Yizkor on Yom Tov: Halakha and meaning

The practice among Ashkenazic Jewry has emerged to recite Yizkor, prayers in memory of the deceased, on Simchat Torah, the eighth day of Pesach, the second day of Shavuot, and Yom Kippur, even if these days fall on Shabbat (in the diaspora, where the second day of yom tov is kept; in Israel, Yizkor prayers are recited simply on Yom Kippur, Shavuot, Shemini Atzeret, and the last day of Pesach). It seems like an unseemly juxtaposition to include prayers in remembrance of the deceased as part of the synagogue services on Yom Tov. However, remembering the deceased and the adjoining pledges to contribute generously in their memory are a fulfillment of the highest levels of expressing joy on yom tov, as such practices enable the souls of the deceased to also rejoice, as their earthly descendants rejoice.

Origins of Yizkor

While the contemporary Yizkor ritual likely took shape at the time of the Crusades, the concept of offering prayers and charitable sacrifice on behalf of the deceased dates back to pre-Talmudic times.

II Maccabees 12:39-45 presents “the possibility of a salvific ritual for the posthumous forgiveness of sins” (Jeffrey A. Trumbower, Rescue for the Dead, Oxford University Press, p. 26). Some soldiers fighting for the independence of the Jewish nation died in battle, presumably as punishment for the sin of wearing an idolatrous amulet. Judah the Maccabee collected money to pay for sin offerings, which is described as being performed as atonement on behalf of those who died. Through idolatry, these soldiers, who otherwise were defending the nation from Greek persecutors, endangered their status, but Judah’s act of posthumous atonement on their behalf is seen as a just, salvific act that salvages their legacy and otherwise noble life mission, despite their lack of teshuva before death:

“On the next day, as by that time it had become necessary, Judas and his men went to take up the bodies of the fallen and to bring them back to lie with their kinsmen in the sepulchers of their fathers. Then under the tunic of every one of the dead they found sacred tokens of the idols of Jamnia, which the law forbids the Jews to wear. And it became clear to all that this was why these men had fallen. So they all blessed the ways of the Lord, the righteous Judge, who reveals the things that are hidden;  and they turned to prayer, beseeching that the sin which had been committed might be wholly blotted out. And the noble Judas exhorted the people to keep themselves free from sin, for they had seen with their own eyes what had happened because of the sin of those who had fallen.  He also took up a collection, man by man, to the amount of two thousand drachmas of silver, and sent it to Jerusalem to provide for a sin offering. In doing this he acted very well and honorably, taking account of the resurrection. For if he was not expecting that those who had fallen would rise again, it would have been superfluous and foolish to pray for the dead. But if he was looking to the splendid reward that is laid up for those who fall asleep in godliness, it was a holy and pious thought. Therefore he made atonement for the dead that they might be delivered from their sin.” (II Maccabees 12:39-45, RSV).

In the gemara, Makkot 11a, Rebbi Shmuel bar Nachmeni Amar Rebbi Yonatan says that Moses prayed for the deceased Reuven and Yehuda. He learns from the juxtaposition of the verse “Yechi Reuven ve’Al Yamot, “Let Reuben live, and not die in that his men become few ” (Deuteronomy 33:6) to that of “ve’Zot li’Yehudah, And this for Judah, and he said: Hear, LORD, the voice of Judah, and bring him in unto his people; His hands shall contend for him, And Thou shalt be a help against his adversaries” (Deuteronomy 33:7) – that due to the self-imposed Niduy, excommunication, Yehuda’s bones were rolling in the coffin throughout the forty years in the desert, and that Moshe was now praying on his behalf. The gemara says that when Moshe prayed “Shema Hashem Kol Yehuda, Hear, O LORD, the voice of Judah,” his bones assembled, but he could not enter the heavenly yeshiva, the yeshiva shel ma’alah; when Moshe prayed “V’El Amo Tevi’enu, bring him in unto his people,” he entered, but could not understand and debate with the rabbis; when Moshe prayed “Yadav Rav Lo, his hands shall contend for him” he could argue with them, but he did not merit that the halakha follows him; but when Moshe prayed “V’Ezer mi’Tzarav Tihyeh, and Thou shalt be a help against his adversaries,” Yehuda merited that the halakha follow him.

