Kavanah for Yizkor by Reb Simcha Raphael

A meditation to be offered, aloud or silently, before Yizkor (memorial) prayers.

Jewish tradition, in its wisdom, teaches us that between the world of the living and the world of the dead there is a window and not a wall.  Unfortunately, in our culture of scientific materialism, we often believe that dead is dead, and after death, the channels of communication between us and our loved ones who have died are forever ended – a brick wall!  But, like the rituals of Shiva, Kaddish, and Yahrzeit, Yizkor opens windows to the unseen worlds of the dead.

Yizkor creates a sacred space and time wherein we can open our hearts and minds to the possibility of a genuine inter-connection with beloved family members and friends who have left behind the world of the living. Yizkor is a window.  Prepare to open that window…window

As you recite Yizkor prayers let your senses and imagination serve as the vehicle of inter-connection.  For whom are you saying Yizkor today?  Can you imagine that person’s face before your eyes?  See their smile, visualize how they might be carrying their body standing next to you.  Do you recall the sound of their voice?  Hear their words as you stand in prayer.

Feel their presence right in this moment.  In your mind, in your heart, allow a conversation between the two of you to unfold.  What needs to be communicated this year?  What’s the message you need to hear today? What are the silent prayers of the heart? What remains unspoken?  Speak. Listen. Take your time. There is no reason to hurry.  This is a timeless moment.  Let all the radiance of their love to be with you right now.

Yizkor teaches us to remember the dead.  Long after people die, their legacy lives on inside of us. Within the wellsprings of our infinite souls we find the window of connection between the living and the dead.

Traditional Yizkor prayer and silent reflection follows.

Reb Simcha Raphael is a psychotherapist, bereavement counselor, and spiritual director, ordained as a rabbinic pastor by Reb Zalman. He is author of Jewish Views of the Afterlife.

This prayer was published, in slightly different form, as “Meditation for Yizkor” in Kol Haneshamah: Yamim Noraim, Wyncote, Pa.: Reconstructionist Press, 1999.

Image: from “Open Window at Night” by Simon Bratt.