This week’s Torah portion (Behar-Bechukotei) promises several rewards for going in God’s ways and keeping his commandments. The midrash (Torat Kohanim 26:2) explains that going in God’s ways refers to toiling in Torah. This is a mitzvah regardless of how many times you have already learned the same text or concept. Another midrash (Kohelet Rabbah 3:10), observes that God created forgetfulness to allow us to repetitively learn with joy and not get bored.
Benefits of memory
Memory is generally viewed as a positive trait. Those with a better memory seem to do better in school and have more life success. They are able to remember everyone’s names, quote random facts, and not forget items on their grocery list. Many of us, however, are born with imperfect memories and we all lose some capacity as we age.
Benefits of forgetting
Interestingly, neurobiological research has identified several benefits to forgetting. Basic memory involves associating stimuli with outcomes. When our brains forget, it allows us to form new associations that may be more accurate. This is why when relearning something, there is a deeper understanding of the material and not just the original conceptualization. Similarly, people who forget more often, are thought to be more creative. They are able to think more abstractly, without preconceived notions of how something should work. Finally, our brains protect us by suppressing memories that are painful or harmful to us. The next time you get frustrated about forgetting, remember it is a gift from God, allowing us to attain new heights in our Torah study and everyday tasks.