Intercession for the deceased is seen elsewhere in the Talmud. In Sotah 10b, the gemara discusses David haMelech praying on behalf of his dead son Avshalom and raising him from gehinom. The beraita says: Avshalom rebelled with his hair – “there was not a man as beautiful (as him)… when he shaved his hair, for it was a burden on him, it weighed 200 Shekalim according to the king’s stone; this was a stone that people of Teveriyah and Tzipori used for a unit of weight. Therefore, he was hung by his hair – “… his head was caught in the tree. He was (hanging) between Heaven and earth. The mule under him passed.” He took a sword and wanted to cut his hair. Just them, Gehinom opened up under him. (David) cried… my son Avshalom, my son, my son, Avshalom, if only I had died in your place, Avshalom my son, my son… my son Avshalom, Avshalom my son, my son.” Seven times were to save him from the seven chambers of Gehinom; some say that the eighth was to get his head to rejoin his body; others say, it was to bring him to the world to come.

[Tosafot, Sotah 10b, DH D’Ayteih L’Alma D’Ati, questions how David’s actions in saving his son are in accordance with the Gemara in Sanhedrin 104a, which states Abba lo mezakeh bra, a father does not merit his son, and thus cannot save his son from Divine punishment. Three answers are given: (a) David’s prayer helped Avshalom because he received his punishment in olam hazeh, due to the horrible death he suffered; (b) Avshalom did not worship avodah zarah (idolatry), and (c) alternatively, one can answer that when the Gemara says that ‘a father does not merit a son’, what it means is one does not withhold the punishment of Reshaim, the wicked, on account of the father’s honor, without prayer. But prayer does help, and David prayed on behalf of Avshalom.]

In Chagigah 15b, Rebbi Yochanan intercedes on behalf of the deceased Acher (Elisha ben Abuyah), the infamous heretical student of Greek philosophy. When Acher died, they said they he cannot be punished, because he learned Torah, but he also cannot go to Olam ha’Ba, because he sinned. R. Meir said it is best that he be punished and then go to Olam ha’Ba. He added, “When I die, I will bring up smoke from his grave!” When R. Meir died, smoke arose from Acher’s grave. R. Yochanan said that it is not proper to cause one’s teacher to be punished. When R. Yochanan died, he caused the smoke to stop rising from Acher’s grave and he brought Acher to Olam ha’Ba. In the eulogy said for R. Yochanan, it was said that “not even the guard of the gate (of Gehinom) could stand in his way!”

The efficacy of prayers and merits on behalf of the deceased is further seen in various Midrashim. The Sifre (Piska 210 on Deuteronomy 21:8), in discussing the eglah arufah, the calf that was sacrificed to bring atonement after an unsolved murder, explains that the priests, the kohanim, sought forgiveness not only for the living members of the community, but also for all members of the nation who have ever lived. This Midrash explains a case where atonement is being sought on behalf of the deceased for murder, the deceased as part of the overall communal unit, and not as individuals:

“The priests say, forgive your people of Israel, O Lord, [whom You redeemed]” (Deut. 21:8). When it says, “Whom You redeemed,” this teaches that this forgiveness atones for those who left Egypt. “Forgive your people” – this refers to those who are alive. “Whom you redeemed” – this refers to those who are dead. This teaches that the dead require atonement; hence, we learn that a murderer effects sin all the way back to those who left Egypt. “Whom you redeemed” – You redeemed us in order that there should not be any murderers among us.”

[The Midrash’s case of atonement being needed post-mortem in a case of murder is interpreted broadly by some poskim. The Levush, R. Mordechai Jaffe (347:2), suggests that since many people also engage in embarrassing others, which is similar to killing them, it is also appropriate to offer prayers and charity for anyone who has passed away, as atonement for any acts of embarrassing someone that they may have committed.]

