But when from a long-distant past nothing subsists, after the people are dead, after the things are broken and scattered, still, alone, more fragile, but with more vitality, more unsubstantial, more persistent, more faithful, the smell and taste of things remain poised a long time, like souls, ready to remind us, waiting and hoping for their moment, amid the ruins of all the rest; and bear unfaltering, in the tiny and almost impalpable drop of their essence, the vast structure of recollection. –Marcel Proust, Remembrance of Things Past
Proust’s account of the magic inherent in a madeline cookie to open up worlds of image and emotion testifies to the power of the past to impact our present. A similarly disorienting time shift occurs in the special portion we read this week for Shabbat Hachodesh, marking the beginning of the Hebrew month of Nisan—the first month; the month of our redemption. In Exodus 12:1-20, temporal frames of reference telescope as the real time description of God’s redemption of the people from Egypt intersects commands for the ritual commemorations of these events in successive generations. The present experience must be symbolically observed in the future to fully embrace the past. The hebrew word encapsulating this process is zikaron, connoting far more than mere recall. It assumes a deep heeding of ideal that compels action. When we remember our redemption, we become obligated to act—to redeem others similarly enslaved, constrained or limited in achieving their God-given potential. As Jews, remembrance is far more significant than nostalgia. It is the driving force in repairing the world.
– Rabbi Daniel Weiner