When we ask God to remember the souls of our departed at Yizkor, we request more than a mere mental act. We pray implicitly that by focusing on our loved ones’ souls, God will take action on their behalf and save them from whatever pain they may be suffering, wherever they may be. At the same time, the implication is that this act of remembrance also constitutes a guarantee of Jewish community—well beyond just those we remember, and far beyond us as well. In remembering and in asking for God’s remembrance, we request divine help in continuing our people’s trajectory beyond ourselves, to achieve the ultimate aims of our people’s history. Yizkor is, in the end, not a prayer for the dead, but a promise by the living.
Source: Rabbi Aaron Panken (z”l).
I discovered these words thanks to my friend Rabbi Lisa S. Greene, who shared them with me as I sought assistance in preparing a Yizkor service that was part of a family reunion that took place last weekend. (A bit more about that over on my other blog.)