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Monday, 9 June 2014

The Power of Yizkor on Yom Kippur

Rosh Hashanah 32

During our life on Earth, our souls grow with every mitzvah we do.  But once we’ve passed on to the Next World, we are helpless in terms of our accomplishments and growth potential.  We can no longer grow since we have no free choice – we are in the World of Truth!

How does a soul achieve elevation in the Next World?  Through the actions of relatives and those we have impacted during our lifetime on earth.  If I rear children dedicated to Torah and mitzvos, then every action that they do will affect my position in the Next World.  And Heaven forefend, my negative influence in this world can have negative consequences after my lifetime and ultimately negatively impact my soul in the Next World.

Yizkor is the memorial prayer which is recited four times a year, in order to help the departed souls achieve spiritual growth in the Next World.   On the three pilgrimage festivals, we are in a festive mood.  Seeking to share our festivities with those less fortunate, we offer tzedaka  (charity) in memory of the souls of our loved ones, thereby assisting their journey in the Next World.

Why is Yizkor recited on Yom Kippur?

The Mishnah teaches that Hallel – the prayer wherein we sing our praises of the Almighty – should be chanted first thing in the morning of a festival, to show our enthusiasm for the mitzvah.

In contrast to all other festivals, however, on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, we do not recite the Hallel.    Why not?

Rabbi Abahu taught: The ministering angels asked the Almighty, “Master of the universe, why doesn’t the nation of Israel recite their song of praise before You on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur?”
He said to them, “Is it proper that, while the King sits upon His throne of judgment with the Books of Chaim (the Living Ones) and the Books of Meitim (the Dead Ones) open before Him, Israel should sing a song?”

On the High Holy days, we ask G-d to write us in the “Book of Chaim.”  We usually translate this prayer as a request to be inscribed in the “Book of Life.”  But as we see here in the Talmud, the word Chaim stands in contradistinction to the word Meitim, which means “Dead Ones.”  In other words, G-d has two sets of books in front of Him – books judging those who are alive and books judging those who are dead.

How are the dead judged?  They haven’t done anything in the last twelve months!

They are judged by the consequences of their actions during their time on earth as they have played out over the last year.   Everything we do, every step we take, has a butterfly effect that reverberates for all eternity.   The more positive influence we have during our lifetimes, the greater our eternal reward will be.

Just think: Every time you influence someone to become more committed to Torah and mitzvos, you are impacting not only them, but their children and their children’s children and so on for generations to come.  What a merit! 

And so after you pass on to the Next World, your merit continues to accrue.  Each year, G-d opens your book – one of the Books of the Dead – and looks at how your lifetime actions continue to impact the world.  He then judges you accordingly.  With the positive influence you’ve kick-started, you’re on your way to elevation upon elevation, soaring through the spiritual heights for all eternity!

Remember, every step in this world has an almost infinite reach.  Make every thought, speech and action count!  In a thousand years’ time, you’ll still be thanking yourself!  

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