Yizkor Memorial Service
The Origins of Yizkor
Jewish mourning can be both public and private. When we visit a grave to observe Yahrzeit, it is considered private mourning.
Yizkor is an ancient Jewish memorial service. Yizkor is considered the public observance made by the bereaved community.
The word “Yizkor” means “May He remember” in Hebrew, signifying a plea to God to remember the souls of the departed.
Yizkor is a moment of remembrance, allowing families to honor their loved ones who have passed away. This prayer is a powerful reminder of the profound love between the living and the departed. It provides solace and an opportunity to engage in acts of charity in their memory.
When Do We Recite Yizkor Prayers?
Traditionally, we recite Yizkor during specific Jewish holidays and occasions. Originally it was recited on Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, which holds great significance for remembrance and introspection.
Loved ones honor the memory of the departed by giving tzedakah (charity).
Now, we recite Yizkor four times a year. Since the Torah reading on the days of Passover, Shavuot, and Sukkot (known as the pilgrimage festivals) expresses the significance of donations, Yizkor is part of these holiday services too.
Is Yizkor the Same as Kaddish?
Yizkor and Kaddish are both important Jewish traditions. Both traditions are fundamental to mourning. However, they have distinct roles.
Yizkor is a memorial prayer recited to remember and honor deceased loved ones, typically during specific holidays. It allows individuals to reflect, offer prayers, and donate in their memory.
Kaddish is a prayer of praise and sanctification recited by mourners as an expression of their faith and to elevate the souls of the deceased. Colel Chabad has offered Kaddish memorial services and prayers for the departed since 1788.
We take responsibility for continuing this tradition seriously. All proceeds from donations and offerings made to the service are 100% allocated towards Colel Chabad’s food and social welfare services.
How to Perform the Yizkor Prayers
Yizkor prayers are a traditional ritual entrenched in many holidays. During designated moments in synagogue service, individuals who have lost loved ones stand together to recite the Yizkor prayer. Covering one’s eyes with a tallit (prayer shawl) during Yizkor is customary, allowing for deeper introspection.
It is customary for those who have both parents still alive to leave the synagogue during the Yizkor service. Those in the first year of mourning can remain in the synagogue but do not recite the Yizkor prayer.
What are the Words to the Yizkor Prayer?
There are four parts to the Yizkor prayer. First, a series of readings and prayers. After the solemn mood is set, the family and friends of the deceased may recite different paragraphs of the prayer.
The memorial prayer, El Male Rahamim, is then chanted.
And lastly, a special prayer, Av HaRachamim (Ancestor of Mercies), is recited as a memorial for all Jewish departed.
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