In this insightful essay, Rabbi Nathan Lopes Cardozo speaks of the implications of resurgent memory in our day. Could this be the fulfillment of prophetic vision? He notes that stories of non-lived memory are more common than we think. “Such stories hint at a great secret about the age we are living in now. But not everyone connects the dots in the same way.”
Returning is about memory—Jewish memory. It tells the story of a soul’s descent into hell and, after a long and arduous journey, back into life.
But it’s also a book about something else, something that we hesitate to name. Something we fear to call attention to: T’chiat HaMetim, the revival of the dead. The theme of returning from death—death of the will, death of the heart, death of faith—runs all through Returning. But there is a deeper theme buried just beneath the surface, and it is that which makes this book a unique testimony for our times.
Isaiah’s words, “the earth will reveal her bloodshed and will no longer cover her slain,” are eerily appropriate to the phenomenon described in this book: a memory from beyond the grave takes form and substance, and stands in accusation against the murderers. In fact, this is not as rare a phenomenon as we might think. Perhaps this is simply the natural response of a people to sudden and traumatic loss of the memory of individuals—the memory must find another route to reach the next generation. Perhaps we are taking note of it now only because the magnitude of the catastrophe makes it impossible to ignore.
Perhaps. But perhaps this is something that we haven’t seen before, something different not only in degree but in substance. Whichever is correct, we are led to ask a more pertinent question: could this phenomenon be the fulfillment of the prophetic vision?
Rabbi Cardozo shows how the themes of national rebirth, teshuvah (return/atonement), and the revival of the dead are woven together by prophecy and aggadah (dreamlike stories woven out of biblical themes).