A late addition to the Midrash Tanchuma (Ha’azinu I, f.339b, on Deut. 32:1) refers to the Sifre, and in commenting on the verse “Atone for Thy people, Israel, whom Thou hast redeemed,” (Deut. 21:8), says that the first part of the verse refers to the living of Israel, while the second part refers the deceased. The Midrash continues, “Therefore, our practice is to remember the deceased on Yom Kippur by pledging charity on their behalf.” We are then told not to think that charity no longer helps the departed. Rather, when one pledges charity on the deceased’s behalf, he ascends as quickly as an arrow shot from a bow. The Tanchuma uses astrological signs as a means of explaining the soul’s journey:

“Once judged on the scales (Libra), even if a person has sinned, he is rendered like a virgin (Virgo). But if he continues to sin thereafter, he is sent down to the bottom of Sheol and Gehenom, as a crab (Cancer). If he repents, however, he is thrown out like an arrow shot from a bow (Sagittarius). Therefore, we mention the dead on Shabbat so that they, the dead (who are assumed to have been spared the torments of hell on Shabbat) shall not return to Gehenom once Shabbat is over. Similarly, we are accustomed to remember the dead on Yom Kippur and to pledge in their memory a specific amount of tzedakah funds. For we have learned in Sifre, “Atone for your People Israel (Deut. 21:8)-these are the living; ‘whom you have redeemed;’ these are the deceased. From here, we learn that the living redeem the dead. Could it be that once they died, tzedakah will not help them? No, because the verse instructs us explicitly, ‘whom you have redeemed,’ from which we learn that when a specific amount of money is pledged in their memory, they are taken out of Gehinom and raised up as an arrow shot from a bow. Immediately, such a person is rendered as tender and clean as a kid (Capricorn), and he is purified as the hour he is born, and pure water from a ladle (Aquarius) is poured over him, and he grows up with great pleasure as a fish (Pisces) who enjoys the water.”

As the various prayers for memorializing the deceased proliferated throughout Germany and other Ashkneazic communities at the time of the Crusades (such as the recitation of the Av HaRachamim prayer on Shabbat), so too did the Tanchuma’s association of the memorial prayers and charitable giving with Yom Kippur. Speaking of Yom Kippur, Siddur Rashi 214, says, Uposkim tzedakah b’rabim al hametim v’al hachayim; ein poskim tzedakah b’kol eretz ashkenaz rak hayom l’vado; only on Yom Kippur, in all of Ashkenaz, is tzedakah allotted for both living and dead.  The Machzor Vitri, 355, also explains, Umah sheposkin tzedakah avur hametim l’fi shehu yom kaparah slichah umechilah lahem; Yom Kippur is especially suited to such a memorial because it is a day of forgiveness and absolution for the deceased. He adds that tzedakah is also an essential component of any successful fast day, especially Yom Kippur, citing the gemara, Berachot 6b, where Mar Zutra says the primary reward for a fast is the Tzedakah that one gives (afterwards to the Aniyim, poor people, who fasted), and Sanhedrin 35a, where Rav Elazar explains that if tzedakah is not given on the night after a fast (as is usual), rather the next day, it is like bloodshed – “…Tzedek Yalin Bah v’Atah Meratzechim,” “It was full of judgment; righteousness lodged in it; but now – murderers.” (Isaiah 1:21), albeit only where they normally give bread and dates (for then, the poor expected to receive it, and did not prepare food to break the fast), but where they give money or grain, it is not a problem.) The Darkei Moshe (OH 621:3) cites the Maharil’s view that the plural Yom haKippurim refers to atonement for both living and dead; even the souls of the dead are forgiven on Yom Kippur (reference is also made to Exodus 30:10-12, where immediately after the account of the sin offering, mention is made of donations as personal redemption and ransom for the soul.) Kol Bo adds that Yizkor on Yom Kippur serves the same purpose as the reading of the Torah passage about the deaths of the sons of Aharon, to humble the people and remind them of their own mortality, whereas the Levush adds that the purpose of Yizkor is to recall the merits of our ancestors, and pray that they speak on our favor.

