After the shooting in Connecticut, a quote attributed to Morgan Freeman began to circulate around the internet. Popping up on countless Facebook pages, the quote addressed the recent horrific school shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School. Apparently, Freeman had stated “…we treat the Batman theater shooter and the Oregon mall shooter like celebrities. Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris are household names, but do you know the name of a single victim of Columbine…Fox News has plastered the killer’s face on all their reports for hours…” The quotation went viral. The only problem: Morgan Freeman never said it. Someone had falsely attributed the quotation to him. There can be a lot said about this hoax: how awful that someone is taking advantage of a terrible situation and how frightening it is that we so easily believe everything we see on Facebook without questing its authenticity. But, I keep coming back to the question: Why did this quote became such a popular piece to post? Of course, its connection to the actor provided it with prominence, but I believe something else happened as well. The quote said what so many people were thinking: What do we remember from these horrific instances? Do we rightfully honor the victims or only carry away the memory of the killer and the disgusting act he committed?
Two days prior to the shooting, I sat in a classroom with a group of women, discussing the power and responsibility of memory in a Rosh Chodesh class. We delved into the questions of what and how and why we remember. Little did we know how relevant our conversation would be in only a few days. That night, we examined an interesting, yet seemingly contradictory text from the Torah. In Deuternomy, we read, “Remember what the Amalekites did to you along the way when you came out of Egypt. 18 When you were weary and worn out, they met you on your journey and attacked all who were lagging behind; they had no fear of God. When the LORD your God gives you rest from all the enemies around you in the land he is giving you to possess as an inheritance, you shall blot out the name of Amalek from under heaven. Do not forget!” (Deuternomy 25:17-19). As they left Egypt, tired and overwhelmed, the Amalekites attacked the Israelites, even preying on the weakest in the community, those who lagged behind. God instructs us to “remember” what Amalek did. But, we are also told to “blot out his name.” Lastly, God says “do not forget.” So the question always becomes are we supposed to remember, forget, or remember not to forget? Maybe we are bound to do each and all of these things. Maybe God is instructing us to remember what has happened to us, but do not remember blindly or without thinking. God says: “Blot out the name of your enemy” so the focus of our memory will not simply expand the prominence of this enemy.
As humans, our curiosity about the shooter in Newtown leads us to wonder about his motive, his planning, what in his life lead him to that moment on Friday when he committed an unfathomable act. But we cannot allow this questioning to overpower our interest in preserving the memories of those who died that day: who they were and what they gave to the world, even in the limited days many of them were on this earth. May we ensure that those individuals killed in Newtown always be remembered. And may the memories of their lives shine for all the world to see. Zichronam L’vracha — May their Memories Always Be for a Blessing.