Windows and Doors

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Remembering Departed Loved Ones

The last day of Passover is one of four occasions in the Jewish liturgical calendar when special memorial prayers are recited in memory of loved ones who have died. Known as Yizkor, from the Hebrew root pertaining to remembering, the prayers themselves are no different from holiday to holiday. So one might reasonably ask, why keep repeating them?
Perhaps repeating the same words, in this context especially, reminds us that it’s not the words that change, it’s we who change. Each year and each holiday bring with them a new context or frame of reference. And since how we remember the dead is entirely dependant on us, it’s a particularly useful practice.
Remembering is about more that recovering or holding on to old facts. Memory is an aggressive act in which we construct and reconstruct our relationships with those no longer physically present in our lives.
Whether we loved them, or we hated them -whether the memories are pleasant or painful, they are still with us. As Abraham Joshua Heschel taught,


As Abraham Joshua Heschel taught, “death is the end of doing, not the end of being”. So with each holiday, we can reflect on how our memory of those who have died is shaped by our ongoing experience and the experience of the particular holiday.
Passover is about liberation. This Yizkor, stop for a moment and remember a departed relative or friend in a way that liberates you or which recalls how they helped to liberate you when they were alive. Perhaps the memory of them serves to liberate you still. These last days of Pesach are the perfect opportunity to remember how.

  • Lucy G.

    This was a good post to read, even for those of us who will not be attending services the last day of Passover. We should remember those who touched our lives and think about what they did and what it means to us now. I would also like to suggest that we use this as a reminder to pay attention to those who are here still, for we never know when they might be gone. Say something complementary to your spouse. Take the time to visit with your parents, brother or sister, email the old friend you’ve lost touch with, pay attention to your children. And don’t forget to play with your dog! Do not wait until “you have the time,” because in today’s crazy world, there never seems to be enough time. Regrets are painful: do not risk having to remember a loved one sadly, thinking of all the things you should have said or done. It makes for sleepless nights and a lot of tears.

  • Jan

    My Father-in-law, passed away only a few weeks ago in March. Before we knew it Passover was upon us. My Mother-in-law wanted to still have the first night at her house. We thought it would be too much for her but in reality it helped her keep busy and she helped all the family members especially the grandchildren with some bit of closure. My husband knew that this Sedar was now going to be the first of many that he would lead in honor of his Dad. He did such a wonderful job that I am certain that his Dad heard every word.This was a Sedar that had so much meaning because our loved one was missing at our table and my husband made the atomosphere just perfect. We were all proud of how he conducted it. He made is so very special for all of us. Another really touching moment was after the sedar Nana had three envelopes with money that was in Poppie’s wallet. They all got that from him for Passover. Then she had another three envelopes and she told the grandchildren that these were his three favorite watches that he used. She let each grandchild pick the envelope not knowing which watch was in it. My oldest son got Poppies gold watch to match his necklace. That would of been the one he would of picked.My youngest son picked the envelope that had his Mickey Mouse Watch that we had given him many years ago. That would of been the watch my youngest son would of picked. The last grandson,who is my nephew, is going to be Bar Mitzvahed at the end of October this year. He picked a dressy watch that he can wear with his Bar Mitzvah suit. He would of picked that watch as well. After they all looked at their watches they looked up like at heaven and said Poppie guided us as to which envelope to pick. It showed them that Poppie will always be with them. It made the rest of us feel really good that the grandchildren got something so special from their Poppie. My Mother-in-law couldn’t have thought of a better gift to give them that night. She brought smiles on their faces which had been hard for them lately. This Sedar turned out to be the best medicine for all of us because it gave us a time to remember all the good times we had with him and will always remember. He will always be in our hearts, his spirit, his sense of humor and the love that he had for all of us. Dad, you became our Poppie too when the grandkids came. Today is a day we will light our candles or put on our memorial light and Nana, your beloved wife, will go to temple to say Yizkor for you.We will all be remembering you not just on this religious day but for all days to come. We love you Poppie!! “Forever in our Hearts


    Rabbi, thank you for so beautifully illustrating the Jewish concept of memories. Our Jewish education system has always neglected this important part of being human and Jewish. As a Jewish Parachaplain and 4th generation Jewish funeral director I thank you for hitting the target and sharing this insight with all concerned…Yasher Koach.

  • Harriett H.

    I agree with Lucy G. We should also remember those who are still with us. Don’t say there is time to do this or that because they may not be with us when the “time” comes. My husband and I did’t have the time for a religious service when we got married. It was always something that we wanted and after a lot of years I decided that when we celebrated our 30th anniversary that we would have the ceremony. Unfortunatly, he passed away one month and nine days after our 27th anniversary. As Lucy said “regrets are painful” and I would not wish them on anyone.

  • bernard Roth

    Yizkor and Yahrzeits are Jewish Immortality.In remembering our departed parents,grandparents, and other relatives, we are reinforcing their immortality, if we remember how they affected us, what we learned from them. When I say Kaddish [on or close to an anniversary], I start with visualizing the person as I knew him or her, focus on some ‘happening’ between us, and spread out to family who encompassed them. I don’t know if other family members do this, but I enjoy the process of remembrance, and hope that my descendants will do likewise.

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