The one unifying strand behind the various Yizkor minhagim, therefore, has been the pledging and giving of tzedakah on behalf of the departed.

Tzedakah on Behalf of the Departed

The Midrash Tanchuma cited above mentions prayer on behalf of the deceased coupled with charitable giving. Through the remembrance of prayer and the giving of tzedakah, the deceased are liberated from the confines of the underworld, and are reborn in a salvific manner, like children, for the next phase of the soul’s journey.

The Rashba (Teshuvot 539) was asked about the case of what a child can do when their father dies with an outstanding debt incurred through an unethical act of which he was guilty. The deceased has two problems: one, the amount of money owed to the aggrieved party, two, the punishment owed to shamayim for his transgression of the mitzvoth not to steal.  While his heirs can pay the financial obligation incurred through his unethical acts, regarding the punishment he owes God for transgressing a mitzvah: there is no one who for certain who can mitigate that reality. The Rashba, in this teshuva, is therefore dealing with the question of how children can offer atonement for their deceased parent’s sins in this world. He expresses a faint hope that Yizkor-type practices may help erase some of the culpability of the departed before God, cites the two Midrashim quoted above, and mentions the minhag in some places to have Yizkor prayers, but concedes that only an individual’s deeds can determine where they stand in the afterlife.

In another teshuva (5:49), though, the Rashba was asked: Why is it that we ask for favor because of Zechut Avot (the merit of the fathers; reservoir of merit, that is of great benefit to their descendants   when we need some extra guidance in making important decisions that revolve around moral issues. The idea is thus closely related to the idea of “Maasei Avot Siman LeBanim,” that the actions of our forefathers are models and prototypes of behavior for their descendants to follow), when Abba lo mezakeh Bra? (The gemara in Sanhedrin 104a says that a righteous father does not benefit his son, but   a [righteous] son can earn merit for his [wicked] father). The whole concept of Zechut Avot, he was asked, contradicts the rule of the Gemara Sanhedrin 104a. Second, he was asked, how can we benefit from Zechut Avot, or, how can a righteous son benefit his father, when Chazal say “mi shetarach erev Shabbat yochal beShabbat,” metaphorically meaning that one only has, in the world to come, what he prepared when he was alive, and nothing can be done to benefit a person that has already died. How, then, can anyone benefit from the righteousness of his ancestors, and how can a person who has died already benefit from the righteous acts of the son that survives him?

The Rashba says that the first question is based on a false assumption; the assumption was that the word “Zechut” in Zechut Avot and the word “Mezakeh” in Abba lo mezakeh bra means the same thing. This, the Rashba says, is incorrect. Zechut Avot only helps for matters that take place in this world, for Olam Hazeh. Abba lo mezakeh Bra refers to one’s position in Olam Haba. For Olam Hazeh, this world, certainly Abba mezakeh Bra, a father benefits the son. A son is, in a sense, thirty three percent his father, because “shlosha shutfim be’adam,” there are three partners in creating a child: each of the two parents, and God. Therefore, in matters of this world, whatever a father achieves accrues to his son as well, just as his property is inherited by his son. But regarding the Olam Haba, a son is not a part of his father in the world of Neshamot. A father does not create, from his own body, his son’s neshama, and a son’s neshama is not part of his father’s neshama.

According to the Rashba, Abba lo mezakeh bra holds only in Olam Haba, and it doesn’t require prayer to work. But when you get to Olam Haba, the greatest yichus, ancestral lineage and merit, isn’t worth anything, and that is what Abba lo mezakeh bra is referring to. However, the father is certainly mezakeh bra in matters of Olam Hazeh, and this is what we are talking about when we ask for Zechut Avot, assistance in matters of this world.

