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    A son who made me forget – Mikketz

    menasheBiblical children were rarely given recycled names. Instead, the parents created names which summed up their feelings and hopes.

    Hence Joseph called his first-born son Menashe, from a root that means “to forget”. He explained, “God has made me forget my troubles” (Gen. 41:51).

    We sympathise with Joseph. After so many trials and tribulations, why would he not want to put it all behind him? On the other hand, how could he forget his tzarot completely?

    Samson Raphael Hirsch solves the problem by changing the translation. “To forget”, he says, is not the only meaning of the root n-sh-h. Another possible meaning is “to be a creditor”, and the verse can therefore read, “God has made my troubles into creditors” – i.e. “I owe it to my misfortunes to appreciate my joy all the more”.

    An ingenious suggestion, supported by the fact that Joseph called his second son Ephraim, from a root that means “to be fruitful”.

    Joseph explained this name too, saying, “God has made me fruitful in the land of my affliction”.

    It is not that Joseph has forgotten all that happened to him – who could? – but he has moved on and found a way to flourish despite the burden of memory.

    The post-Holocaust generation is in a sense like Joseph. No-one and nothing could make them forget. No-one and nothing can take the past away from them.

    They remember but they do not brood and live in the past. Like Joseph, they have built and created for the future – new homes, new hopes, new families, all made the more precious because of the suffering of the past.

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