In Chaplains Corner we are graced by Viners who struggle with the loss of those very near and dear to them. Heroically, they find creative ways to keep alive their memories. I salute this courage and strength of good valued character. It is best to do this on an individual basis. There is no more relevant way to address this topic than on a customized one by one basis.
This article will present one tradition's way to address this topic on both a communal and an individual level. It is not the only way to do this. Following this article, I encourage one and all to contribute to this thread the ways of their own heritage, culture and their individual approaches. We are here to learn from one another, to share, and to help one another deal with a gut wrenching topic: the loss of a loved one.
Attempts to disrespect what others do, put down their methods, make personal or group attacks, go off topic, derail this article theme, snark, troll, re reg, and all the other aberrations that the heartless engage in will not be tolerated. My delete button still functions.
Working together to help one another with ideas at times of great emotional and spiritual turbulence is greatly encouraged. We are here to use universally applicable techniques, to share what works for us, and to support each other in doing what works best for each of us individually.
In my tradition, we set aside certain times, prayers and acts of charity for the memorial of those we lost. The age-old custom of remembering the souls of the departed and contributing to charity in their memory, on certain holidays and on the anniversary of their demise is entailed in the belief of the everlasting endurance of the soul. The prayer and hymn Yizkor (Remembrance or Memorial) is said on four major holidays. They are Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement), the three Aliyot bah Regal (annual pilgrimages) of Pesach (Passover - Freedom Festival), Shavuot (Festival of Weeks) and Succoth (Festival of Booths).
When a person transits to the world to come (Olam Ha Bah) they are no longer able to do good deeds. In spite of the finality of death we can honor their memory by doing good works, like giving charity on these holidays, and on the anniversary of their death (Yahrzeit). We can also do other good deeds (Chesed - acts of loving kindness) and say special prayers for them. We keep alive the good deeds and charity they did while alive. We honor their merits, by keeping them going past their time here.
The Yizkor (Memorial) Service is done communally for all the loved ones the community lost. The earliest source for the Yizkor Service is the Mishnah Tanchuma (Commentary on Consolation and Condolence). This text sites the custom of remembering the departed, and giving charity in their memory. The Scriptural source for this is Deuteronomy 16:17 that on holidays one should come before G-d with a gift. The greatest gift one can give G-d is to care for those of His children who need help. Yizkor is said by every person who has lost a parent or loved one. Key parts of the Service include such prayers, hymns and quotations as the following.
Adonai, mah adam vatayda'ayhu (G-d, what is man that you recognize him).
Psalm 91 begins with Yoshev b'seter elyon (Whoever sits in the refuge of the Most High).
In the central part of the service is a single paragraph beginning Yizkor Eloheem (May G-d remember).
Following the silent readings of the Yizkor Service, individuals recite El Ma'alei Rachamim (G-d filled with Mercy).
Yizkor concludes with the prayer Av Ha Rachamim (The Merciful Father).
Themes throughout the Yizkor Service that are the spine which holds it all together are the eternality of the soul, the mortality and temporal nature of our flesh and earthly existence, our trust In G-d for our eternal protection, keeping alive the memory of those lost to us through a continuance of their good deeds and charitable acts, and finally, the merciful nature of G-d to us all.
When Yizkor is recited in a Congregation, it is customary for non-mourners to leave the Service, and return following its conclusion. This is to allow the mourners privacy, and also solidarity for those in their same situation. It is customary to light a 26 hour Yahrzeit or memorial candle before the sun sets, and let it burn out on the first night of a holiday. If a person cannot afford to give money for charity, and or is a charity recipient, they may substitute for money their time and service to a charitable cause, if they are medically capable of so doing.
There is an Aramaic prayer said when someone passes away three to five times daily for the first thirty days following their passing. That starts upon their demise, at the funeral service and internment, and continues on for the lives of those they leave behind in this mortal situation. It is called Kaddish D'Rebbanan (Mourners Sanctification).
The night before the anniversary of death (Yahrzeit) is annually observed, a Memorial candle is lit. The prayer is said then, and three to five times (five if a holiday, like the Sabbath). If one says the Kaddish D'Rebbanan, one prays the Yizkor service. One memorializes the departed by sanctifying their memory.
The following is the Kaddish in its original Aramaic. I will translate this following its presentation. Some of our good friends in the Christian community asked I include the original Aramaic text, as Aramaic was the vernacular spoken by Jesus of Nazareth.
Yitgadal vay yitkadash shamay rabbah (Amen). Bi almah dee veru chirutay, vay yamlich malchutay. Beh chayyachon, Uuvyomechon uuvchayay de chol beit Yisrael, bah agalah uuvizman koreev; vee yim rhu, Amen.
Ya hay shmay rabbah meh vorach ley olam ul omay ol mayoh.
Yitbarach vay yishtabach vay yitpoar vay yitromann vay yitnasay, vay yit-hadar, vay yitaleh vay litalal, shamay dah kadishah, (Bereech Hu); Laaylo min kol birchoto veh shiroto, tushbachoto, vanecheymoto, dah amirran be olmo; vee yimru Amen.
Ya hay shlomah rabbah min shamayoh, vachayim alenu vey al kol Yisrael; vah yimruh, Amen.
Osay shalom bimromov, hu ya asay shalom alenu, vey al col Yisrael; vee yim ruh, Amen.
My the great name of G-d be exalted and sanctified throughout the world, which He created according to His will. May His Kingship be established in your lifetime and in your days, and in the lifetime of the entire household of his children, swiftly and in the near future; and say Amen.
May His great name be blessed, forever and ever.
Blessed, praised, glorified, exalted, extolled, honored, elevated, and lauded be the Name of the Holy One, Blessed is He - above and beyond any blessings and hymns. Praises and consolations which are uttered in the world; and say Amen.
May there be abundant peace in his high Holy places, may He bring peace upon us, and upon all of His creation; and say Amen.
Kindly note that there is no mention of anyone deceased in this prayer. Why? Our sages feel that we should give gratitude to the most high for those given us in life who meant so very much to us. It hurts to lose them. The more it hurts, the more they meant to us. Our most fitting way to remember them is to praise the source of all existence for granting us them in our time here.
Religion out of gratitude. A fitting memorial indeed.