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For whom does one say Yizkor?

by Rabbi Ari Shishler

  

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Yizkor is only recited by someone whose parent(s) passed way. It is said for a parent and other close relatives such as a spouse, sibling, grandparent, or child. The prayer appeals to G-d to bind the departed soul in the "bond of Life”.

During one’s first year of mourning, there are different customs regarding the recitation of Yizkor. Some say Yizkor, others leave the Shul with those who did not suffer a loss, whereas some stay in shul and do not recite yizkor.1

The reason for this discrepancy is because Yizkor is designed to remember the deceased. In the first year of mourning, little or no reminders are necessary. Another reason given is that reciting Yizkor may be too overwhelming for mourners in the first year, and they may disturb the other congregants with their expression of grief - this is also in addition to the prohibition to grieve on a holiday.2  

Certain congregations include a communal Yizkor prayer for victims of the Holocaust, which the cantor sings aloud.

People whose parents are still alive leave the shul during Yizkor. They cannot relate to this experience and their presence may detract from the communion. We also don’t want to insinuate that they have reason to be in shul at that time.

A more intriguing reason for everyone to clear out is to make room for the departed souls, who join the service at that point.

Footnotes

  • 1. This is the Chabad custom (Sefer Haminhagim), which is a middle-path between the other prevalent customs to either say Yizkor or leave the shul.
  • 2. Nitei Gavriel

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RELATED CATEGORIES

Holidays » Yom Kippur » The Prayers
Philosophy » Afterlife

Shul
(Yiddish) Synagogue.
Yizkor
Prayers for the souls of departed relatives, recited during the holiday prayer services.
G-d
It is forbidden to erase or deface the name of G-d. It is therefore customary to insert a dash in middle of G-d's name, allowing us to erase or discard the paper it is written on if necessary.