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What is Yizkor?

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Yizkor is a very short prayer that has a deep spiritual impact on the soul of departed relatives and leaves a powerful emotional impression on those who say it.

Yizkor: Just the Basics

  1. The word yizkor means “to remember” and refers to a special prayer said on behalf of family members who have passed away.

  2. Yizkor is an opportunity for living relatives to have an elevating, spiritual impact on the soul of a departed loved one. For the person saying yizkor, it can be a very important, reflective moment.

  3. The yizkor prayer is recited during the synagogue prayer service on Yom Kippur and the holidays of Passover, Shavuot and Sukkot.

  4. One begins saying yizkor on the first holiday after the person passed away.

  5. Yizkor can be recited on behalf of any relatives, though people are most meticulous to say it on behalf of those for whom kaddish is said: parents, children, siblings and spouse.

  6. Though the yizkor service is brief, it is customary for all congregants other than those who will be saying yizkor, to leave the synagogue while it is said.

  7. If there is no synagogue where one lives, or if it is exceptionally difficult to attend synagogue, one may say yizkor privately at home.

  8. It is customary for one who will be reciting Yizkor, to light a candle at home before sunset at the beginning of a holiday on which yizkor is said. If Yizkor will be recited on Saturday, the candle must be lit on Friday afternoon before sunset.

  9. There are two parts to yizkor: 1) A brief prayer for the departed and 2) A commitment to give charity (tzedaka) on behalf of the deceased persons soul. In addition to a monetary donation, one can also commit to donate time to a charitable cause.

  10. It is very common for people who do not regularly attend synagogue to do so in order to participate in the yizkor service. There is nothing hypocritical about this; in fact, the effort to say yizkor is a beautiful statement of respect for a departed relative. For people who are not familiar with the prayer service, and who may not read Hebrew, there are always people in synagogue who are ready to help one learn how to say yizkor. Click here for a translated and transliterated text of the yizkor prayer.


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