Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

29 Adar 5759 - March 17, 1999 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly

















Home and Family
Preparing For The Future : Remembering to Remember
by R' Zvi Zobin

I once bought a book on developing a good memory, but I forgot where I put it. There is a sefer on advanced memory techniques called "Alfai Menashe." I think it is by an early Acharon, but I do not remember who wrote it.

Some people have photographic memory; whatever they see, they remember. Other people's abilities are less well developed. Some people can remember one type of topic, other people can remember other types of topics. And even from moment to moment, poeple's ability to remember and recall can vary.

The exact neurology of memory still remains a mystery. The brain has enormous capacity but scientists have still not worked out exactly where and how memories are stored and how they are recalled. Freshly-stored memories seem to be stored in the front part of the brain. After a while, the memories are transferred to the back part of the brain for long-term storage. Theoretically, memories can be recalled from storage in a thousandth of a second, but we have all experienced trying to recall a memory and slowly, slowly, it "comes back" until, eventually we can remember the entire event. And then there are the times when you know you know it, and its "on the edge of your tongue"; but it just doesn't come through. Then, all of a sudden, it just flashes into the mind!

The "backbone" of developing a good memory is clarity. Whether it is regarding Chumash, Mishna or Gemora, the pupil should "see," "hear," or "act," the reality of the topic.

Young children enjoy learning by rote. Older children and adults need to understand what they are learning. This does not mean that the pupil needs to understand everything. Clarity includes knowing what you do not understand.

An easy way to develop clarity is to discuss the topic. If the topic is text-based, first read over the text and try to understand it. Then, close the text and discuss the concepts and details. If questions arise, try to answer them. If you cannot think of an answer, either ask someone or write the question down for your attention in the future.

When the topic is clear, say it over to your partner and he can check you; then you can check him. If you are learning gemora, it is good to "anchor" the memory to the particular page and its layout. Try this: Look at the page, close your eyes, see the page in your mind's eye and then ask your partner to read the text. While your partner is reading it, "look" at the page in your mind's eye and follow it down as if it were a teleprompter.

It is important to go over the topic again and again. This means, re-learning the topic and attaining even greater clarity. Works such as "Alfai Menashe" describe techniques for "storing" what you learn in an organized manner so that it is easy to recall and review large amounts of information. "Kerem Yehoshua" and "Hadran Aloch" are recently-written works which give practical guidance on how to learn clearly and remember what you have learnt.


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