The Rashba then says that with prayer, everything changes. With Tefilla, Abba mezakeh bra, a father can benefit his son, (and it proceeds that a son can benefit his father), even in Olam Haba, and he brings a proof from the story (Sotah 10b) of David and Avshalom, cited above (David, Avshalom’s father, saves him from gehinom).

Rashba therefore argues that a child can alter his deceased father’s morally difficult situation because the child is a natural product of the parent, having been raised by that parent, therefore, the child’s good deeds can be seen as an extension of those of the parent who now is imprisoned in gehinom due to their own deeds.  The child’s actions, including tefillah and tzedakah, are understood as emerging from the parent’s childrearing, and are in effect, an extension of the parent themselves.  R. Yehuda haHasid explains similarly, that “bra mezakeh abba” is operative through a descendant’s merits revealing what the deceased brought to the world:

“But how can a deed atone for someone who did not perform that deed while he was alive? …However, thus stated the Holy One: A son provides merit for the father, for example, if the father was a sinner, but ensured that his son studied Torah and performed good deeds, and then since it was due to the father that the son thus merited, the son provides merit to the father. If the parents instruct the children to perform [good] deeds after their passing, then when the children perform these deeds, it is as though the parents performed them.” (Sefer Chassidim 101)

Another argument in favor of giving tzedakah on behalf of the deceased is found in the Beit Yosef,  Hilkhot Yom HaKippurim, OH 621:6, quoting from the Rokeach (R. Elazar of Worms):

“Can it avail the dead if the living make charitable contributions in their memory? Certainly, for God tests the hearts of both the living and the dead, and He knows whether the dead would have performed good deeds while they were still alive. And even if they were poor on earth, He knows whether they at least had the desire to do good deeds. Therefore, it can only be conducive to the salvation of the neshama of the departed if they perform good deeds in their name. For the living can pray for the repose of the souls of the dead, just as David did for Avshalom, and as Rabbi Yochanan prayed for Acher. It is proper also to make contributions to charity in memory of the deceased, for the merits of the pious benefit their descendants.”

Later in the siman, the Rokeach is quoted as suggesting that giving charity for the dead on Yom Kippur is associated with the half-shekel contribution to the Tabernacle, which is described as a kofer nefesh, a ransom for the soul. This works as a form of prayer; one is pleading to God that this person would surely have given charity were he still able to do so. Tzedakah is therefore given in memory of the deceased as the content of a presumed intention on the part of the deceased. The Mechaber paskens le ma’aseh (OH 621:6) that we give charity on Yom Kippur in memory of the departed (nahagu lidor tzedakot b’Yom HaKippurim ba’ad hameitim) and the Rema there says this is so that the deceased also receive atonement on Yom Kippur (d’hameitim gam ken yesh lahem kaparah b’Yom HaKippurim).  The Rema, in Hilchot Tzedaka, YD 249:16, rules that “the minhag to give tzedaka in honor of the dead during Yizkor is a minhag vatikin (ancient custom) and it helps the neshama.”

Yizkor and the Shalosh Regalim

The earliest posek to mention the practice of Yizkor on festivals other than Yom Kippur is the Levush (Ateret Zahav 346:3) who says “it is our custom to memorialize the dead even during festivals.” Elsewhere (430), the Levush explains that on the festival days when the Torah portion Kol haBechor is read (from Parshat Re’eh), the memory of the deceased is recalled, for at the end of that Torah reading is found an appeal for the donation of funds, “Ish K’Matnat Yado”, “Every man is to give as he is able,” Deut. 16:17.  “It is therefore incumbent upon us that we respond to this call with an actual donation to charity, in memory of the deceased, so that they be mentioned in the synagogue, in order that God might remember their souls, and thus us also, for the good. “ The Minhagei Yehurun, no. 62, likewise posits that the source for Yizkor on YomTov is found in the sedrah of Kol heBechor.

