Wednesday, April 07, 2010

In limbo for Yizkor

My parents' rabbi was adamant--everyone was to participate in Yizkor (the Memorial Service), despite the fact that in many communities, it's traditional for folks with both parents still living and no other immediate relatives deceased to leave the sanctuary during Yizkor. He insisted that someone had to recite Yizkor for the victims of the Shoah (Holocaust) who had no survivors to say Yizkor for them. So it became the established minhag (custom) of my family that even we kids, once we were old enough to behave ourselves, didn't leave during Yizkor.

My current rabbi was livid. He gave all sorts of sermons about how participating in Yizkor when one's parents were both still alive was like wishing your parents an early death, or how it created jealousy among those with (a) deceased parent(s). But I stuck to my guns: "I follow my parents' minhag, and I won't leave the sanctuary during Yizkor," I told him on many occasions.

Only recently did I begin to question whether someone without an immediate relative deceased was really an appropriate choice to pray for those who'd perished in the Shoah. But, before I could ask my mother how she felt about me leaving the sanctuary during Yizkor, she solved the problem in the most unfortunate manner, by passing away.

But now, my rabbi is equally adamant that one is not permitted to say Yizkor for a deceased parent during one's year of aveilut (mourning). (I understand that there are different opinions on this matter.) What an irony. Now that I finally have a reason, even in his eyes, not to leave the sanctuary during Yizkor, I'm allowed to pray for everyone deceased family member or friend except the most important one, whose turn will have to wait until Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement) in the fall.


Anonymous Too Old to Jewschool said...

I grew up in a shul where the custom was to leave, if you weren't "obligated" to say Yizkor. In my older, far less observant days, this provided an excellent time for I and all my friends to escape a substantial chunk of Yom Kippur services.
In college, at a Hillel presided over by a Chabadnik rabbi, at least at the huge conservative service I attended, the custom was NOT to leave, regardless of your obligation to recite Yizkor.
In my current regular shul, I have never heard our Rabbi assert any position regarding the matter. Some leave. Some don't. While I am not yet obligated to say Yizkor, my wife is; I generally remain with her. Notwithstanding the common minhag of leaving, and not being superstitious (which I believe is the basis for the minhag), I believe it is disrespectful to separate yourself from those who must recite Yizkor. And I do believe there is an aspect of reciting for the victims of the Holocaust, as well as individuals no longer here for whom, I believe, no one else recites Yizkor.
If someone could satisfy me that the custom of leaving is based meaningfully on anything besides superstition, I might reconsider. But I like to think we're passed the days of

Wed Apr 07, 01:52:00 PM 2010  
Anonymous jdub said...

we split the baby. We say three kayl maley rachamim at the beginning for Holocaust martyrs, Israeli soldiers, and victims of terror, then those with a strong minhag to leave, do so.

That siad, your rabbi is a piece of work. This is minhag. That's it.

I have heard that one doesn't say Yizkor when one is in aveilut, since Yizkor is to remember, and it's hard to forget someone for whom you are actively mourning.

Wed Apr 07, 01:55:00 PM 2010  
Blogger Shira Salamone said...

Too Old to Jewschool, I agree that this minhag sounds suspiciously superstition-based.

JDub, that's clever, to say the community-wide Kel Malei's at the beginning, so that those whose minhag is to leave can do so while still showing respect.

"That siad, your rabbi is a piece of work."

I'm trying to write a post regarding my rabbi being "a piece of work," but whether I'll succeed remains to be seen.

Wed Apr 07, 03:42:00 PM 2010  
Blogger Shira Salamone said...

To read the post regarding my rabbi being "a piece of work," follow the link here.

Thu Apr 08, 11:06:00 AM 2010  

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