The Hebrew word for remember, zachor, is repeated over a hundred times in the Hebrew Bible.
The commandment to remember has been significant to the survival of Jews over thousands of years.
How else can we explain the continuity of the Jewish people through times of persecution, migration, destruction, and renewal?
Rabbi Jonathan Sacks (z"l) has said that there is no word for history in the Hebrew language. The word that comes closest to the idea of history in Hebrew is the word zachor – remember.
Remembering is usually thought of as referring to the past.
Our forefathers made a covenant between G-d and the Jewish people, which
is also about "remembering the future" due to a promise made about our destiny.
But how do we think about our future when there are people who want to harm us or destroy us?
We will always have to deal with Amaleks throughout our history.
Haman from Megilat Esther is a descendant of Amalek, and today there is also a resurgence of antisemitism.
If we try to remember our memories from the past, it can change us, and the act of remembering can affect the future.
We tell stories and remember also to maintain our identity, such as at the Passover Seder.
But how does memory work?
How do we process information?
And does mindfulness have anything to do with memory?
Dr. John Teasdale, pioneer of MBCT (mindfulness based cognitive therapy), proposes that mindfulness practice also changes the way we process information.
Teasdale believes that there are two forms of working memory where information can be temporarily held and processed:
The first has direct input from the sensory system, such as sensations in the body, and happens in real time.
The second one receives information from the senses only after it has been processed– not in the present moment (Journal of Cognitive Psychology).
This type of memory is associated with anxiety and depression as a result of our mind being pulled into the past or future, and this can affect the outcomes of different situations.
Memory for past personal experience does more than allow us to remember our past.
It is also linked to our ability to imagine our futures and different scenarios.
Research in Neuropsychologia Journal suggests that in depressed people, impaired memory not only makes it difficult to remember past events but also to imagine different outcomes – making their situation feel even more desperate.
In mindfulness practice, we pay attention to our memories, as we do to our thoughts and sensations, with acceptance and curiosity.
Meditation can reduce anxiety and increase concentration, and studies have also shown that it can improve working memory.
Mindfulness practice can help us change the way we look at and experience the world, which can affect our own future as well as our collective future.