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Wednesday, October 21, 2020 - 3 Cheshvan 5781
 
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Super Memory

There are people who can remember the most minute details of events that happened decades ago, almost as well as they can remember events that happened yesterday. Just throw them a random date from, say, seventeen and a half years ago, and they can tell you exactly what they were wearing, on which bus they traveled, what the 10 a.m. news reporter said, and what they ate for lunch.

Most people with average memories can remember many details from the recent past. We can remember what we wore last Sunday and what we ate for lunch yesterday afternoon. Within a week, however, the memory traces begin to fade. This is not so with people who possess superior autobiographical memories: their memory is preserved for many years, without making special effort or using any mnemonics or memory tricks. All of us can remember in depth events that had great emotional significance. People with autobiographical memories remember the most mundane facts, those that have no special meaning at all.

The institute for psycho-neurobiology in the University of California in Irvine has recently launched a study of superior autobiographical memory. They hope that their research into these rare individuals will shed light on the more general topic of how we form and store memories.

The researchers surmise that a gift for autobiographical memory was a great boon in the past, when our cultural memories were preserved orally, through stories passed on from generation to generation. The need for a strong memory weakened somewhat after the invention of the printing press, and in this day and age, when we carry around our “accessory brains” in our pockets, it is arguable that memory skills are in danger of going extinct altogether. But who knows? Perhaps one day we will use our memories in more amazing ways than we have ever known before.

Jewish sources describe the wondrous memory that all of us will experience in the time of Redemption. We will be able to recall with clarity every event that happened since the world was created until the moment of Geulah. We will all know and understand everything. No detail will be obliterated. We will be privileged to grasp why every detail had to happen the way it did, even those events that seemed irrelevant. “Every act, G-d will bring to judgment.”

When Moshiach comes, we will remember and understand, but we will no longer be able to change the past. The time to change is now. Now is the time to increase in Torah study and good deeds in order to make the Redemption materialize. Now we can also wipe out the undesirable memories, by doing teshuvah and removing any trace of past negativity.

 

 


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