Sunday, January 25, 2009

Total Recall of Sefarim

There was a mediocre science fiction movie that was made in 1990 called Total Recall. (The original short story by Philip K. Dick is called, "We Can Remember it for You Wholesale," and it is excellent.) The main plot of the movie (spoiler warning?) is that Arnold Schwarzenegger has intentionally erased his memory in order to catch the bad guys who end up being the good guys. (I have heard of many people who either needed to see this movie multiple times to figure out what exactly was going on, OR never actually figured out what was going on!) One of the memorable scenes in the movie is when Gov. Schwarzenegger opens a box that contains a handwritten letter which he discovers is actually his handwriting. The mystery is that he does not remember writing the letter, but it is definitely written in his own handwriting.

I occasionally find that the same scene happens in my life (without the muscles or accent) with seforim that I own. This past Shabbat I was learning the Pri Tzaddik when I saw that not only had I highlighted some passages, but I had even made notes! It was undoubtedly my handwriting, but I have absolutely no memory of learning that torah by the Pri Tzaddik.  (Obviously I need to do more chazarah!) Even after I read the entire piece, I still had no recollection of the ideas that he was discussing. But the good news is that the piece is relevant to the concept of different names of HaShem, and I will discuss that in my next post.

1 comment:

  1. Interesting.

    I had a similar experience. In Tradition 27:2 (Winter 1993), in Dr. David Berger's response to a letter attacking something he had written, he comments:

    The responsa of the Debreciner Rav stand proud and unmolested on the shelves of the YU Beit Medrash next to Yehavveh Da'at and under Iggerot Mosheh, complete with their ruling forbidding the study of any book written by anyone teaching at Yeshiva University. . . The only markings on the YU Beit Medrash copy are the underlining of the words Yeshiva University and a laconic five-letter reference on the inner cover of the book, in which volumes 7 and 8 are bound together, pointing the reader to the relevant responsum.

    When I first saw that issue of Tradition, I went to the YU Beis Medrash and found the book. Lo and behold, the reference was there -- in my handwriting!