5: Prayer excerpt, Yizkor, traditional Jewish memorial service.
Judaism has a variety of rituals related to mourning deceased loved ones. The Yizkor service, which is held four times a year (on Yom Kippur, on the last day of Pesach (Passover), on the second day of the holiday of Shevuos, and on the holiday of Shemini Atzereth), is an important, solemn service during which Jews reflect on and remember their departed loved ones. The service includes general prayers, as well as prayers for specific people, including departed parents, children, spouses, siblings, and other relatives and friends.
There is also a section of the Yizkor service in which people say a prayer for those who are not necessarily their friends or family, but who have died “for Kiddush Hashem [the Sanctification of God’s Name].” Auerbach references this section at the end of her essay by writing, “At the end of the prayer in which everyone inserts the names of members of his family there is a passage recited for those who have none to remember them and who, at various times, have died violent deaths because they were Jews. And it is people like those who are now in the majority.”
Suggested Activity: Read through this section of the prayer as well as the section, added after the war, for the victims of the Holocaust. Why do you think the rabbis included these sections? What is meant by “Kiddush Hashem [the Sanctification of God’s name]”? In what ways do these sections differ from the sections for particular family members? In what ways does the section for Holocaust victims differ from the more general section for people who died for the sanctification of God’s name?
What is the significance of Auerbach titling her essay after the traditional Jewish mourning service? What are the implications of her statement that the majority of mourning that has to be done now is for people “who have none to remember them and who, at various times, have died violent deaths because they were Jews”? How does this potentially change the Yizkor ritual for Jews?
Source: Yizkor. Source sheet compiled by Sadie Gold-Shapiro using sefaria.org, 2020.