by Rabbi Yisrael Kaniel – September 25, 2011

In Moses’ parting admonishment of the people of Israel before he leaves the material world, we read in the Torah section of Ha’Azinu, “You ignored the Rock who gave birth to you, and forgot G-d Who brought you forth” (Devarim 32:18).

In his comments on this verse, found in his Rabbi Frand on the Parashah 2, pp. 353-354, R. Yissocher Frand notes our Sages’ teaching in the Midrash that one of the greatest gifts that the world was given is that of forgetting.  By forgetting painful occurrences in our lives, our pain is eased.  In this respect, forgetting is a gift.  But not in every respect is it good to forget.

R. Frand points out one of the parables of the Maggid of Dubnow: Once Reuven borrowed some money from Shimon.  When the time came to repay the loan, Reuven had no money to give him.  Reuven prayed daily that Shimon would not come for the money, and, eventually, when Shimon met him, Reuven begged off saying that he was going through rough times but that he would soon repay the loan.  One day, Reuven met his friend Levi and told him how uncomfortable he felt pushing off Shimon every time he met him.  Levi suggested a solution.  The next time he should meet Shimon, Reuven should act crazy, answering questions irrationally and moving erratically.  Eventually, Shimon will think that the financial pressures overcame Reuven and will forgive the loan.  Indeed, this is what happened.  Reuven was free from Shimon’s loan.  Some time later, Reuven borrowed money from Levi.  When the time to repay the loan arrived, Reuven, upon meeting Levi, spoke irrationally and moved erratically.  Reacting to Reuven’s behavior, Levi reminded him that it was he who taught him this trick to avoid repaying a loan and it is useless to try it on him since he knows it is fake.

This is what the aforementioned verse is telling us.  G-d gave us a precious gift of forgetting.  Using this gift properly, we can succeed in overcoming difficult episodes in our lives, but we must be careful, however, not to incorrectly use this gift against the One who gave it.  We must never forget G-d.