Posted by: R Jonathan Gewirtz | June 6, 2018

Memory Overload

In a former life I was a computer technician.  It was my first job and I got into that field because the specific training for it didn’t take too long and the salesman for the school assured my father and me that I would be making a very high salary straight out of school.  The salesman was exaggerating, but Baruch HaShem my first job in the NY area was working for a computer firm.

I didn’t end up lasting in that business because the technology changes so quickly that if you don’t love it, you can’t keep up.  I didn’t and I couldn’t.  While I did learn some things at that job that I have carried with me since, I would never call myself a technical expert. One day, a friend in that field asked if I could stop by his client’s office to pick up a check.  He had gotten caught in a meeting and would not be back before the office closed.  Happy to do a favor for a friend, I agreed.

memory_chipWhen I got to the office, I informed the receptionist that I was there to pick up the check for “ABC Computing” (not the real name.)  She ushered me into the office of the manager, who handed me the check and asked me, “Will you be looking at the hard drive we called about?”  Realizing that she assumed I was a computer tech, and trying not to let on that I didn’t work for the firm, I told her I thought one of the other fellows from the office was going to be taking care of it.

She commented that they couldn’t do any work on the computer at all because the hard drive was bad, so I figured I could at least take a look at it and call my friend on the phone for a little remote diagnostic work.  At the very least, it would make him look good to the office manager.

I sat down at the computer and pressed a key.  I got a strange message.  It said there was not enough space on the hard drive to perform another action.  I looked at the C: drive statistics and saw that of the 450 Gigabytes of hard drive space, there remained only 1.2 Megabytes left.  That’s .00027% of the otherwise massive hard drive!

Seeking to recoup space, I ran the disk cleaning utility and found an astounding fact.  350 Gigabytes, more than three-quarters of the hard drive space, was taken up by temporary files.  Temp files (usually ending in .tmp) are typically created by a program for backup purposes while you’re working on something, and last until you save the file.  They may also be created as part of a software installation but usually they are deleted soon afterwards.  In some cases, these temp files remain, possibly due to a programming error, and take up valuable space, like in this instance.

I’m happy to report that I was able to delete the temp files and the PC was back up and running in a few moments.  I showed the manager how to clean them up and impressed upon her the need to regularly purge them.  As I took leave of their office, I began to reflect on what had just occurred.

Here was a machine capable of tremendous functionality, brought to a halt because it wasted its memory on useless files from the past.  In a clear parallel, I realized that as human beings, capable of much more complex behavior than a computer, we can get bogged down by useless memories as well.

When we harbor resentment, bear grudges, and hold on to hurt, we are merely clogging our brains and hearts with old data that is no longer relevant.  They build up and inhibit our ability to function.  Were we to let these feelings go, we could remain highly-functional.

Now perhaps, when the situations arose and the bad feelings were created, we may have needed them to protect ourselves from harm, but later on, we should have moved on and purged ourselves of them.  The only one hurt when we keep ourselves angry is us.

Without even going into the fact that bearing a grudge is a Biblical prohibition, the truth is that bearing a grudge is like taking poison and waiting for the other person to die.  It doesn’t hurt him; it just prevents us from living happy, productive lives.

Elul is a time when we ask HaShem to forgive us; to look away from our failings and move on.  We don’t want Him constantly rehashing our sins or focusing on them.  If so, why do we feel we should do that to others?  We often feel that if someone wronged us they bear a debt to us which they must repay, but we don’t want the Al-mighty to be so exacting.

The best way to get HaShem to overlook our flaws is by doing the same for others.  Each night in the Shema recited before going to sleep, we include a paragraph in which we forgive anyone who has wronged us.  Before Kol Nidre, we have a similar paragraph, and people ask each other for forgiveness.  By being forgiving of others, we earn that commensurate behavior from G-d, and He forgives us.

I learned a lesson that day that we would all do well to remember.  Many thoughts, feelings, and emotions lose their importance with time, and we must be diligent to purge them from our systems and our memory banks.  We should not remind someone of something they did wrong to us ten years before, or even ten days before.  We must be able to move forward and give others, and ourselves, a chance at a clean slate and a cleared memory.  Then we’ll be able to function at optimal performance.

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