Years ago, if someone would define Yizkor as a moment of brief communication between the living and a beloved departed family member, he would be laughed at and ridiculed. Today, however, with the amazing advance of technology that we are witnessing (and who knows what new ideas they will come up with), the analogy to communication is understandable and accepted.

Undoubtedly, no one needs me to tell him or her what to say to their beloved. Everyone of us is filled with emotions and needs, and will properly use this unique time to convey some good tidings or beseech the intercession of their beloved to approach the Heavenly Tribunal in their behalf, concerning matters such as health, parnossah, nachas from children, etc.

Thus, what I would like to tell you this morning is not what you should say to them, but rather what they say to us, and I will preface it with a story related in the Gemara (Ketubot 103a) regarding the great Talmudic Sage, Rabbi Yehudah Hanasi — the Prince. (He was also known as Rebbi and Rabbeinu Hakadosh — our Holy Teacher.) This beloved leader of our people will be remembered forever as the compiler of the Mishnah.”

Lying on his death-bed about to expire, he faintly whispered to those attending him, “Lebanai ani tzarich” — “I need my sons.” When his sons entered Rabbi Yehudah said to them, “Be careful of the honor of your mother. Be sure that a candle is always kindled in its usual place, and let the Shabbat table be set in its usual place (even after his death he would come home to make kiddush — see Gilyon Hashas, ibid.,Sefer Chassidim, 1127).

The request uttered by Rebbe is recorded for posterity because it represents a living and eternal testament. His words are of particular importance to us at the time when we recite the heart-rendering Yizkor prayers.

As we solemnly recite the touching Yizkor prayers, we hear the faint whisper of our father and mother, “lebanai ani tzarich” — “We need you, our dear children; please do not forget us. Even though we are physically dead, your action, prayers, and reverence can prolong our lives, and endow our name with immortality.”

Just as children need parents during their formative years, parents need their children in order not to be forgotten. Unless children cling loyally and sincerely to the ideals of the parents, remember them in prayers, and recall them on frequent occasions, a father and mother are soon forgotten.

How can children keep contact with parents and remember them properly? First, remember the words of Rabbi Yehuda Hanasi: “Be careful of the honor of your dear mother.” How often do we unintentionally bring dishonor to our parents by our actions. When one dissociates himself from Jewish life and erases the impress of Yiddishkeit from his life, people are likely to say that it is the fault of the parents who did not give him a Jewish education or train him in religious observance.

When we are unethical in our business dealings, we bring dishonor upon our parents. Even when a person lives to a ripe old age he still remains within the shadow of his parents; his actions either reflect honor or shame upon them.

Penetrating and instructive is the second advice of this great Sage: “Always have a light burning in its place.” Often, when a father passes away, a light of Judaism is extinguished, leaving behind not even a smoking ember. So long as parents live, the son and daughter feel a sense of obligation to adhere to the cherished ideals of their parents; but with their parents’ death, their way of life likewise dies with them.

The place the father and mother occupied in the community and their involvement with charitable and noble endeavors must not cease; rather the children must take over and continue their parents’ endeavors.

Regarding the mitzvah to “Honor your father and your mother,” the Gemara (Kiddushin 31a) says that it applies both when they are alive and after they are gone.

According to halachah, to fear our parents means that when our parents are alive we are forbidden to sit in their chairs or to stand in their accustomed places. But it could be said that after they are gone, the greatest honor we can show them, the greatest tribute we can pay them, is when we take their places in life, when we succeed them in their devotion to the spiritual values of our people.

Last but not least is the third request: “Let the Shabbat table be set in its place,” which perhaps is uppermost in a parent’s mind.

A wise man once compared a family to a book. The parents are the covers and the children are the pages. As long as the covers are intact the pages are held firmly together. Once the cover falls off, the pages are not held firmly and eventually get detached.

The Shabbat table is an analogy for family unity. It is the time and place in the home where the entire family gathers and sits at in unity. The parents’ heartrending plea to their children is this: “Though we are not there to physically conduct the “Shabbat table”; nevertheless, stay firmly attached among yourselves.”

Dear friends, listen carefully during Yizkor to the voices of our parents begging “Lebanai ani tzarich” — “We need you dear children, we can no longer do it — please keep up everything that was dear and important to us. Please fill the vacuum that was caused by our passing. Listen to us and we will in turn listen to you and do everything in our power to see to it that G‑d grant your wishes to merit the best in good health, success and nachas.