I recently finished reading 'Hitler's Willing Executioners' by Daniel Goldhagen. The book details the widespread German societal participation in the Holocaust from 1933-1945. While the book is obviously tremendously sad and distressing, there's a point the author makes in the introduction that is relevant to many areas, aside for the Holocaust. It's an idea crucial to appreciating the gifts we have in life.

He writes how, when conducting research for the book, he actually found it somewhat difficult to find written records of the antisemitic feelings of that dark era. He realized that precisely because the antisemitism was so widespread was it hard to find it written about in the records of the time. Sure, there was the Nazi propaganda and newspapers and speeches by Nazi figures, but records of what ordinary people were saying to each other and the general tone of national conversation was hard to uncover - precisely because it was such a widespread norm.

He uses freedom as an American example for this. While you'll find much literature about freedom in American libraries, you won't find much record of it being a societal norm. If you ask any American from coast to coast if 'freedom' is a good thing, they'll almost assuredly answer in the affirmative. Yet an actual written record of this fact may be hard to find - again precisely because it is so widespread and self-understood. 

Memorial Day, which we commemorate on Monday, comes along with a simple yet powerful idea too oft forgotten: the importance of consciously making a point of remembering the past and those who enabled us to be here. On Memorial Day we remember the American soldiers who gave their lives for this beautiful country which we are blessed to live in.

But Memorial Day is really every day. Whether it's remembering parents, friends, American soldiers, Israeli soldiers, Holocaust victims or Ellis Island immigrants, both those among the living or those who passed on. It's so important to remember and appreciate the countless many who made it possible for us to be here.

Yet, like the example from the above-mentioned book, important things, ideas that are widely recognized to be of significance, can fall of the radar. After all, isn't it so obviously important? Why the need to actually articulate it?

Societal norms, concepts that everyone is aware of, are not immune to disappearing. We need to consistently be aware of them, articulate them and appreciate them. We need to consistently and overtly love those who need to be loved, care for those who need to be cared for, appreciate those who need appreciation and thank those who need to be thanked. 

Important things must be articulated and constantly remembered, because even they can be forgotten and disappear. Every thank you, every act of appreciation and every act of remembrance ensures that there will be others saying thank you and remembering for many years to come.

Rabbi Avrohom