Watch yourself, lest you forget Hashem, your G-d, by not observing His ordinances and His decrees, which I command you today. ( Devarim 8:11)
Why doesn’t the Torah express the commandment mentioned above in a more affirmative language? We could be reminded to remember Hashem and not in the form of not forgetting. What is the difference between being told to remember and being told not to forget?
The Dubner Maggid, one of the great raconteurs of all time, told the following cute story that may help us understand. A certain person was deep in debt to many people. He was presently incapable of paying back all of his creditors. He didn’t know exactly how to face all the people owed serious money and how he was to develop an equitable formula for paying each back partially. Would they even accept the offer of a partial payment or would they each insist on the total?
One of the debtors to whom he owed the largest sum approached him and offered a brilliant strategy to escape partially from his quandary. He gave him the genius advice to feign madness when one of the others came to his door. They would realize that the pressure had driven him crazy and give up hope of recovering any part of their loss.
When the first creditor knocked on the door and demanded his 50 thousand dollars the fellow started scratching himself like a chimpanzee, screaming and hopping like a primate. He swung like a monkey from the chandelier and rolled on the ground chattering the whole time like a while beast. Seeing this he closed the door in despair and left.
The next man on the stoop insisted he be given his 40 thousand dollars immediately. Acting like an infant he crawled on the floor calling for mommy. He then suddenly jumped into the man’s arms hugging him and kissing him while calling him “daddy” excitedly. The man was so shocked and horrified by the scene he screamed and ran away determined not to return again.
The next one expecting his 60 thousand dollars witnessed the bizarre spectacle of the indebted acting like a total lunatic. He let saliva run in his beard and drunkenly swung his arms wildly while shouting nonsensically. After such a display of total madness he disappointedly let go hope of ever seeing his money.
Finally the one to who he owed the largest sum, the same one who had given him the great advice came knocking at the door. Immediately he began one of his absurd routines. Realizing it was not working he went into his second act. Then in desperation he acted out the third play only to find that the creditor stood silently and unmoved by the histrionics. The man at the door interrupted any future performances by declaring, “Acccchhhhem! You can’t pull this trick on me. I’m the one that gave you the advice!”
The Chovos HaLevavos (Duties of the Heart) explains that amongst the things to be grateful to The A-lmighty about is the ability He has granted us to forget. If we would remember everything which has occurred to us as if it were presently happening we would be in a state of constant pain, embarrassment, and mourning. Thank G-d A-lmighty we are able to bury bad experiences and not have to keep living them “in the now.” The ability we have to remember selectively is a profound gift for which we can all feel an abundance of gratitude. One thing asks The A-lmighty, is to remember that I’m the One who granted this great gift and gave you this advice, so to speak, to drive away haunting and negative thoughts. Consequently, be sure not to use it to forget Me!”
Amongst all the forces competing for our time and attention there is one bill we must always pay. Like the fellow standing on the proverbial limb of the tree he can saw off any branch within reach, all but one.