Remember Me: Yom Hazikaron
There are days where I don’t want to remember. I wake up in the morning in my Los Angeles apartment, blocking out all the steps that put me in this place in my life as I return to consciousness. My bed has shied away of its former red sheets, now draped in deep ice blues and warm chocolate browns. There is no one sleeping next to me; no one except my dearest laptop, the source of my creativity.
Yet at this time of the year, as Rosh Hashana comes along, I turn on my trusty bedmate and put on Idan Raichel’s “Blessings for the New Year.” And after his voice blasts in your ear like the shofar sound, the sound of a traditional rabbi’s twirling voice gives the blessing for the new year, calling out “Yom Hazikaron” — or the day of remembrance. And I so desperately want to forget.
There are the days where I sit in my car where I want to remove from my mind how hard I’ve cried, how deeply I’ve loved, how much I’ve struggled in recent years. On a day where I’m supposed to remember everything, I just want to perform one of those treatments from Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, waking up in the morning and feeling nothing, knowing nothing of what happened over the past weekend, the past six weeks, six months, even going back two and a half years. Just… nothing.
Yet every year we are commanded to return. Go to our temples, pray to our G-d, tell him to remember us for the Book of Life in the coming year. Yet at the same time I want to climb up to G-d’s throne and challenge his/her dominance. Why does the Lord Almighty does theses things to us? Force us to endure broken hearts, soul-squeezing obstacles and frustration beyond compare, and then come back in repentance and hope?
Every year I’ve prayed for a better year. Things were difficult every time, fighting for survival. How long could things be so difficult? How much could I lose? Each Rosh Hashana, standing in temple as the lights on my grandparents’ memorial plaques shone across the room, I prayed for good things: a loving relationship that would lead to a good marriage and a family of my own; a good job that would give me financial security; the health of myself and those around me. Every year I stand before G-d asking for these things. And every time I find a year has gone and these same prayers are there, but with heartbreaking twists.
As my body sways and my mind calls for G-d to remember me in his Book of Life, there are times where I approach the throne with the disdain of how this deity can make me a play toy. Yet I can’t turn my back on my spirituality because I know it and love it so deeply. Where I want Hashem to put a helmet on my head and say, “Let me forget, because tomorrow I can wake up blissfully clueless and find a better path without the clouds of the past in my eyes.”
The image of Joel and Clementine in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind comes into my head. There were two people there who did everything in their power to forget: Removed items, wiped memories, explained what was happening to their friends and families and how they were trying to ease the pain. Yet as all the characters in that universe learned, you can’t simply forget; the universe will find a way to remind you, to pull you back in. Rosh Hashana is ingrained in my blood; I feel it calling me, my body preparing to come before the Almighty. This is the day I have to remember, despite what life has brought to my doorstep.
And I remembered last night as I sat across the table from my friend Audra. Sweet Audra, who made it her job when I got home from Israel to keep me awake so I would fall asleep at a regular hour, who sat on my couch on the two-year anniversary of that horrible night that I was so desperate to forget and shy away from. I had only known her a year, but it was like she had been there the whole time. I wanted to forget a lot, but I didn’t want to forget her, particularly when singing “Jack and Diane:” “Yeah, life goes on, long after the thrill of living is gone.”
And then I talked on the phone with my friend Rachel, who had known me for so many years, and we laughed as I talked about the cricket that had taken residence in my room and how I was starting to act like Liam Neeson in Taken (“I don’t know where you are. But I will find you. And kill you.”). And we laughed despite our tears of years of never-ending changes of jobs, loves and homes; we remembered despite the heartbreak, and as I longed to hug my friend, there was no way in hell that I wanted to forget.
The circumstances make us want to forget, but it’s the people that call us back to remember: My beautiful friends and their incredible souls, going home to my mother’s table for Rosh Hashana dinner, hugging my cousins during our traditional family lunch after temple services. And my grandparents’ memorial plaques wink at me from across the temple, but their love, sealed upon the Tree of Life outside the sanctuary walls, where they engraved their eternal devotion to their children and three granddaughters, is there too.
And I will remember. The pain throws the love into relief, searing into me and branding my body with scars that indicate that I belong to G-d, that I will keep breathing and that despite the awful things that have happened. There are gifts that have been bestowed upon me that cannot be returned or blessed enough. And I will still pray for a loving relationship that will lead to a marriage and family, a good job that will give me financial security and the health of myself and those that I love despite it all. Because there is more to life than simply forgetting.