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This booklet has been designed to support people experiencing grief during the High Holiday season:
First, it is an explainer of High Holiday themes and prayers centered on grief and remembrance.
Second, it offers the core components of the Yizkor service of remembrance.
Whether you are reading this with the idea of bringing supplementary readings with you to synagogue, or to create your own at-home remembrance, you can download and print copies of the pages that follow for everyone at your gathering, or share a link for people to read the service on their phones or tablets in settings where devices are used on the holiday.
Yom Kippur includes a dedicated moment, called Yizkor, to collectively remember lives lost. We ask that our loved ones find mercy and peace in their eternal rest, and by doing this we keep their memories alive even as they no longer take breath.
Traditionally, a memorial yahrzeit candle lasts for the full 24 hours of Yom Kippur, but you can use any long-burning candle. Stare into the flame and hold for a moment the memories of those who no longer walk among us. Whether the loss is recent and tender, or in our distant past; whether lost to illness or injustice; whether dear to us or unknown or martyrs to a cause.
This booklet has been created by Shomer Collective, in collaboration with Recustom. Both are grateful to the many organizations and individuals named in this booklet who shared their creativity and their writings with the Recustom community.
Shomer to share from Chloe
As we enter a New Year without our loved one, our memories of them and the experiences we shared with them may begin to feel further away. This activity invites us into presence with our memories and creates a physical keepsake we can revisit. You may want to begin collecting memories during Rosh Hashanah, and continue adding to the jar throughout the year.
To start, place a large jar, decorated box or vessel in a convenient location. Next, whenever you have a memory of your loved one, write it down on a slip of paper and place it in the jar. If a memory crosses your mind and you don’t have access to paper, record a voice memo or type it into your phone so you can transfer it to paper later. Your memories can be simple, such as a holiday tradition, your loved one’s favorite food, or of an adventure or experience you shared.
Any time you wish to recall their lives, take a note from the jar. You can also revisit memories at the start of another New Year, when you say Yizkor or Kaddish, each time you visit their grave, or mark their birthday or yahrzeit. You can create a scrapbook with photos that correspond to the memories. You can read the notes together with other family members or friends and then share the story of the memory together. Or, invite several people to share stories at your Rosh Hashanah seder, Yom Kippur break fast or Sukkot gathering.
This ritual was adapted by Chloe Nassau, based on a creation from the Center for Loss & Renewal, Rabbi Benyamin Cirlin, LCSW
Remember, God, the soul of my parent, my teacher ( the name of the parent, child of the name of their parents ), who went to their world, because I will - without making a vow - give charity for them. In recompense for this, let their soul be bound with the Binding of life (God), with the soul of Avraham, Yitzchak and Ya'akov, Sarah, Rivkah, Rachel and Leah, and with the other righteous ancestors in the Garden of Eden. And let us say, Amen.
Remember, God, the soul of my mother, my teacher ( the name of the mother, daughter of the name of her father or mother ), who went to her world, because I will - without making a vow - give charity for her. In recompense for this, let her soul be bound with the Binding of life (God), with the soul of Avraham, Yitzchak and Ya'akov, Sarah, Rivkah, Rachel and Leah, and with the other righteous men and women in the Garden of Eden. And let us say, Amen.
El Malei Rachamim
O Power, full of mercy, who dwells on high, establish proper rest upon the wings of the Divine Presence, on the levels of the holy and pure ones [who] shine like the splendor of the firmament, [for] the soul of ( the name of the departed, daughter of the name of her father or mother ) who went to her world, because I will - without making a vow - give charity for the memory of her soul; let her rest be in the Garden of Eden. Hence, Master of mercy, cover her in the cover of His wings forever and bind her soul with the Binding of life (God). God is her inheritance and let her rest in peace upon her place of repose. And let us say Amen.
Remember, God, the soul of my father, my teacher ( the name of the father, son of the name of his father or mother ), who went to his world, because I will - without making a vow - give charity for him. In recompense for this, let his soul be bound with the Binding of life (God), with the soul of Avraham, Yitzchak and Ya'akov, Sarah, Rivkah, Rachel and Leah, and with the other righteous men and women in the Garden of Eden. And let us say, Amen.
