A Different Kind of Memorial Day/Zikhronot

Did you know that Rosh HaShanah is the original Yom HaZikaron (the State of Israel's Day of Remembrance)? Memory is a recurring theme in the Rosh HaShanah liturgy, which is why one of its four names is Yom HaZikaron, or Day of Remembrance. The Zikhronot section of the Mussaf Amidah makes a claim that we are all remembered - ourselves as individuals, as well as our biblical ancestors - and that, even if the Divine sits as King on a lofty throne, every one of us is considered and remembered by God. The prayer lists a series of verses that highlight instances in the Torah when God remembered us:

עַל כֵּן זִכְרוֹנוֹ בָּא לְפָנֶֽיךָ יְהֹוָה אֱלֹהֵֽינוּ לְהַרְבּוֹת זַרְעוֹ כְּעַפְרוֹת תֵּבֵל. וְצֶאֱצָאָיו כְּחוֹל הַיָּם. כַּכָּתוּב בְּתוֹרָתֶֽךָ וַיִּזְכֹּר אֱלֹהִים אֶת נֹחַ וְאֵת כָּל הַחַיָּה וְאֶת כָּל הַבְּהֵמָה אֲשֶׁר אִתּוֹ בַּתֵּבָה וַיַּעֲבֵר אֱלֹהִים רֽוּחַ עַל הָאָרֶץ וַיָּשֹֽׁכּוּ הַמָּֽיִם: וְנֶאֱמַר וַיִּשְׁמַע אֱלֹהִים אֶת נַאֲקָתָם וַיִּזְכֹּר אֱלֹהִים אֶת בְּרִיתוֹ אֶת אַבְרָהָם אֶת יִצְחָק וְאֶת יַעֲקֹב: וְנֶאֱמַר וְזָכַרְתִּי אֶת בְּרִיתִי יַעֲקוֹב וְאַף אֶת־בְּרִיתִי יִצְחָק וְאַף אֶת בְּרִיתִי אַבְרָהָם אֶזְכֹּר וְהָאָרֶץ אֶזְכֹּר: וּבְדִבְרֵי קָדְשְׁךָ כָּתוּב לֵאמֹר: זֵֽכֶר עָשָׂה לְנִפְלְאֹתָיו חַנּוּן וְרַחוּם יְהֹוָה: וְנֶאֱמַר טֶֽרֶף נָתַן לִירֵאָיו יִזְכֹּר לְעוֹלָם בְּרִיתוֹ: וְנֶאֱמַר וַיִּזְכֹּר לָהֶם בְּרִיתוֹ וַיִּנָּחֵם כְּרֹב חֲסָדָיו: וְעַל יְדֵי עֲבָדֶֽיךָ הַנְּבִיאִים כָּתוּב לֵאמֹר: הָלֹךְ וְקָרָֽאתָ בְאָזְנֵי יְרוּשָׁלַֽםִ לֵאמֹר כֹּה אָמַר יְהֹוָה זָכַֽרְתִּי לָךְ חֶֽסֶד נְעוּרַֽיִךְ אַהֲבַת כְּלוּלֹתָֽיִךְ לֶכְתֵּךְ אַחֲרַי בַּמִּדְבָּר בְּאֶֽרֶץ לֹא זְרוּעָה: וְנֶאֱמַר וְזָכַרְתִּי אֲנִי אֶת בְּרִיתִי אוֹתָךְ בִּימֵי נְעוּרָֽיִךְ וַהֲקִימוֹתִי לָךְ בְּרִית עוֹלָם: וְנֶאֱמַר הֲבֵן יַקִּיר לִי אֶפְרַֽיִם אִם יֶֽלֶד שַׁעֲשׁוּעִים כִּי מִדֵּי דַבְּרִי בּוֹ זָכֹר אֶזְכְּרֶֽנּוּ עוֹד עַל כֵּן הָמוּ מֵעַי לוֹ רַחֵם אֲרַחֲמֶֽנּוּ נְאֻם יְהֹוָה: אֱלֹהֵֽינוּ וֵאלֹהֵי אֲבוֹתֵֽינוּ זָכְרֵֽנוּ בְּזִכָּרוֹן טוֹב לְפָנֶֽיךָ וּפָקְדֵֽנוּ בִּפְקֻדַּת יְשׁוּעָה וְרַחֲמִים מִשְּׁמֵי שְׁמֵי קֶֽדֶם

Therefore, his remembrance came before You, Adonoy, our God, to multiply his seed like the dust of the earth, and his descendants as the sand of the sea; as it is written in Your Torah; “And God remembered Noach and all the beasts and all the cattle that were with him in the Ark, and God caused a wind to pass over the earth, and the waters were calmed.” And it is said: “And God heard their groaning cry, and God remembered His covenant with Avraham, with Yitzchak, and with Yaakov.” And it is said: “I will remember My covenant with Yaakov, and also My covenant with Yitzchak, and also My covenant with Avraham, will I remember; and the land [of Yisrael] I will remember.” And in Your holy words it is written: “He made a memorial for His wonders, gracious and merciful is Adonoy.” And it is said: “He gave food to those who fear Him; He is ever mindful of His covenant.” And it is said: “And He remembered His covenant for them, and He relented in accordance with His abundant kindness.” And by the hand of Your servants, the Prophets it is written: “Go and proclaim it in the ears of Yerushalayim, saying: thus said Adonoy, I remembered for you the kindness of your youth, the love of your bridal days, how you followed Me into the wilderness, in a land that was not cultivated.” And it is said: “I will remember My covenant [which I made] with you in the days of your youth, and I will fulfill it for you as an everlasting covenant.” And it is said: “Is Ephraim not My precious son, is he not a child of delight? For whenever I speak of him, I recall him even more; Therefore, My innermost being is aroused for him, I will surely have compassion on him, says Adonoy.” Our God and God of our fathers remember us favorably before You and be mindful of us for deliverance and compassion from the eternal high heavens.


  • In the Torah, God demonstrates that God remembers people by intervening in the world - by stopping the flood to ensure Noah's survival, enabling Sarah to give birth, saving the Israelites from slavery, and beyond. Have you felt remembered by God in moments of pain or struggle? Did you feel like there was a hidden intervening hand somewhere?
  • The prayer asks that God remember us for our kindness (selective memory). The Jewish tradition challenges us to imitate God. In what ways can we bring the Godly trait of remembering others' kindness to our own lives? Are there people in your life who have disappointed you and leave you feeling unsettled? How can you go about remembering their kindness instead?
  • Sometimes, it's easier for others to remember our good traits and actions than it is for us to remember them for ourselves; we oftentimes remain fixated on our flaws. When you think about your own life - over the past one year, or ten years - what are some things you are most proud of that you think God would want you to remember? What would God hope that you you forgive about yourself and forget?

ZICHRONOT - by Rabbi Rachel Barenblat, https://velveteenrabbi.blogs.com/blog/2015/06/new-poems-for-the-shofar-service.html

God, remember us—
not only our mistakes
but our good intentions
and our tender hearts.

Remember our ancestors
who for thousands of years
have asked forgiveness
with the wail of the ram's horn.

Today again we open ourselves
to the calls of the shofar
reminding us sleepers, awake!
We remember what matters most in our lives.

Help us shed old memories
which no longer serve us.
Help us instead
to always remember You.