One of the things that we find so difficult in this world is the fact that we … forget! For the average person, (not those individuals who were gifted with the ability to instantly remember everything they see), regardless of the issue many times we forget what it was. We have appointments to keep that we forget. We learn something of great importance … and we forget it. Many times, due to our involvement in our hectic day to day, we can even forget what day it is! (Come on guys, how many times did YOU forget your wife’s birthday or your anniversary?)
It’s not because it’s not important to us. Things that just get lost in the rush and the day to day.
But why did HKB”H want this to be so? What is the purpose of forgetfulness in this world? It apparently serves a purpose, but what is it?
Going back a few articles ago we will recall that HKB”H created this world for a purpose. The world’s purpose is to mask HKB”H’s presence from us. For this reason, it is called עולם (olam) whose root is the word עלם, which means “hide”. But why does HKB”H need to be hidden? Why mask His presence from the world? Wouldn’t it be better if we could wake up in the morning, see Him sitting there at the edge of our beds and say “Hey! How ya doin?”
Let’s consider this issue a little bit more. What would life be like if I continually experienced HKB”H? Well, it would be great, but at the same time, it would also be terrifying, and disappointing. Why is that?
If we stop to think about it, we might observe the following about our life’s activities. Much of our search in life, regardless of how or what it is that I do in my search, travels and activities are because we are looking to experience one of the most elusive experiences in all existence. I want to experience “It.” If I go on a journey to a far off land to go and witness marvels of the world, what is it that drives me to go on that trip, make the effort, shell out my hard-earned cash to do that and go there? What’s my motivating force? I’m hoping that that will be “It.” I’ll go, I’ll travel far, I’ll see the desired sight, and that will be “It”!
What is it that drives people to climb Mount Everest? Because I assume that after my exertion, the climbing, the schlepping, the “conquering of the mountain” I will set foot upon the summit and then I will finally have achieved “It.”
What drives people to do businesses that make them oodles of money? Because they want to “make It.”
Yet despite all of the effort, the conquering of difficulties and achievements above the moment we finally attain the goal, we see the sight, climb the mountain, make a successful business “It” remains elusive.
If you would ask somebody “How about a face to face meeting with G-d?” I’m pretty sure that all rational, sane individuals would answer “THAT would be IT.”
So clearly to have a face-to-face experience with HKB”H would be a truly amazing experience.
But it would also be terrifying.
Terrible- because to be in the presence of an Infinite Being makes one realize just how small and inconsequential we really are. As we say in the Shemoneh Esrei prayer every day, three times a day …HaE-l HaGadol HaGibor v’HaNorah (The Source of all power, The Great, The Valiant and The Terrifying). To dwell in His presence in this world, the world in which we are so greatly tested would be terrifying indeed.
But it would also be disappointing. Why? Didn’t we say that that would be the single greatest experience a person could have in this world? Isn’t that “It”, the elusive experience that the whole world is searching for? What about it would disappoint?
The answer is simple. It would be disappointing because we would be back to square one. The purpose for which the world was created would be instantly negated.
Why, did we say, was the world created? To allow a man to overcome, to the extent which he is capable of, the traits that make him different than his Creator and Provider. To give him the opportunity to also be a Giver and a creator as well. Yet the only way in which this world could allow for this to happen is if the act of giving and that of creation were things that were achieved only with great difficulty. Through acts and decisions in which we must conquer our Yetzer HaRa, thereby making ourselves into givers and creators.
What do we feel when we succeed in overcoming our yetzer and doing what’s right and good as opposed to what we feel like doing – all of a sudden we experience an amazing feeling! The mask of the world is slightly peeled back, and we sense just a little bit more of HaShem’s presence in the world.
That can only happen in a world in which HKB”H’s presence is not “visible” nor clearly able to be sensed. If HKB”H were constantly and obviously looking over our shoulders – there would be no free choice, there would be no contest in our decisions as to how to act, there would only be G-d’s way. We would miss the whole point of creation!
But at the same time, we can’t go through life constantly amassing G-dly experiences. There are times that we are, for example, going on a walk, and an amazing vision of tremendous beauty all of a sudden appears to us. A vista opens up, and it takes our breath away! Wow! Mah rabbu ma’asecha HaShem (how amazing are your actions HaShem).
If we were to live constantly with that recognition, if all life around us would cause us to go “Wow!” all of the time – of what use would the world be? HaShem might just as well be “sitting on our shoulders”.
So to counteract that the Olam that is the world not only hides HaShem from us – it makes our minds and memories hide from themselves as well. We both “adjust” to the recurring phenomenon of life and then forget it to allow this world to serve its purpose. To allow me to make myself as much like HKB”H as possible through a life of giving and creation which I must constantly strive for and fight my baser nature to achieve.
Why do we forget?
To allow ourselves further growth in utilizing this world to its full potential.
One more thing, though. In this world, the olam, the more truly spiritual the thing is – the more difficult it is to retain it. It is harder to retain Torah knowledge more than it is to retain technical knowledge. To this end, we must recognize that if we really would like to achieve our goals of Torah learning – we have to work darn hard to get it and internalize it.