We know how easy it is to forget things that we most want to remember, especially as we age. Imagine what it would be like if you could instantly recall every phone number, every conversation, every bit of information you were ever exposed to, without having to waste hours searching through old address books and files. You would always remember where you left your car keys and wallet and you’d never forget to lock the door or turn off the oven.
Is this gift of perfect memory a realistic possibility? Given the advances of computer technology, the age is upon us when our entire lives can be stored in a computer memory, to be retrieved with a single click. Every day of our lives, the major events, conversations and encounters, will all be recorded digitally, to be instantly accessed when the need requires. The Microsoft Corporation is currently developing technology that will enable all this, and more, to become reality.
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Do we necessarily want to remember every experience, every encounter of our lives? Some experiences are better forgotten. Memories of trauma, of severe abuse, can cause flashbacks and disturbances even years later. It is thanks to the healing mechanism of forgetfulness that we are able to overcome these horrific experiences and move on with life.
But imagine if we can retain all our memories, even the most frightful ones, and not be negatively affected by them. This is possible only through moving to a higher level of awareness, in which we see even the most horrific event as something positive, something with a Divine purpose.
When Moshiach comes, the prophet Isaiah says that we will turn to G-d and proclaim, “Thank You, G-d, for You have been angry with me.” What does this mean? Why are we thanking G-d for His anger? When Moshiach comes, we will realize that all the suffering in exile was for a positive purpose, which directly led to the perfection and happiness of the Redemption. We will look back on exile not as a time best forgotten, but as a rich, meaningful experience that we had to live through in order to enjoy its fruits with the ultimate Redemption.
That is not to say, though, that we prefer to remain in exile, G-d forbid! In fact, G-d conceals from us the meaning and purpose of our suffering, so that not a single one of us should ever believe for a moment that they are better off in exile. For now, we desperately yearn for the end of our exile and the revelation of the Divine presence. Only then will we look back on exile as a good memory.
Prof. Yirmiyahu Branover is chairman of the Center of Magnetohydrodynamic Studies and Training at Ben-Gurion University.