Most of us are familiar with the Yizkor memorial service that is held about 5pm on the afternoon of Yom Kippur. It’s a solemn, inspirational, and spiritual service celebrating those no longer with us who shaped our lives and to whom we owe so much. On the other hand, for me at least, I’m easily distracted. I’m starting to get a little hungry, I’m starting to count down to the final shofar blast, and there always seems to be some distracting conversation or noise from the large congregation.
For those reasons, the Yizkor services on the festivals are actually more meaningful to me than the one on Yom Kippur. Temple Isaiah’s tradition for almost as long as anyone can remember is to have a Yizkor service on Simchat Torah/Shemini Atzeret, the end of Pesach, and on Shavuot. So far at least, these services are early in the morning, about 7am. We pray the festival morning service in an informal setting, with the Yizkor service inserted at the end. Often there is a short learning session at which the rabbi offers some teaching and congregants share their own views and experiences. Services are usually finished by 8:30am or so. Of course, a Kiddush follows for those who like to start their day with some wine, challah (or matzo), and something sweet.
Setting that time aside throughout the year for memory and reflection means a lot. It’s a little extra effort; something different. But the festival Yizkor services are worth that effort. You should give it a try!