By: Rabbi Ari Enkin
The Torah commands us to always remember six specific experiences. These things are known as the “Six Remembrances” and can be found in most siddurim at the end of the shacharit service.
The six remembrances are:
1) To remember the Exodus from Egypt
2) To remember the sin of the Golden Calf
3) To remember the giving of the Torah
4) To remember the Shabbat
5) To remember the attack of Amalek
6) To remember the sin of Miriam
Many individuals have the commendable custom of reciting the Six Remembrances every day following shacharit. According to some authorities doing so is a Torah requirement. It is taught that reciting the Six Remembrances is even greater than reciting the entire book of Tehillim. Some authorities encourage one to bear in mind the Six Remembrances prior to reciting the Shema each morning.
One need not stretch one’s imagination to notice the similarities between the Six Remembrances and the Six Constant Mitzvot (see here: https://www.torahmusings.com/2012/12/the-six-constant-mitzvot-2). For example, the requirement to believe in God is very much connected with the Exodus from Egypt. As the opening passage of the Ten Commandments states: “I am the Lord your G-d, who has taken you from the land of Egypt”. The second mitzva, not to believe in anything else besides Him, corresponds to the sin of the Golden Calf, which was an attempt to replace God. Similarly, believing in His Oneness corresponds to the giving of the Torah, at which time we are told that the Jewish people called out: “Hashem is One”.
The love that one must have for God is intrinsically connected to Shabbat, as can be seen from the Shabbat liturgy itself: “And You, Lord our G-d, in Your love, gave us the Shabbat”. The obligation to fear God is meant to recall the attack of Amalek whom we are told “did not fear G-d”. Finally, not straying after the desires of our hearts corresponds to Miriam who spoke badly about her brother Moshe. It is only the negative influences of our thoughts that causes us to speak poorly. Just like the desires of our heart can get us into trouble, so can our speech.
R. Nachum Lamm kindly directed my attention to the Vilna Gaon, who speaks of a “Ten Remembrances”. In addition to the 6 mentioned above, the Vilna Gaon adds:
1) Remember Hashem your God for it is He who gives you the ability to produce wealth.
2) Remember how Hashem your God led you in the wilderness these forty years to humble and test you in order to know what was in your heart, whether or not you would keep his commandments. He humbled you, causing you to hunger and then feeding you with manna, which neither you nor your ancestors had known. To teach you that man does not live on bread alone but on every word that emerges from the mouth of the Hashem.
3) If I forget you Jerusalem, may my right hand forget its skill. May my tongue cling to the roof of my mouth if I do not remember you, if I do not place Jerusalem above my highest joy.
4) Remember what Balak king of Moab planned and what Bilaam the son of Beor answered him – from Shittim to Gilgal – that you may know the righteous acts of Hashem.
R. Jacob Ouziel points out that these ten remembrances originate from the Chida, in his work “Tziporen Shamir”, that appears in the sefer “Avodat Hakodesh”. He says that these Ten Remembreances appear widely in Sephardic siddurim, and in some congregations, they are recited as part of the conclusion of the shacharit service.
Although essentially unrelated to all that has been discussed above, it is interesting to note that the prophet Yeshayahu summarized the Torah’s most fundamental principles into the following six-point list.
1. To walk justly with good deeds
2. To always ensure proper speech
3. To reject bribery or other inappropriateness for the sake of money
4. To avoid corruption
5. To be sensitive with what one chooses to listen to
6. To not gaze at forbidden sights
For some reason I just could not get the footnotes to appear in this posting. Anyone who would like them should feel free to contact me.