Friday, August 20, 2010

A Trick of Memory

This parasha contains one of my favorite lines of Torah: "You shall wipe out the memory of Amalek from under the heaven—you shall not forget" (Deuteronomy 25:19). During the Exodus, the Amalekites attacked the Israelites,"smiting the hindmost, all that were feeble behind"(1 Samuel 15:2).

Mostly, we’re supposed to remember:
the Sabbath day to keep it holy—
our tiny lights and our libations
rescuing that sundown from resemblance
to every other dusk—and all
613 commandments, we remember
when we see the periwinkle fringes
of our prayer shawls like string
around a finger, like “Every good boy
does fine.” We remember we were slaves
and how G-d freed us with a mighty hand,
with Technicolor signs and wonders:
blood red sea, green frogs, black night.
We even must remember to forget
like the magician transmogrifying
lead to gold by stirring the pot
without once thinking, “hippopotamus.”
So we blot out the memory of Amalek,
the warriors like carion crow, ravening
among the stragglers, their black caftans
flying in the wind, the points of their spears
like beaks. We work so hard forgetting,
remembering becomes the heart of who we are.

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