Meaningful Memories

After being sold down to Egypt and subsequently thrown in prison, Yosef helps his cellmates understand their dreams. For the butler, Yosef determines his return to his previous job with Par’oh. As for the Baker, it meant a soon-to-be death. While wishing him well, Yosef asks the butler to remember his good deed and get him released from prison. Unfortunately for Yosef, the butler forgot.


What’s peculiar, however, about the butler’s “forgetfulness”, is that he didn’t actually forget… at least completely. When it came to Par’oh’s dreams, two years later, he readily remarked to Par’oh that there was an interpreter that helped him with a dream previously. Why, if he actually didn’t forget, were we told that he did?


Rav Moshe Feinstein answers this question by proposing an insight into memory. Many of us tend to believe that memory depends on our intellectual capacity. In actuality, lasting memory is more of a function of emotion than we may realize. If something truly matters to us- something we’re passionate about- then we have a much easier time remembering it. When it came to the butler, what he remembered was not as much about Yosef than it was about his own dream. He cared about himself, and remained uninspired by Yosef. This, in turn, made him forget about Yosef, the person, until he was reminded of him later. 


Channukah is a time of immense celebration, and it surely involves memorable experiences. As we attend our parties, open our presents, and eat our delicacies, we hope it becomes a holiday to remember. As we create these special memories, we should keep in mind that our passions shouldn’t be limited to friends, family and fun, but also to the reason we’ll be getting together: a profound appreciation for Channukah’s lessons- of struggle, perseverance, and bringing light unto the world. In that way, Channukah won’t just stay an 8-day celebration, but a lasting message we can take afterwards too.