El Maleh Rachamim
O Power, full of mercy, who dwells on high, establish proper rest upon the wings of the Divine Presence, on the levels of the holy and pure ones [who] shine like the splendor of the firmament, [for] the soul of ( the name of the departed, son of the name of his father or mother ) who went to his world, because I will - without making a vow - give charity for the memory of his soul; let his rest be in the Garden of Eden. Hence, Master of mercy, cover him in the cover of His wings forever and bind his soul with the Binding of life (God). God is his inheritance and let him rest upon his place of repose in peace. And let us say Amen.
Remember, God, the soul of ( my grandparents, my uncles and aunts, my siblings, my husband, my wife, my partner, another close relative ) ( the name of the departed, child of the name of their parent ), who went to his/her/their world, because I will - without making a vow - give charity for her/him/them. In recompense for this, let his/her/their soul be bound with the Binding of life (God), with the soul of Avraham, Yitzchak and Ya'akov, Sarah, Rivkah, Rachel and Leah, and with the other righteous ancestors in the Garden of Eden. And let us say, Amen.
God, full of compassion, dwelling as uplift and within, grant perfect rest under Your sheltering Presence, among the holy and pure who shine with heavenly splendor, to the soul of our dear one who has gone to his/her/their reward. May the Garden of Eternity be his/her/their rest. Please, Power of Compassion, shade him/her/them in the shadow of Your wing forever. May his/her/their soul be bound in the bonds of eternal life. May Adonai be his/her/their inheritance, and may he/she/they rest in peace. And let us say, Amen.
A psalm of David:
God is my shepherd; I shall not want.
God makes me lie down in green pastures,
and leads me beside still waters to restore my soul;
God leads me in paths of righteousness for the sake of God's name.
Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I shall fear no evil, for You are with me;
Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.
You set a table before me in the presence of my enemies.
You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.
Truly goodness and mercy will follow me all the days of my life,
and I will dwell in the house of Adonai forever.
While there is no blessing to recite while lighting the memorial candle, it is appropriate to think about the memory of the specific person you are grieving, or of any loved ones who have died, as you light the candle. Before lighting the candle, take a few moments to make the space where the candle will sit for the next 25 hours feel holy.
First, make sure the candle is placed on a surface that is safe and where the flame will not affect any surrounding furniture or fabrics. Then, add a photograph of anyone you are remembering next to the candle, or any objects that remind you of the person. These could be trinkets they owned, family heirlooms, favorite books, items from nature, or even a piece of clothing. Finally, if you have been making a memory jar, add that to this holy space.
Lighting Yahrzeit Candle By Karen Crane
There are stars whose radiance is visible on earth
though they have long been extinct.
There are people whose brilliance continues to light the world
though they are no longer among the living.
These lights are particularly bright when the night is dark.
They light the way for humankind.
And G!d says: “And if you have lost this year; if you have known grief newly, if you suffer the ache of old mourning come back, and back, and back, then we have made a place for you to mourn. Here, in the middle of the day, inside these walls: a container. We will hold your grief for you, so that you may continue the work. It will be there when you leave, yes, but for now, set your grief in Yizkor, and do not neglect it; but the service moves forward, and so will you.”
From Dane Kuttler's The G!d Wrestlers, The Social Justice Warrior's Guide to the High Holy Days, Sept. 2015
This prayer is often said towards the conclusion of the Yizkor service. Initially written after the first crusades, Av Harachamim remembers the deaths of Jewish martyrs. Use it to remember the righteous acts of those who have died.
אָב הָרַחֲמִים שׁוכֵן מְרומִים. בְּרַחֲמָיו הָעֲצוּמִים הוּא יִפְקוד בְּרַחֲמִים הַחֲסִידִים וְהַיְשָׁרִים וְהַתְּמִימִים. קְהִלּות הַקּדֶשׁ שֶׁמָּסְרוּ נַפְשָׁם עַל קְדֻשַּׁת הַשֵּׁם. הַנֶּאֱהָבִים וְהַנְּעִימִים בְּחַיֵּיהֶם וּבְמותָם לא נִפְרָדוּ. מִנְּשָׁרִים קַלּוּ וּמֵאֲרָיות גָּבֵרוּ לַעֲשׂות רְצון קונָם וְחֵפֶץ צוּרָם.
