thinking of God as a role model.
First is malkhuyot, which includes various
declarations that God is Creator and Sustainer
of the Universe, and that all human beings are
answerable to God for their deeds of the year. It
is as if to say: God is totally in charge of what’s
If God is willing to wipe away our transgressions and remember
our sins no more, then perhaps we might do the same.
Then, zikhronot recounts an assortment of
memories and remembering on God’s part
when dealing with the human race. God does
not forget a thing, neither the conduct of a single individual, nor the deeds and behaviors of
an entire nation. In the past, God remembered
Noah and the other refugees from the great
Deluge and continues to remember the promise
made never to flood the world again. God gives
God’s word to the ancestors Abraham, Isaac,
and Jacob to foster the growth of their progeny
and turn them into a great nation. God keeps
that promise and delivers their offspring from
bondage in Egypt. And in the future, God can
be counted upon, according to the liturgy, to
bring salvation to Jerusalem and the people of
Israel (one might add, all humanity). It is as if
to say: God really does care about us.
Finally, shofarot announces God’s actual
involvement in our world, as a lawgiver at
Har Sinai, as a source of salvation in the end of
days, and as a composer of music. It is as if to
say: God has and will take action in setting this
And if the zikhronot prayers are more about
God’s caring nature for humanity than about
God’s role as heavenly scorekeeper, then imitating God becomes a far more attractive task.
Then, transforming what the machzor says
about God’s interaction with creation into a
blueprint for human behavior (a rather humanistic take on malkhuyot) as well as improving ourselves and the world around us (a
humanistic take on shofarot), sets the stage to
pursue our lofty goals where memory
(zikhronot) will help us formulate a sense of
what should be. We mustn’t, then, get stuck in
the process of memory, nor disassociate remembering from the premise that we do control
our actions and that we are able to change the
world in which we live. This notion applies to
all levels of memory: personal, interpersonal,
communal, national, and global.
Many of us get bogged down by guilt or
feelings of inadequacy; as individuals, we’re unable to let go of particular memories, or as communities, the collective memory of “what has
been” outmaneuvers any attempt to envision a
changed future. On the other hand, we want to
hold on to the memories that connect the constructive dots in our own personal narratives.
As individuals, we certainly want to know
when we have erred, dealt unfairly with another, or caused damage or pain. We want to
apologize to others and remember those actions
in order to reevaluate our behavior in the future. But it is also important that we not allow
ourselves to be consumed by those difficult
memories and live in a constant state of guilt.
We surely want to remember the misdeeds
of others and steer clear of those who have
wronged us in the past. If we were to forget
these individuals, or what they’ve done to us,
we’d end up falling into similar situations in the
future. But if we insist on neither forgetting nor
forgiving, we run the risk of never improving
our relationship with those same people, not to
mention allowing for the possibility of their
The same applies to Jews as a people in our
relationship with God and other nations. We
have done shameful things — the Bible and
talumudic literature are not shy in admitting
this, even if modern Jewry is sometimes less
willing to do so — yet God, according to our
narrative, continues to forgive us.
We base our religious observance upon a
never-ending spiral of annual remembering.
Even if some of us dispute the historicity of
events, such as the Exodus from Egypt or
Haman’s plot to kill the Jews of Persia, these are
the building blocks of our spiritual practice.
They are part of our story as a nation. Yet we
must also remember that slavery led to our becoming a nation with God — not having another human being as our Master. We should
also recollect that as Jews — regardless of the
threats against Israel — we no longer experience
the kinds of threats we faced in ancient times.
If we are meant to imitate God’s actions,
then we might consider these words from the
book of Isaiah quoted in the zikhronot section:
“It is I, I who — for My own sake — wipe your
transgressions away and remember your sins
no more.” (Isaiah, 43:28) If God is willing to
wipe away our transgressions and remember
our sins no more, then perhaps we might do
the same, both toward ourselves and toward
others — for our own sake.