When the calendar denoted this week as Shabbat Zachor (“Remember”) it was thinking of one particular topic – the evil deeds of Amalek, ancestor of Haman, which explains why the Amalek story is read on the Shabbat before Purim.
This is however not the only time of the year when remembrance is commanded. There is a list of shesh z’chirot – six historical events for daily remembrance, spelt out in detail in many siddurim. Even these do not exhaust the duty of remembering.
However, sometimes our minds are muddled and we simply can’t remember. Once upon a time a person would tie a knot in their handkerchief as a reminder of something they had to do that day. It didn’t always help. You would see the knot but couldn’t work out what it was meant to tell you. These days it is even harder because hardly anyone uses handkerchiefs. Additionally, some people make up their minds not to remember.
Noting that when Joseph successfully explained the butler’s dream, the Torah says, “The butler did not remember Joseph but forgot him” (Gen. 40:23), the Dubner Maggid wondered why both verbs were needed. If the butler did not remember, why do we also need to be told that he forgot?
It is because sometimes we deliberately forget, especially when someone has done us a favour and we are reluctant to admit it. We need to learn hakkarat ha-tov, “acknowledging the favours”… those we receive from fellow human beings, and those we receive from God.