יִזְכְּרֵם אֱלהֵינוּ לְטובָה עִם שְׁאָר צַדִּיקֵי עולָם. וְיִנְקום לְעֵינֵינוּ נִקְמַת דַּם עֲבָדָיו הַשָּׁפוּךְ. כַּכָּתוּב בְּתורַת משֶׁה אִישׁ הָאֱלהִים. הַרְנִינוּ גויִם עַמּו כִּי דַם עֲבָדָיו יִקּום וְנָקָם יָשִׁיב לְצָרָיו וְכִפֶּר אַדְמָתו עַמּו:
וְעַל יְדֵי עֲבָדֶיךָ הַנְּבִיאִים כָּתוּב לֵאמר. וְנִקֵּיתִי דָּמָם לא נִקֵּיתִי וַיהוָה שׁכֵן בְּצִיּון:
וּבְכִתְבֵי הַקּדֶשׁ נֶאֱמַר לָמָּה יאמְרוּ הַגּויִם אַיֵּה אֱלהֵיהֶם. יִוָּדַע בַּגּויִם לְעֵינֵינוּ נִקְמַת דַּם עֲבָדֶיךָ הַשָּׁפוּךְ: וְאומֵר, כִּי דורֵשׁ דָּמִים אותָם זָכָר לא שָׁכַח צַעֲקַת עֲנָוִים:
וְאומֵר, יָדִין בַּגּויִם מָלֵא גְוִיּות מָחַץ ראשׁ עַל אֶרֶץ רַבָּה. מִנַּחַל בַּדֶּרֶךְ יִשְׁתֶּה עַל כֵּן יָרִים ראשׁ:
Av harachameem shochein m'romeem, b'rachamav ha-atzumeem hu yeefkod b'rachamim.
Hachaseedeem v'ha-y'shareem v'ha-t'meemeem, k'heelot hakodesh shemas'ru nafsham al kdushat Hasheim, hane-eh-haveem v'ha-n'eemeem b'chayeihem, uvmotam lo neefradu.
Meen'shareem kalu umeiarayot gaveiru laasot r'tzon konam v'cheifetz tzuram.
Yeezk'reim Eloheinu l'tova eem sh'ar tzadeekei olam v'yeenkom l'eineinu neekmat dam avadav hashafuch kakatuv b'torat moshe eesh haEloheem: harneenu goyeem amo kee dam avadav yeekom v'nakam yasheev l'tzarav v'cheeper admato amo.
V'al y'dei avadecha haN'vee-eem katuv leimor: V'neekeitee damam lo neekeitee vAdonoy Shochein b'tzeeyon.
Uvcheetvei hakodesh ne-eh-mar: lama yom'ru hagoyeem ayei ehloheihem yeevada bagoyeem l'eineinu neekmat dam avadecha hashafuch.
V'omeir: kee doreish dameem otam zachar lo shachach tza-ah-kat anaveem.
V'omeir: yadeen bagoyeem malei g'veeyot machatz rosh al eretz raba.
Meenachal baderech yeeshte al kein yareem rosh.
The Father of mercy who dwells on high in His great mercy will remember with compassion the pious, upright and blameless the holy communities, who laid down their lives for the sanctification of His name.
They were loved and pleasant in their lives and in death they were not parted.
They were swifter than eagles and stronger than lions to carry out the will of their Maker, and the desire of their steadfast God.
May our Lord remember them for good together with the other righteous of the world and may He redress the spilled blood of His servants as it is written in the Torah of Moses the man of God: “O nations, make His people rejoice for He will redress the blood of His servants He will retaliate against His enemies and appease His land and His people.”
And through Your servants, the prophets it is written: “Though I forgive, their bloodshed I shall not forgive When God dwells in Zion.”
And in the Holy Writings it says: “Why should the nations say, 'Where is their God?”
Let it be known among the nations in our sight that You avenge the spilled blood of Your servants.
And it says: "For He who exacts retribution for spilled blood remembers them He does not forget the cry of the humble.”
And it says: "He will execute judgment among the corpse-filled nations crushing the rulers of the mighty land; from the brook by the wayside he will drink then he will hold his head high.”
Kaddish is an essential Jewish prayer, and one we commonly associate with mourning, though it never mentions death. Traditionally, it may only be recited in the presence of community - at least nine other adults - in recognition of the importance of community as we grieve.
After the death of a parent, some people say kaddish daily for a year. When we are grieving another loss, such as that of a spouse, sibling or child, some people say kaddish daily for a month. Whatever type of loss you are experiencing, there is no right or wrong length of time to honor their passing by saying these ancient words of comfort.
