Friday, September 13, 2013

Yom Kippur and Yizkor, the Memorial Service for the Departed.

It is the day on which they are closest to G_d  (God) and to the quintessence of their own souls.

It is the Day of Atonement. Yom Kippur commemorates God’s forgiveness for the sin of the Golden Calf. Forgiveness applies to everyone, including non-religious persons. In addition, Yom Kippur commemorates God’s Covenant with the Jewish people.

Yom Kippur is only for sins against God.

Yom Kippur is a day of forgiveness only for sins committed against God. It is customary to dedicate the eve of Yom Kippur to apologies for sins committed against fellow human-beings. However, an apology or compensation are not sufficient if they do not elicit an expressed forgiveness by the injured person. One should not be selfish, and therefore one is commanded to invite transgressors to participate in Yom Kippur services.

For nearly twenty-six hours—from several minutes before sunset to after nightfall Jewish people “afflict our souls”: they abstain from food and drink, do not wash or anoint their bodies, do not wear leather footwear, and abstain from marital relations.

Yom Kippur is a happy Jewish holiday, replacing vindictiveness and rage with peace-of-mind and peaceful co-existence between God and human beings.

Yizkor, the Memorial Service

Yizkor, a special memorial prayer for the departed, is recited in the shul (synagogue) on Yom Kippur. It is recited four times a year by the congregation during Jewish holiday services

Yizkor (יזכור), in Hebrew, means "Remember." It is not only the first word of the prayer; it also represents its overall theme. In this prayer, we implore G-d to remember the souls of our relatives and friends that have passed on.

When reciting Yizkor, we renew and strengthen the connection between us and our loved one, bringing merit to the departed souls, elevating them in their heavenly home.

Visiting a grave or observing a yahrzeit [the anniversary of a person's death], is generally done privately. Yizkor is the public observance for the community of bereaved.

Yizkor, a pledge to give to charity.

The main component of Yizkor is a private pledge to give charity following the holiday in honor of the deceased. By giving charity, we are performing a positive physical deed in this world, something that the departed can no longer do.

Originally, Yizkor was recited only on Yom Kippur. Its primary purpose was to remember the deceased by committing tzedakah [charity] funds on the theory that the good deeds of the survivors elevate the souls of the departed. It also enhanced the chances for personal atonement by doing a deed of loving kindness. It is now celebrated on all Jewish holidays.

Although in its’ traditional structure Yizkor does not include the recitation of the Mourner's Kaddish [the memorial prayer in praise of God], many congregations do add this as the climax of the Yizkor service.

Questions About Yizkor

Can I say Yizkor privately?

Since the Kaddish is not recited as part of Yizkor, there is no requirement for a minyan [quorum of 10 Jews necessary for communal prayer]. Therefore, the memorial paragraphs can be said privately if you cannot get to the synagogue.

How do I get names listed in the Yizkorbook?

If someone dies during the year, the names are generally added as a matter of course, unless the synagogue publishes one book for use throughout the year. You may want to check this with the synagogue office to spare yourself the unease of the name missing when you expect it to be on the list.

Do I light a memorial candle when Yizkor is recited?

Yes. The 24-hour memorial candle should be lit in your home before the fast begins on Yom Kippur. On the other festivals, if your custom is to light a yahrzeit candle, use a flame from a pre-existing candle or other source to light the candle. There is no blessing recited when you light the memorial candle, although it is certainly appropriate to reflect upon the memory of loved ones. The candle may be placed anywhere in the home.
Do I observe Yizkor during the first year of mourning?

Yes. Yizkor is observed for a spouse, a child, and a sibling and, according to most authorities, for parents during the first year. 
What about donations?

In keeping with the origins of Yizkor, it is usual to make a tzedakah contribution to honor those you are remembering. Many congregations appeal for funds at Yizkor services for the synagogue or for Israel.

If you don't belong to a synagogue, consider making a donation to a worthy cause like Funeral Fund

It would be very appropriate to donate towards a funeral for someone who needs the funds and it would be a blessing on both the giver and the departed loved one.

A long sound of the Shofar (תקיעה גדולה) concludes Yom Kippur. It commemorates the covenant with God (the almost-sacrifice of Isaac), the receipt of the Torah on Mt. Sinai,Liberty (Jubilee), and the opening of God’s gates of forgiveness. The Hebrew root of Shofar שופר  means to enhance/improve oneself.

Wishing you & yours a meaningful Yom Kippur.

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