I think I’ve figured out why I seem to be losing my memory. And it’s not because I’m getting older. I mean, I am getting older. But that might not be it.
I’m not the only person this is happening to. More and more, people say things like, “I’m getting forgetful in my old age.”
“You’re in your old age right now?”
“I didn’t think so, but I’m forgetting things, so I must be.”
But I recently had a thought about what might be causing this. Just a moment while I try to remember what it was.
Oh yeah. My wife recently heard a shiur about things that are kasha l’shikcha – things that they say make you forget your learning. Anyway, my theory is that maybe doing these things makes you forget not just your learning, but everything else too. I actually didn’t think I’d been doing any of these things, but once I listened to the shiur, I realized that I probably have been. So I’m going to list them here in case you’ve been doing them too, and forgot that it was an issue.
- Putting on two items of clothing at once
So most people will say, “I don’t do this one.” Taking off two items at the same time, sure. But taking off is a machlokes.
If it’s a machlokes, does that mean you lose your memory or not?
I would say I hope not, especially when you come up the stairs at night to find your kids’ shirt, undershirt, and tzitzis on the floor of the hallway still attached. And inside out.
But maybe you do it too. For example, I frequently put my Shabbos coat and scarf on at the same time. Single handedly, in shul, while somehow holding my tallis bag. I must be putting my entire tallis bag through the sleeve, because I have no memory of how I get it on otherwise.
- Putting your clothes under your head when you sleep
This comes up if for example you’re sleeping in a strange place and they forget to give you a pillow. Like in class. Sleeping on your arm until you have button imprints on your forehead is not a problem, though, because you’re still wearing the garment.
The rabbi did say that if it’s someone else’s clothing, it might be okay to sleep on, so my advice is that if you’re trying to sleep on an airplane or something, you should put your head on someone’s shoulder. This is why everyone does it.
No one does it in class, though.
- Sleeping with shoes on
So you figure, who would do that, right? I mean, when I lie down for a nap on a Shabbos afternoon – even on winter Shabbosos when it’s not worth getting into pajamas – the one thing I do take off is my shoes. Great. But what happens when I fall asleep in a chair on Friday night?
And what about sleeping in the car? A lot of people sleep on long car rides, and they don’t think about taking off their shoes. Or they do think about it, and they realize that if you take off your shoes in a car, everybody complains about it, and you can’t fall asleep.
Maybe people have to start washing their feet right before long car trips when they go to the bathroom that last time. And also at all the rest stops.
From what I heard, you have to take off your shoes only if your nap is going to be 30 minutes or more. So maybe you can have the driver wake you up every 29 minutes. Which they do anyway, yelling at you for sleeping while they’re driving. Drivers hate that. They need you to witness the miracle of their driving.
And falling asleep on airplanes is also an issue. You need to take off your shoes. And then after the plane lands, you find them at the front of the plane. The pilot’s like, “Whose shoes are these? I found them under the brakes.”
Do planes have brakes?
I also don’t think any of the people sleeping in my class have their shoes off.
Maybe this is why a lot of yeshivas insist on slip-ons – because they know the bochurim are going to fall asleep sometimes. And also why some people ask about it for shidduchim.
- Wiping your hands on your clothing
This is the one I do the most, I think. My wife was very quick to point out that after I wash dishes, my shirt is wet. But I don’t think that’s from wiping my hands on my shirt. I think that’s from the spoons in the sink fighting back. (“If I have to get washed, you’re getting washed too.”)
But a lot of people wipe their hands on their clothing. It’s like, “Hey, clothing are basically towels anyway.”
SHAYLAH: What about wiping your hands on somebody else’s clothing?
The poskim actually discuss this. So you might be able to make a deal: I’ll wipe my hands on you, and you wipe yours on me. Or you can suddenly pretend to hug your kids and secretly wipe your hands on them. Make some memories! Don’t worry if they’re weird memories, because if this doesn’t work, they might forget it happened.
- Wearing clothing inside out
I rarely do this one, B”H.
I mean, socks are hard to tell in the dark. And honestly, I don’t even really know what inside out is on my tzitzis. Half the time I’m probably wearing them inside out.
But like some people flip their yarmulkes inside out when it rains. Ostensibly to protect the yarmulke? Does that even work? Unless you have a plastic lining on the inside…
“But what should they do?” you ask.
Well, when it looks like rain, you put on an older hat, right?
Alternatively, you can wear it on your head in a grocery bag. And hope the wind doesn’t catch it.
- Walking between two people of the opposite gender
You could try to be careful about this one, but what do you do on airplanes? Commando crawl down the aisle?
Airplanes cause a lot of these issues, apparently.
The rav actually said this is a problem for him, because he teaches in a Bais Yaakov and he has to get to class when there are girls in the hallway. Should he just hug the wall?
So what he said he does is he carries along a small symbolic mechitzah of some sort. But he didn’t say how big this mechitzah has to be. So I would say that if you’re going into the ladies’ section to get your wife because otherwise she won’t stop shmoozing, you can just carry a full mechitzah (that’s why they come apart) or one of those trees. Like a bush comes over to your wife and you peek out: “Are we ready to go?”
This is why cell phones were created.
- Eating olives regularly
It’s not actually clear what “regularly” means. It’s a huge discussion between the poskim.
So this makes us nervous. Why do the stores even sell olives? Are you just supposed to buy them so you can compare their size to other things for various halachic reasons?
How often is regularly? I mean, I probably have olives every Shabbos. Is that regularly? If you would ask if I have challah regularly, I’d say yes, and it’s all the same meals.
I don’t know if this is true, but when I was growing up, someone told me that they’d heard that we were not supposed to eat seven olives in a sitting. So okay, you sit down and eat less than 7 olives. How long do you wait before eating more olives? Do you wait six hours? And what do you do if you can’t count the olives? What if you’re having a salad, and there are chopped olives in it? Do you reassemble them to see how many olives you’re eating? Just pull the olives out of the salad, and your host says, “You don’t like olives?” And you’re like, “No, I love olives! I need to make sure I’m not eating too many!” And your host says, “Oh. Well, I put 42 olives in, and there are 7 people here, so…” and you’re like, “How well did you mix?”
Is it crazy that all this talk is making me crave olives?
Anyway, I’d thought that my memory was going for one of two reasons:
- I’m getting older.
- I have kids.
And my kids insist it’s because I’m getting old. Because the other option is to blame themselves.
So now I might have another answer:
See, my theory is that you do a lot of these things, and there’s no direct noticeable change in your memory each time, so you keep doing them.
But I think it’s cumulative. It’s not like you eat a bowl of olives once and you suddenly forget to, say, use a fork. These things are probably cumulative, like over years of doing them. That’s why people who are older start losing their memory. It’s not about age at all.
I mean, think of someone you know who you’d consider old and sharp. You’re probably thinking of a big talmid chochom, right? But they don’t do these things because they remember their learning because they don’t do these things.
So that’s my theory. I thought I was forgetting things because I’m old, but apparently, it’s because I’m not being careful about some of these things. And that’s good news, because that means it’s reversible. Or at least stoppable? I mean hitting cancel on a print job doesn’t make the papers that already came out disappear.
I might have to stop going on airplanes.