The Shemini Azeret Yizkor Service

What is the Essence of Yizkor images.jpg

 We don’t only remember our loved ones who passed on; we also ensure that a part of them never dies, by insuring that the body of Am Yisroel survives and thrives.


A moving story is told by the Yiddish writer Shalom Asch, about an elderly Jewish couple in Russia forced by the government to house a soldier in their home. They move out of their bedroom, and the young man, all gruffness and glares, moves in with his pack, rifle and bedroll. It's Friday night, and the couple prepares to sit down for Shabbat dinner. The soldier takes his place at the table. Only now is it apparent just how young he is. He sits and stares with wide eyes as the old woman kindles the Shabbas candles.

 And he listens as the old man chants the kiddush and motzi. He quickly devours the hunk of challah placed before him, and speaking for the first time, he asks for more. His face is a picture of bewilderment. Something about this scene — the candles, the chant, the taste of the challah. It touches him in some mysterious way.

 He rises from his seat at the table, and beckons the old man to follow him, back into the bedroom. He pulls his heavy pack from the floor onto the bed, and begins to pull things out. Uniforms, equipment, ammunition. Until finally, at the very bottom, he pulls out a small velvet bag, tied with a drawstring. "Can you tell me, perhaps, what this is?" he asks the old man, with eyes suddenly gentle and imploring.

 The old man, takes the bag in trembling fingers and opens the string. Inside is a child's tallis, a tiny set of tefillin, and small book of Hebrew prayers.

 "Where did you get this?" he asks the soldier. "I have always had it...I don't remember when..." The old man opens the prayer book, and reads the inscription, his eyes filling with tears:

 “To our son, Yossel, taken from us as a boy, should you ever see your Bar Mitzvah, know that your mama and tata always love you.”

 Let Them Live  

At Yizkor, our mama and tata, our zeide and babe, our great grandparents for many generations, whisper to us how deeply they love us. No matter how many years have passed, the bond is eternal and timeless.

 And they too left us some special items: a talis, tefilin, a prayer book, a Torah, Shabbat candles, Kashrut, Mikvah, Tzedakah, Mezuzah.

 When we embrace these Mitzvos, we ensure that 3322 years of Jewish history remains alive. We ensure that every single Jew who ever walked the face of this earth is still, in some very real way, alive.