Yizkor, a special memorial prayer for the departed, is recited in the synagogue four times a year, following the Torah reading on the last day of Passover, on the second day of Shavuot, on Shemini Atzeret and on Yom Kippur.
Yizkor, in Hebrew, means "Remember." It is not only the first word of the prayer, it also represents its overall theme. In this prayer, we implore G‑d to remember the souls of our relatives and friends that have passed on.
When we recite Yizkor, we renew and strengthen the connection between us and our loved one, bringing merit to the departed souls, elevating them in their celestial homes.
The main component of Yizkor is our private pledge to give charity following the holiday in honor of the deceased. By giving charity, we are performing a positive physical deed in this world, something that the departed can no longer do.
The soul gains additional merit if the memory of its good deeds spur their loved ones to improve their ways.
It is customary for those with both parents alive to leave the synagogue during the Yizkor service. A mourner during the first year remains in the synagogue, but does not recite the Yizkor. Some kindle a 24-hour Yizkor candle (before the holiday).
In addition to reciting Yizkor for one's parents, one may recite Yizkor for any Jew who has passed on, including relatives and friends. When reciting Yizkor for more than one person, repeat the Yizkor paragraph each time, and substitute the words "Aböh Mori" (my father), or " Imi Morösi" (my mother), with the appropriate title, as follows: For a Husband: "Ba-ali." Son: "B'ni." Brother: "Öchi ." Uncle: "Dodi." Grandfather: "Z'kainy" . Wife: " Ishti." Daughter: "Biti." Sister: "Achosi." Aunt: "Dodosi." Grandmother: "Z'ken-ti."
Text of Yizkor
For a father (and all males) say:
Hebrew and Transliteration:
May G‑d remember the soul of my father, my teacher (mention his Hebrew name and that of his mother) who has gone to his [supernal] world, because I will — without obligating myself with a vow — donate charity for his sake. In this merit, may his soul be bound up in the bond of life with the souls of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, Sarah, Rebecca, Rachel and Leah, and with the other righteous men and women who are in Gan Eden; and let us say, Amen.
For a mother (and all females) say:
Hebrew and Transliteration:
May G‑d remember the soul of my mother, my teacher (mention her Hebrew name and that of her mother) who has gone to her [supernal] world, because I will - without obligating myself with a vow - donate charity for her sake. In this merit, may her soul be bound up in the bond of life with the souls of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, Sarah, Rebecca, Rachel and Leah, and with the other righteous men and women who are in Gan Eden; and let us say, Amen.
May the All-Merciful Father Who dwells in the supernal heights, in His profound compassion, remember with mercy the pious, the upright and the perfect ones, the holy communities who gave their lives for the sanctification of the Divine Name.
They were beloved and pleasant in their lives, and [even] in their death were not parted [from Him]; they were swifter than eagles, stronger than lions to carry out the will of their Maker and the desire of their Creator.
May our G‑d remember them with favor together with the other righteous of the world, and avenge the spilled blood of His servants, as it is written in the Torah of Moses, the man of G‑d: O nations, sing the praises of His people, for He will avenge the blood of His servants, bring retribution upon His foes, and placate His land — His people.
And by Your servants the Prophets it is written as follows: I will cleanse [the nations of their wrongdoings,] but for the [shedding of Jewish] blood I will not cleanse them; the Lord dwells in Zion.
And in the Holy Writings it is said: Why should the nations say, "Where is their G‑d?" Let there be known among the nations, before our eyes, the retribution of the spilled blood of Your servants. And it is said: For the Avenger of bloodshed is mindful of them; He does not forget the cry of the downtrodden. Further it is said: He will render judgment upon the nations, and they will be filled with corpses; He will crush heads over a vast area. He will drink from the stream on the way; therefore [Israel] will hold its head high.