Prayers for memorial service

“The Partial Judgment, to which all men are subjected after death, is by no means complete and final, wherefore it naturally follows that they await another, complete and final judgment. During the Partial Judgment, only the soul of man receives its retribution, not the body as well, even though the latter shared with the soul its deeds, good or evil. After the Partial Judgment, the righteous in Heaven and the sinners in Hades have only a foretaste of the blessedness or punishments which they deserve. Finally, after this Partial Judgment some of the sinners will be relieved of the burden of the punishment and will be completely delivered from the sufferings of Hades, not through their own action, but through the prayers of the Church.” (from The Oecumenical Synods of the Church of Christ, by Met. Nektarios , p. 222).

There are two types of prayer for the dead: public and private.

          1. Public prayer for the dead consists primarily in the offering of the Divine Liturgy and the Memorial Service.
            The Divine Liturgy: At every Divine Liturgy, the Church offers the one Sacrifice of Jesus Christ, which takes away our sins and gives us eternal life. This is an infinite and priceless gift, which Christ has bestowed on us by suffering His terrible passion and death, and rising from the dead on the third day. We can and should frequently give the priest lists of names of our departed faithful to remember at the Proskomidia, when particles of the prosphoron are taken out for the living and the dead. This should always accompany a prosphoron we bake and offer, but we can send lists of the names of the departed into the altar any time (before the Great Entrance).
            The Memorial Service is a series of hymns and prayers for the forgiveness and eternal rest of the departed. It may be offered in conjunction with the Divine Liturgy or alone. The “Kollyva” is boiled wheat which we bring to the church or cemetery in conjunction with the Divine Liturgy and/or Memorial Service. It is blessed at the service and shared by the faithful afterwards. The wheat is a pledge of the future resurrection of those who have died, recalling the words of Christ recorded in the Gospel according to St. John: “Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except a grain of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone: but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit.” (John 12:24)
          2. Private prayer for the dead consists primarily in reading the Psalms, as well as “saying prayer ropes” and making prostrations with various short prayers.
            Reading from the Book of Psalms (the “Psalterion”) is a most ancient and praiseworthy way to pray for the dead. Before we start reading, we simply say, “Remember, O Lord, the soul(s) of Thy departed servants (name or names),” and then we open the book and read. Any of the psalms in any order are fine when reading privately, but Psalms 50, 90, and 118 are especially appropriate in reading for the departed (if you are reading from a Protestant Bible like the King James, these are numbered as Psalms 51, 91, and 119).
            Short prayers like the Jesus Prayer or Theotokos and Virgin Rejoice with or without prostrations can be said for the departed. We usually count these on prayer ropes in groups of 100. For example, one can promise that every day for a certain amount of time (like 40 days) one will say 100 Jesus Prayers for the repose of a departed friend or relative.

At each Divine Liturgy at Most Holy Theotokos Rescuer of the Perishing, a list of reposed loved ones are commemorated during the proskimedia service.  In Christian charity, we have a duty to pray for the reposed.

theotokosrescueroftheperishing.org

Jewish mourning is both private and public. When we visit a grave or observe a yahrzeit , we generally do so in private. Yizkor is the public observance for the community of bereaved.

Yizkor means… from the root word zakhor–remember. It is the memorial service, recited four times a year in the synagogue–after the Torah reading on Yom Kippur day, Shemini Atzeret (the holiday adjacent to the end of Sukkot), the eighth day of Passover, and the second day of Shavuot .

Originally, Yizkor was recited only on Yom Kippur. Its primary purpose was to remember the deceased by committing tzedakah 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 lovingkindness. Since the Torah reading on the last day of the pilgrimage festivals mentions the importance of donations, Yizkor was added to these holiday services.

It was… the custom for each community to read a list of its martyrs at the Yizkor service. The practice was eventually expanded to include the names of other members of the community who had died. Today, most synagogues publish lists of those who are remembered by congregants, which are distributed at the Yizkor services. In addition, the lights on all the memorial tablets in the synagogue are turned on.

The Four Parts of Yizkor

1.      A series of readings and prayers, recited and chanted, that sets the mood for the solemn service.

2.      Paragraphs that individuals read recalling the deceased. There are paragraphs for a father, mother, husband, wife, son, daughter, other relatives and friends, and Jewish martyrs. During the service, each person reads the appropriate paragraph(s).

3.      The memorial prayer for the deceased, the El Male Rahamim is chanted by the cantor. This is essentially the same prayer said at Jewish funerals.

4.      A special prayer, Av HaRahamim (Ancestor of Mercies), probably composed as a eulogy for communities destroyed in the Crusades of 1096, is recited by the congregation as a memorial for all Jewish martyrs. Some also add Psalm 23.

Although in its traditional structure Yizkor does not include the recitation of the Mourner’s Kaddish many congregations do add this as the climax of the Yizkor service.

Non-Mourners During Yizkor

When I was a kid in Omaha, Yizkor always seemed to be the climax of Yom Kippur day. The shul was crowded with people all day long, but it was packed at Yizkor time. There was something about this mysterious, awe-inspiring service that drew people. It was the pull of remembrance.

It was also break time for those of us who were shooed out of the synagogue by our parents. A powerful superstition pervaded the community: If your parents were alive, you didn’t stay for Yizkor. God forbid, you should tempt the ayin ha-ra, the evil eye, by hearing and seeing others mourn for their departed. God forbid, you should sit down while virtually everyone else was standing for the Yizkor prayers, somehow making the mourners feel bad. So, during the 20 minutes or so of the Yizkor, the “fortunate” people whose parents were alive sat outside kibbitzing , while the vast majority of the congregation who had sustained a loss participated in the service.

