Temple Shir Shalom will again this year feature a very short Yizkor observance on April 18, at the Friday evening Shabbat service during Passover. Yizkor, which means remembrance in Hebrew, is a memorial prayer that is traditionally recited four times a year, on Yom Kippur, Sukkot, Passover, and Shavuot. The earliest mention of the Yizkor prayer can be found in the eleventh-century Machzor Vitry. Some scholars believe that Yizkor was created as early as the Maccabean period (around 165 B.C.E), when Judah Maccabee and his fellow soldiers prayed for their fallen comrades.
The Yizkor prayers at Temple are often accompanied by the lighting of a 24-hour yahrtzeit memorial candle at home. A limited number of these candles are available without charge from the Temple office. Another custom surrounding Yizkor is the making of small charitable donations in memory of our deceased loved ones.
In addition to the regular weekly memorial list to be read on April 18, Rabbi Joseph will read the names of all the Temple Shir Shalom members and friends who have lost their lives since the last Passover. Also, members and guests at the service will be encouraged to stand and recite names of their own loved ones, regardless of the year or season of their deaths.
The actual text of the Yizkor prayer has been an object of Jewish creativity throughout the ages. Here is the prayer as printed in the Mishkan T’filah, our current Reform Jewish prayerbook:
May God remember forever my dearly departed,
who have gone to their eternal rest.
May they be at one with the One who is life eternal.
May the beauty of their lives shine forevermore,
and may my life always bring honor to their memory.