Remember the Good

Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein  |  May 26, 2017

Yael Eckstein hugging a young girl and smiling.

“Therefore I am now going to allure her;
    I will lead her into the wilderness
    and speak tenderly to her.
There I will give her back her vineyards,
    and will make the Valley of Achor a door of hope.
There she will respond as in the days of her youth,
    as in the day she came up out of Egypt.” — Hosea 2:14–15

The Torah portion for this week is Bamidbar, which means “in the desert,” from Numbers 1:1–4:20, and the Haftorah is from Hosea 2:1–22.

The book of Hosea begins with arguably one of the strangest commandments ever given to man. God commands the prophet Hosea to find an unfaithful woman, marry her, and begin a family. Hosea and his wife become an allegory for God’s love of unfaithful Israel.

Often times in the Bible, God “remembers” the faithfulness of the children of Israel as they followed Him in the desert – the time in history that we read about in this week’s Torah reading. In the book of Jeremiah, God says: “I remember the devotion of your youth, how as a bride you loved me and followed me through the wilderness” (2:2). Here in Hosea, this week’s Haftorah, God planned to lead the Israelites to the desert where “she will respond as in the days of her youth, as in the day she came up out of Egypt.”

Whenever all seemed lost and the children of Israel seemed beyond redemption, God remembered. He remembered who she was and who she could be again. He remembered the love that He had for Israel and the relationship they once enjoyed. God remembers the virtues of the past, and it is through that lens that He views the present and plans for the future.

When it comes to our relationships with each other we also remember the past. But what is it that we remember? Most people remember the bad things done to them much more than the favors they received. And even when we do remember a person’s kindness to us, as soon as that same person wrongs us in any way, the memory of that kindness is quickly forgotten.

The Jewish sages urge us to see our relationships through a very different prism. They caution us to remember the good things that a person does and never let their mistakes cancel out their merits. Just as God remembers the best that we were and believes in the best that we can be, we also need to remember the best things about any given person. We can never let the bad in them cloud our vision of their goodness.

Try this next time someone in our life wrongs us: Remember. Remember the times we shared and the good things that they did. Remember the kindness they showed us and every favor ever done for us. Maybe it’s a parent who took care of us when we were a child or a spouse that supported us through school. Remember. When we remember, be grateful, and only then take action. Hopefully, we will act much more from love and less from anger. We will make better decisions that will dramatically enhance our most cherished relationships.