There is a huge difference between living with the past and living in the past. You may have been cheated or verbally abused by someone close. A teacher’s words may have stung or a friend betrayed you. It is easy to be stuck with those memories of pain or hatred, but while we can’t change our past, we can certainly change our future.
G-d tells the Jewish nation that they are soon to leave Egypt, where they have been enslaved for over two hundred years, and He gives a curious instruction. The soon-to-be-free slaves are to approach their Egyptian neighbors – their masters – who will give them valuable gifts. This was not compensation for the years of misery the Jewish nation had endured. Precious gold and silver would not erase their memories, but it would take the sting off.
Receiving these gifts would allow the Jews, with time, to let go of the pain of their exile and move on to build their future. Have you heard the phrase “so-and-so lives in the past”? It’s what happens when one cannot let go of his or her experiences of the past and is unable to move forward. We must remember the past and learn from it without constantly reliving emotions and experiences that have long since passed. Truly great people are those who can retain the memories, yet learn from them and apply their lessons to the future.
TALK TO YOUR KIDS about ways to let go of the past in a productive way. (Perhaps you know a Holocaust survivor who was able to build a new life.)
CONNECT TO THEIR LIVES:
- Why do we like to hold on to feelings of anger or hate?
- Can you give an example of a time that you held on to a grudge or remained angry for a long time?
- Could you have learned something from that experience?
By Rabbi Moshe Becker
Values & Ethics—Through a Jewish Lens is created by Fred and Joyce Claar to bring the wisdom of Judaism into family discussions.