Memento – Parshat Beshalach
Pictures, medals, diplomas, testimonials, and, yes, mementos are just some of the items that people keep around their homes. These help them remember accomplishments, people, events and places from their past – usually associated with pleasant memories. "The good ol' days" still seem to have an allure to us even though they were not always as good as we sometimes make them out to be. These mementos can be a fun, pleasant way to remember the past.
We find that even God employs mementos to help Bnei Yisrael remember the Manna they received in the desert. In Parshat Beshalach, God commands that a piece of this Manna be placed in a jar for future generations.1 You would think that a memento would be displayed publicly. But no. This jar was rather placed together with the Holy Ark (yet to be built) in a room where only the High Priest was allowed – and even then, only once a year. This is supposed to be a remembrance? How will this help – it is hidden! And if we are spiritual beings, why use a physical reminder of God's kindness?2 Rabbi Yitzchak Levi provides some insight. He explains that we specifically place one of the most obvious symbols of our physicality and our need for sustenance – the manna, a form of bread or cake - right in the heart of the most spiritual place – the Holy of Holies. We want to show that we believe that our spiritual and physical dimensions are to be in unison in our connection to the Creator.3
We are both physical and spiritual at the same time. Our spiritual connects up to the higher ultimate meaning while our physical combines with the emotional and psychological realms to take care of our daily needs. We cannot deny the existence of one or the other. We are both. Okay, you're right - we can deny it, but that doesn’t change the fact that it exists. Dr. Viktor Frankl, the founder of logotherapy, the third Viennese school of psychotherapy, says that to live a psychologically sound and happy life we need to tune in to our spiritual side as well.4 He even goes so far as to say that we are spiritual beings within a physical being. It is part of our existence and we try to find a healthy balance between the two. "A balance," I wrote in last week's blog, "is required between the two. We cannot neglect the one for the benefit of the other."5 It can be difficult to find that balance - and even then something else may come along and upset that balance. Not easy - but we continue and try to find our way in creating for ourselves a more meaningful life. We do not give up easily.
What do our mementos mean for us? How are they used? How do we live differently knowing that we have not only a physical, memento-symbolized side but also this spiritual side? Great questions...for another blog. For now, let us simply acknowledge its existence - the spiritual existing alongside the physical. After all, even the Holy of Holies had a physical memento.
Have A Great Shabbat!