, is “Ways to Remember Someone,” as it provides a number of excellent ideas for young people to memorialize the person they have lost and find ways to move on.
These books will give you some ideas for creating those actions, reminders and memorials to remember important people or significant events in your family’s life and enable you to find ways to share stories and feelings about what those people and times meant to you as you look back over time.
©2010 Kathleen M. Bloomfield and forwordsbooks.com all rights reserved.
Books used in this review were from my personal collection or my local library.
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