יִתְגַּדַּל וְיִתְקַדַּשׁ שְׁמֵהּ רַבָּא. בְּעָלְמָא דִּי בְרָא כִרְעוּתֵהּ וְיַמְלִיךְ מַלְכוּתֵהּ בְּחַיֵּיכוֹן וּבְיוֹמֵיכוֹן וּבְחַיֵּי דְכָל בֵּית יִשְׂרָאֵל, בַּעֲגָלָא וּבִזְמַן קָרִיב. וְאִמְרוּ אָמֵן
יְהֵא שְׁמֵהּ רַבָּא מְבָרַךְ לְעָלַם וּלְעָלְמֵי עָלְמַיָּא
יִתְבָּרֵךְ, וְיִשְׁתַּבַּח,וְיִתְפָּאֵר, וְיִתְרוֹמֵם, וְיִתְנַשֵּׂא, וְיִתְהַדָּר, וְיִתְעַלֶּה, וְיִתְהַלָּל, שְׁמֵהּ דְקֻדְשָׁא בְּרִיךְ הוּא. לְעֵלָּא מִן כָּל בִּרְכָתָא וְשִׁירָתָא,תֻּשְׁבְּחָתָא וְנֶחֱמָתָא, דַּאֲמִירָן בְּעָלְמָא, וְאִמְרוּ אָמֵן
יְהֵא שְׁלָמָה רבָּא מִן שְׁמַיָּא וְחַיִּים עָלֵינוּ וְעַל כָּל יִשְֹרָאֵל,וְאִמְרוּ אָמֵן
עשֶֹׁה שָׁלוֹם בִּמְרוֹמָיו הוּא יַעֲשֶֹה שָׁלוֹם עָלֵינוּ וְעַל כָּל יִשְֹרָאֵל וְעַל כָּל יוֺשְׁבֵי תֵבֶל, וְאִמְרוּ אָמֵן
Mourners: Yitgadal v'yitkadash sh'mei raba b'alma di-v'ra chirutei, v'yamlich malchutei b'chayeichon uvyomeichon uvchayei d'chol beit yisrael, ba'agala uvizman kariv, v'im'ru: "amen."
Everyone: Y'hei sh'mei raba m'varach l'alam ul'almei almaya.
Mourners: Yitbarach v'yishtabach, v'yitpa'ar v'yitromam v'yitnaseh, v'yithadar v'yit'aleh v'yit'halal sh'mei d'kud'sha, b'rich hu, l'eila min-kol-birchata v'shirata, tushb'chata v'nechemata da'amiran b'alma, v'im'ru: amen.
Y'hei shlama raba min-sh'maya v'chayim aleinu v'al-kol-yisrael, v'im'ru: amen.
Oseh shalom bimromav, hu ya'aseh shalom aleinu v'al kol-yisrael, v'al kol-yoshvei teivel, v'imru: amen.
Mourners: May the Name that fills all names be blessed and strengthened in this created world.
May the Breath of Life that fills all breaths fill us with Life, and may it guide and rule our actions and visions, in our lives and in our time, now in this world, and in every moment to come.
And let us say: Amen.
Everyone: May that great Name be blessed within us and in all worlds, for all time.
Mourners: May Holiness stream forth from its Source, full of blessing and beauty. May the Name that weaves all Life be blessed and praised, made beautiful and resplendent, lifted up and exalted, to the highest and most majestic. Blessed be! Beyond all the praises and blessings and songs and prayers that can ever be said in the whole world. And let us say:
Mourners: May the Life and Love within us and between us be strengthened. May the Breath that fills all breaths fill the Cosmos with Peace, and may Peace and Life flow to us, to our community, to all peoples, and to all beings in this world. And let us say:
Mourners: The One who makes Peace in the furthest reaches of Creation will bring Peace to us and to all living beings. And let us say:
Secular-Friendly Mourners' Kaddish Translation by Rabbi David Cooper
There is an eternal essence that persists in time and space —
and this is our prayer to make it part of our awareness
by affirming its persistence and pledging ourselves
to act to advance the promise it holds of a better world;
may it be soon and in our days. Amen.
Let the great essence be blessed through all our actions!
Whether it be blessed or praised or honored or exalted,
we affirm that it is far beyond any expression which we use to describe it —
prayer or song, prose or poem — and we say: Amen
We express our hopes for peace and for life upon us and upon all people. Amen.
May the harmony we experience as we gaze toward heaven
be reflected in a harmony between all who dwell on the planet:
Israelite, Ishmaelite, and all creatures upon this holy earth, and we say: Amen.
From: Beside Still Waters, available for download and purchase.