Devotional: Yizkor

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We are a people good at remembering certain events. Remember the Alamo! The Memorial of Pearl Harbor, Yad VaShem, the Holocaust Memorial in Jerusalem, all remind us of sad past times. September 11 will always be a time of remembrance.

As we approached the holiest Jewish holiday, Yom Kippur, I reflected on past years’ synagogue experiences . Yom Kippur began on sundown Sunday night, and Jewish people all over the world attended synagogues and Temples, beseeching God to forgive them their sins and prayed that their names would be written in the book of life. Orthodox men walked to the synagogue; they did not wear leather shoes; they carried no money. It was a somber, serious time.

Growing up, this was a depressing ‘holiday’ for me. My father, raised Orthodox, would spend the entire evening before, as well as Yom Kippur, at the synagogue. He refrained from eating or drinking. My brothers would join him, but only if they had been bar mitzvah. The Yom Kippur service does not end until the neilah service has concluded, and the neilah service cannot even begin until three stars are seen in the sky.

Do I recall times of reflection as I sat in the synagogue ? Honestly, no. Yom Kippur, sadly , for me, was a time to know that we were sitting in the ‘cheap’ seats. Yom Kippur was a time to look around and see others- who was sitting with a new wife, who got to sit up front in the ‘rich’ seats. Intermingled was the incessant low chatter as well as men’s davening and chanting. It was not a spiritual experience for me, I sadly admit. It was what I had to do, and nothing that I wanted to do.

There is a portion of the Yom Kippur service called Yizkor, Hebrew for remembrance. This service often is held in the afternoon of Yom Kippur. The children are asked to leave. Before I knew the meaning of this service, I often conjured up strange imaginations about this service, as we young children had to be banished from the sanctuary. Later did I find out it was only for those people who have had loved ones die in years past.

During this portion of the service, a prayer is recited Yizkor Elohim Nishmat.

May God remember the souls.
And the names of the deceased souls are inserted.

When referring to the deceased, many say the name of the person followed by alav hashalom for a man, or alehah hashalom for a woman (literally, “On him (her) peace”). These phrases demonstrate respect and reverence for the deceased.

As a Jewish believer, I do not see in my Bible where God is commanding me to ask Him to remember the dead. As my Psalms read:
Ps 6:5 For in death, there is no remembrance of Thee.

We are to remember our God

Psalm 102:12 reads
But Thou, O LORD, shalt endure for ever; and Thy remembrance unto all generations.

Psalm 30:4
Sing unto the LORD, O ye saints of His, and give thanks at the remembrance of His holiness.

We are to remember Yeshua.

Luke 22:19
And He (Yeshua Jesus) took bread, and gave thanks, and brake [it], and gave unto them, saying
This is My body which is given for you: this do in remembrance of Me.
The Holy Spirit helps us remember

John 14:26
But the Comforter, [which is] the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in My name
He shall teach you all things, and
bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you.
We are to remember others in our prayers

II Tim. 1:3
I thank God, whom I serve from [my] forefathers with pure conscience, that without ceasing I have remembrance of thee in my prayers night and day;

All through Scripture, we are exhorted to remember the Sabbath, we are to remember God’s faithfulness, we are to remember God, we are to remember the Name – HaShem, we are to remember others in our prayers.

May we be a people who reflect and remember what God has done for us through His Son Yeshua. May we remember the days before we knew Him, may we remember those family members of who need salvation, who need Yeshua (means salvation in Hebrew). May we pray for the salvation of the Jewish people, pray that God will reveal Himself to Jew and Gentile, pray for the peace of Jerusalem.

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