Question posed to Menachem Bluming this week: Should Confederate statues be taken down?

Here’s a thought:
I will leave the resolution of this conundrum to others while I focus on a more fundamental aspect of the matter.

A statue, any statue, is purposely made to look solid, imposing and, above all, enduring – able to withstand the vicissitudes of time and even to seem immortal, as the very word monument (a lasting public tribute) implies. But, in reality this is all only an illusion.

As powerful as these monuments may seem, the truth is that they are ephemeral and transient. What is now being so powerfully demonstrated, is that these monuments only last as long as the ideas they represent endure. The moment that societal sensibilities shift, they can be unceremoniously taken down and shipped off to the closest dump. This is not just a contemporary condition but has been the way of history from time immemorial.

Have you ever wondered why there are no Jewish monuments? Even King David, who fought and was victorious in many wars and secured the land of Israel, didn’t have a memorial erected in his honor. The Torah states “You shall not erect for yourself a (stone) pillar which the L-rd your G-d hates” (Deuteronomy16:22). And, in all of the archeological excavations that have been done in Israel no monuments have been discovered – because none were ever erected.

So what do we, as Jews, do as a memorial?

Stone and metal may look impressive for a time but are temporary. Torah, on the other hand, our four-thousand year old legacy and the spirit of the Jewish people, endures forever. In this vein, the Book of Psalms,composed and edited by King David is the greatest monument to his life and is still recited by Jews around the world today.

It is for this reason that the Talmud informs us that great Jewish sages were memorialized through a custom derived from the Book of Jeremiah and King Ezekiel by erecting a house of study in proximity to the gravesite. Our sages understood that transmitting the knowledge of Torah to future generations was the greatest form of memorial.

Today, this custom has evolved and the Jewish way to leave an enduring legacy is to provide for Torah study and Jewish life for future generations.

R’ Menachem Mendel Bluming, RSK and Chabad.org