Memory is a powerful thing; it is central to our identity. However, it is interesting that our memory often has only a limited connection with the actual history of an event. This is brought to light through the words of Kodachrome, by Simon and Garfunkel. The lyrics read,
If you took all the girls I knew when I was single
Brought ’em all together for one night
I know they’d never match my sweet imagination
Everything looks better in black and white
The way in which we frame a memory colors it. In this song, memory removed all the pigment of blemishes.
It is interesting to reflect on the nature of color and memory in light of Terumah, this week’s Torah portion. Here we read about the Tabernacle in its entire splendor. It was gold, turquoise, purple, scarlet, and more. Every year we read about the building of the tabernacle. We are forced to recall its beauty while none of us has ever seen it. In the Mishnah when discussing the construction of the Temple, there are a number of disagreements. This is striking in as much as there was an actual Temple. Why would there be a disagreement about a physical reality? The answer must be in the importance of memory over history.
I think about this all the time as my children are getting older. What kind of memories are we all curating. I write this as we prepare to go on a family trip. In my preparations I went out and bought the three older children disposable cameras for them to start curating their own memories. Looking out at the future of their lives it is touching to think about what memories will they keep in the Holy of Holies. What will become the foundations of their personality, faith, and practice? The question for all of us is, how do we balance a reverence for the past, relevance of the presence, and sense of mission for the future?