Today was the last day of Passover, which meant that today’s morning service included Yizkor, the Service of Remembrance.
Yizkor was scary and mysterious to us when we were children. It was The Service Where They Make The Kids Leave, which gave it a frightening, dark cachet. And afterwards, when we were allowed back in the sanctuary, many of the adults had moist, red-rimmed eyes. Just what was it that went on behind those doors?
When we got older, the mystery evaporated. Children were booted out because they might be a distraction; it was also considered unlucky for someone to attend Yizkor if that person still had living parents. But anyone may stay for this portion of the service if they desire to do so.
The main thing about Yizkor is that it’s emotionally very powerful. You are called upon to remember those people you loved and who are no longer with us, and this can be painful. Bittersweet. You reflect upon the fragility and evanescence of life, and this is also painful. We do not live forever, and to be reminded of that basic, unavoidable fact is not easy.
And if all that is not enough to get the waterworks going, the Rabbi usually will - on Yom Kippur, at least - lob out a tearjerker of a sermon that will have people openly weeping in the aisles.
So: it’s not for kiddies, and people who do not have a deceased relative tend to avoid it. Alas, She Who Must Be Obeyed and I have not been in that fortunate cohort for many years now.
Yizkor services are held four times a year: on the last day of each of the three pilgrimage festivals (Sukkot, the Feast of Tabernacles; Pesach, AKA Passover; and Shavuot, the Feast of Weeks), as well as on Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement. I’ll cop to not showing up for every single one, but I try to attend as many as I can...for I have all too many people to remember.
People that were a part of my life, or that of SWMBO, and who walk this world no longer.
They’re still around, of course. They’re lodged firmly in our memories, memories we treasure. But the absence of their physical presence is nevertheless a source of sorrow, and we still feel the dull ache of loss.
On this day, we set aside a precious few minutes to remember them - and they live again.
SWMBO’s Younger Sister, 1958-1975.
Billie Bob, SWMBO’s daddy, 1928-1986.
Momma d’Elisson, 1927-1988.
Eil malei rachamim, shokhein bam’romim, ham’tzei m’nuchah n’khonah tachat kanfei hash’khinah b’ma-alot k’doshim u-t’horim k’zohar harakia maz-hirim, et nishmot kol eileh she-hizkarnu hayom liv’rakha she-hal’khu l’olamam, b’gan eiden t’hi m’nuchatam. Ana ba’al harachamim, hastireim b’seiter k’nafekha l’olamim utz’ror bitzror hachayim et nishmoteihem. HaShem Hu nachalatam, v’yanuchu v'shalom al mishk’voteihem. V’nomar amein.
Exalted, compassionate God, grant perfect peace in Your sheltering Presence, among the holy and the pure, to the souls of all our beloved who have gone to their eternal home. May their memory endure as inspiration for deeds of charity and goodness in our lives. May their souls thus be bound up in the bond of life. May they rest in peace. And let us say: Amen.