The notion of memorializing the dearly departed on festival days, when there is a mitzvah to be happy and rejoice in the festival day, seems paradoxical. Generally, even offering hespedim (eulogies) is forbidden thirty days before a festival (Shulchan Aruch, OH 547), yet several poskim offer justifications for the Ashkenazic practice of Yizkor on the Shalosh Regalim. The Pri Megadim (AA 547) says that Yizkor is not as mournful as going to the grave and saying Kel Malei Rachamim, which certainly would be improper for Yom Tov. The Maharam Schick (OH 294) commented that the last day of the festival is not truly festive, as it is only a rabbinical calendar addition to the holiday (Yizkor is commonly said on Shemini Atzeret, not Simchat Torah, in the diaspora so as to not cast a mournful tone on Simchat Torah festivities, negating this theory).

Rather, the central component of both Yizkor and the Shalosh Regalim is the obligation to give tzedakah, as indicated in the sedrah Kol haBechor. Regarding yom tov, one’s personal happiness is correlated with their benevolence towards the less fortunate:

Vesamachta lifney Adonay Eloheycha atah uvincha uvitecha ve’avdecha va’amatecha vehaLevi asher bish’areycha vehager vehayatom veha’almanah asher bekirbecha bamakom asher yivchar Adonay Eloheycha leshaken shmo sham. Vezacharta ki-eved hayita beMitsrayim veshamarta ve’asita et-hachukim ha’eleh

You shall rejoice before God your Lord in the place that God your Lord shall choose to be designated in His name. You [shall rejoice along] with your sons, your daughters, your male and female slaves, the Levites from your settlements, and the proselytes, orphans and widows among you. You must remember that you were a slave in Egypt, and thus carefully keep all these rules. (Deut. 16:11-12)

The Torah teaches us that we are to be happy and rejoice on yom tov, yet it makes clear mention of the orphans, widows, and strangers in our midst, those who have lost those closest to them, spouses and parents.  Yet, rather than their existence being fully defined and overshadowed by these losses, they are to still celebrate on G-d’s days, says the Torah, even while remembering and cherishing those so dear to them. Orphans and widows are acutely aware of the loss of their loved ones, yet their enjoyment of yom tov is to be facilitated by the generosity of those who, in turn, memorialize their loved ones through tzedakah.

The Rambam writes that one who eats and drinks on yom tov and doesn’t share with the poor is merely engaging in “simchat kreiso — the rejoicing of his stomach,” (Hilkhot Yom Tov 6:18), and elsewhere (Hilkhot Megillah 2:17) writes:

Mutav la’adam leharbot bemattenot evyonim, milleharbot bis’odato uvishloach lere’av–she’ein sham simchah gedolah umefo’arah, ela lesamach lev aniyim vitomim ve’almanot vegerim, shehammesammeach lev ha’amelalim ha’ellu middammeh bashechinah, shene’emar “lehachayot ruach shefalim, ulehachayot lev nidka’im

“For there is no greater and more glorified happiness than to gladden the hearts of the poor, the orphans, the widows, and the converts. One who brings happiness to the hearts of these unfortunate individuals resembles the Divine Presence, as it says (Isaiah 57:15) “to revive the spirit of the lowly and to revive those with broken hearts.”

For the Rambam, generosity yields happiness and simcha, and simchat yom tov lies in the knowledge that one is enabling others to experience a dignified yom tov, while rejoicing in the awareness one is perpetuating the values of their dear departed ones, through their contributions. Rav Hershel Schachter comments, “The Torah defines simcha as one who is mesameach others who are less fortunate, such as orphans, widows, and converts. The yom tov appeal was always for the poor and needy. Once people were pledging for tzedaka, as a method of fulfilling simchat yom tov, the yizkor prayer was introduced: let this pledge be considered as a zechut (merit) for one’s parent(s) who raised a child with proper attitudes and values regarding sharing of their assets with others.”

