Remembering is Redemption

Recently, I came across this quotation ascribed to the Baal Shem Tov, “Forgetting is exile, remembering is redemption.” The Baal Shem Tov was an 18th century Rabbi – a Jewish religious leader and teacher – who is credited with founding Hasidism, a segment within Orthodox Judaism.

We all know what remembering is. It is the process by which we delve into our memory, recalling instances from the past. Do we know what redemption is? No doubt, most of us can more readily define remembering than redemption.

For me, redemption means making good, in light of past errors, mistakes and transgressions. It is a process of improvement via self-reflection and personal course correction. We assess where we have gone astray and we work to change our behavioral path. We do this to become better, more complete human beings.

We are our memories, but we are more than that. We possess the never ending ability to move differently and in new directions. Consequently, we are able to create new memories based on new actions and new ways of acting.

The Spanish born philosopher, of the 19th and 20th centuries, George Santayana said, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to fulfill it.” Most of us are familiar with the rephrased quotation, “Those who do not remember history are doomed to repeat it.”

Many of us make the same mistakes over and over again. I know I have struggled with this. When I hear people say, “I never make the same mistake twice,” I usually just smile. I used to say that. It was not true, however.

Often, human beings have to make the same mistakes various times before we avail ourselves of open hearted learning and courageous change. Imagine if individually and collectively, we learned from making a mistake one time. What a world that would be.

But we need not fret that being human represents an ongoing struggle against robotically replicating our shortcomings. We, mentally and physically, are blessed with remarkable plasticity. We can change, bend and transform – for the better – if we choose to. We cannot, however, do this without remembering.

Remembering is redemption.

Image: Salvatore Vuono /

*Authors note: You might see this column pop up online in a newspaper, under the name Both Sides. I am publishing this column here first at For a bunch of years, I have been writing newspaper columns. Since my columns have received a good response on CYInterview, I thought I would share it with you. Hope you enjoy.

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