My mother recently passed away. Every year when I would go to synagogue on Yom Kippur, and then would get to the Yizkor service, I would leave the sanctuary with the other people whose parents were still alive. This year unfortunately I will stay and say the prayers. Can you tell me a bit about what to expect?
The Aish Rabbi Replies
Yizkor is said four times a year the morning service after the Torah reading: on Yom Kippur, Shmini Atzeret, the 8th day of Passover, and the second day of Shavuot (even if these days fall out on Shabbat).
The Zohar explains that when the Torah is out, God's love for his people is aroused. At this time it is appropriate to say Yizkor for the deceased, as they may also be in need of God's kindness.
How can the dead be in need of God's kindness? This is because a person may not have fully perfected himself during his lifetime. The Yizkor service is a time when the living are able to help the soul obtain the corrections it needs, since the soul, without its body cannot perform good deeds in this world.
During the Yizkor service each individual pledges to give charity (tzedakah). This act, although done by the living, is recorded in the merit of the deceased. In that way the soul receives the help it needs, and the living are able to do an incredible act of kindness for their dearly departed.