In addition, recalling memories of the departed serves to bring one to a heightened emotional state, of both awareness of the fond memories of the departed, and sadness over the loss of the individual. Yizkor reminds us of the paradox of life that Judaism is acutely aware of, as moments of festivity are tempered by recalling the incomplete and often sad state of life and its struggles. The gemara, Berachot 31a, relates that Rav Hamnuna Zuti was asked to sign at a wedding, an ostensibly joyous occasion, and he sang “Woe to us who are to die.” Another sage, Mar brei d’Ravina saw that the rabbis were overly jovial at the wedding of his son. He brought a precious crystal worth 400 Zuz, approximately 1500 US dollars, and broke it to suppress their gaiety. Rav Ashi did similarly at the wedding of his son. The entire gathering was suddenly saddened at this spectacle and a hush fell over everyone. When the celebration was resumed, it was in a quieter and more subdued tone. Tosafot, DH Isi Kasa D’Zugisa Chivrisa, there notes that this is the source for our contemporary practice at Ashkenazic weddings for the chatan to step on a glass at the end of the ceremony, after recalling the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple.

Like Yizkor on Yom Tov, a Jewish wedding ceremony tempers joy with a firm reminder of life’s ebb and flow. This develops within us the capability to withstand the overwhelming character of either of these powerful emotions; to be able to carry on in life on an even footing without being disturbed; to be involved in life and yet to stand above it and survey it from the perspective of awareness of life’s imperfections and sobriety.  Being reminded of our mortality and human limitations serves to not cast a depressing or mournful tone upon yom tov, which is categorically forbidden, but it does serve to remind us of the beauty and treasures of life, the simcha of knowing life is to be embraced and cherished to the fullest at each moment we’re alive.

Rav Aharon Ziegler documents Rav Soloveitchik’s explanation of reciting Yizkor on Yom Tov (Ziegler, Halakhic Positions of Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik, Rowman & Littlefield, Vol. II, No. 13). The Rav explains that mourning is categorically forbidden on Yom Tov, when we’re commanded to be happy. There are mitzvoth that have a kiyum, a fulfilling purpose, and a ma’aseh, an action performance. The maaseh of Yizkor is reciting the memorial prayers and donating to tzedakah, but the kiyum is simcha.  Parents are obligated to pass the beauty and heritage of the Torah onto their children and grandchildren, as part of the mitzvah of peru uveru, to be fruitful and multiply. When parents and grandparents see their children and especially their grandchildren observing the Yom Tov and its respective mitzvoth, they can be rest assured in the knowledge that they have succeeded in their primary life mission. Although the action of Yizkor may evoke mourning, its kiyum is one of inner joy. As such, says The Rav, it is appropriate to recite Yizkor on Yom Tov.

By offering our prayers and pledging charity in memory of our departed ones, we thereby elevate their souls and atone for them, even after their deaths, and our own merits, including rearing children and grandchildren who are Torah observant, fulfills the purpose of honoring the memory of the departed. These merits serve as a testament to the lives they lived, notes the Rashba, and we become like Judah Maccabee, David haMelech, Rav Yochanan, and all those who came before us, in partaking of the true joy in knowing the souls of our loved ones , our souls, and the souls of our descendants are truly bound in Eternity.

About the Author
Daniel Sayani is a student of traditional Jewish texts, with an eye towards their contemporary applications. He has been widely published on issues of Torah, religion, ethics, and their geopolitical dimensions. He is also an ordained Orthodox rabbi, and a firm proponent of mesorah. He currently serves as rov of Kehillas Mevaser Tov in East Brunswick, NJ. Rabbi Sayani is frequently consulted for his expertise in matters pertaining to chevra kadisha and Jewish end-of-life practices. He has semicha Yoreh Yoreh from the Nitei Gavriel, HaRav Gavriel Tzinner, shlita, Rav Refoel Dovid Banon, Rav Yochanan Gurary, Rav Dovid Schochet, Rav Yosef Yeshaya Braun, from Yeshivas Ohr Kedoshim d'Biala, Kollel Hachshores L'Rabbonus, and Yeshivas Pirchei Shoshanim, and is a graduate of the Young Israel Rabbinic Training Program.
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