Memorial prayers have become more prominent, particularly over the past several centuries. Yizkor, for example, came to be viewed as so important that some urban synagogues offered the service numerous times on holidays, so that even if a person was at work during the day, he or she could run in to services to catch a Yizkor service and return to work. The Kaddish prayer — which only a few hundred years ago was, in many communities, only recited by one person at any given service — gained such popular support that the number of Kaddish recitations that appear in services was increased and its recitation extended to all who were memorializing a loved one. The rabbis and scholars whose studies appear in May God Remember examine the origin and development of the various memorial prayers, some of which were written in response to tragedies such as the massacre of Jewish communities during the Crusades, the Chmielnicki massacres, and the Shoah. Important questions are raised about the role of memorial prayers, the contradiction between the festive celebration of holidays and the sadness of Yizkor recited during those holidays, and the nature of modern innovation in creating new memorial prayers. The volume continues with a collection of brief personal reflections about individual writers’ experiences of the memorial prayers in their religious practice. Finally, a set of appendices examines, among other things, differences in regional customs and even the music of memorial prayers. Rabbis as well as thoughtful Jewish prayers will find new insights and thinking around both ancient and more modern memorial prayers. Appendices, glossary, notes.
May God Remember — Yizkor: Memory and Memorializing in Judaism (Prayers of Awe)
Rabbi Arnold D. Samlan is a Jewish educator and rabbi living in Miami, Florida. He serves as executive director of the Orloff Central Agency for Jewish Education of Broward County.
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