These superstitions are just that — superstitions, bubbemeises (Yiddish for old wives’ tales). There is no legal requirement for those whose parents are alive to leave the service. In fact, many rabbis today suggest that everyone stay for Yizkor so that the entire congregation can offer the prayers for the martyrs of the Jewish people and offer moral support to friends and family who may be deeply touched by the memorial service. But, as with much of the folk religion, this custom is sure to continue in many communities. Ultimately, it is a matter of personal and family decision-making as to your practice.

Questions About Yizkor

Can I say Yizkor privately?

Since the Kaddish is not recited as part of Yizkor, there is no technical requirement for a minyan . Therefore, the memorial paragraphs can be said privately if you cannot get to the synagogue.

How do I get names listed in the Yizkor book?

Most congregations ask their members to list those who are to be remembered in the coming year as part of the yearly membership survey when you join or renew your affiliation. 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.

What about donations?

In keeping with the origins of Yizkor, it is very appropriate 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.

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. These memorial candles are widely available in synagogue gift shops, kosher stores, and often in supermarkets. 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?

Contrary to popular belief, yes. Clearly, Yizkor is observed for a spouse, a child, and a sibling and, according to most authorities, for parents during the first year.

Reprinted with permission from A Time to Mourn, A Time to Comfort (Jewish Lights).

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Jewish mourning is both private and public. When we visit a grave or observe a yahrzeit , we generally do so in private. Yizkor is the public observance for the community of bereaved.

Yizkor means… from the root word zakhor–remember. It is the memorial service, recited four times a year in the synagogue–after the Torah reading on Yom Kippur day, Shemini Atzeret (the holiday adjacent to the end of Sukkot), the eighth day of Passover, and the second day of Shavuot .

Originally, Yizkor was recited only on Yom Kippur. Its primary purpose was to remember the deceased by committing tzedakah 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 lovingkindness. Since the Torah reading on the last day of the pilgrimage festivals mentions the importance of donations, Yizkor was added to these holiday services.

It was… the custom for each community to read a list of its martyrs at the Yizkor service. The practice was eventually expanded to include the names of other members of the community who had died. Today, most synagogues publish lists of those who are remembered by congregants, which are distributed at the Yizkor services. In addition, the lights on all the memorial tablets in the synagogue are turned on.

The Four Parts of Yizkor

1.      A series of readings and prayers, recited and chanted, that sets the mood for the solemn service.

2.      Paragraphs that individuals read recalling the deceased. There are paragraphs for a father, mother, husband, wife, son, daughter, other relatives and friends, and Jewish martyrs. During the service, each person reads the appropriate paragraph(s).

3.      The memorial prayer for the deceased, the El Male Rahamim is chanted by the cantor. This is essentially the same prayer said at Jewish funerals.

4.      A special prayer, Av HaRahamim (Ancestor of Mercies), probably composed as a eulogy for communities destroyed in the Crusades of 1096, is recited by the congregation as a memorial for all Jewish martyrs. Some also add Psalm 23.

Although in its traditional structure Yizkor does not include the recitation of the Mourner’s Kaddish many congregations do add this as the climax of the Yizkor service.

Non-Mourners During Yizkor

When I was a kid in Omaha, Yizkor always seemed to be the climax of Yom Kippur day. The shul was crowded with people all day long, but it was packed at Yizkor time. There was something about this mysterious, awe-inspiring service that drew people. It was the pull of remembrance.

It was also break time for those of us who were shooed out of the synagogue by our parents. A powerful superstition pervaded the community: If your parents were alive, you didn’t stay for Yizkor. God forbid, you should tempt the ayin ha-ra, the evil eye, by hearing and seeing others mourn for their departed. God forbid, you should sit down while virtually everyone else was standing for the Yizkor prayers, somehow making the mourners feel bad. So, during the 20 minutes or so of the Yizkor, the “fortunate” people whose parents were alive sat outside kibbitzing , while the vast majority of the congregation who had sustained a loss participated in the service.

These superstitions are just that — superstitions, bubbemeises (Yiddish for old wives’ tales). There is no legal requirement for those whose parents are alive to leave the service. In fact, many rabbis today suggest that everyone stay for Yizkor so that the entire congregation can offer the prayers for the martyrs of the Jewish people and offer moral support to friends and family who may be deeply touched by the memorial service. But, as with much of the folk religion, this custom is sure to continue in many communities. Ultimately, it is a matter of personal and family decision-making as to your practice.

Questions About Yizkor

Can I say Yizkor privately?

Since the Kaddish is not recited as part of Yizkor, there is no technical requirement for a minyan . Therefore, the memorial paragraphs can be said privately if you cannot get to the synagogue.

How do I get names listed in the Yizkor book?

Most congregations ask their members to list those who are to be remembered in the coming year as part of the yearly membership survey when you join or renew your affiliation. 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.

What about donations?

In keeping with the origins of Yizkor, it is very appropriate 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.

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. These memorial candles are widely available in synagogue gift shops, kosher stores, and often in supermarkets. 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?

Contrary to popular belief, yes. Clearly, Yizkor is observed for a spouse, a child, and a sibling and, according to most authorities, for parents during the first year.

Reprinted with permission from A Time to Mourn, A Time to Comfort (Jewish Lights).

Join Our Newsletter

Empower your Jewish discovery, daily

www.myjewishlearning.com

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