A Subdued Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur

A member of our shul, a mother of five, lost her fight with cancer on the first night of Rosh Hashana. When the family realized that her death was near, they checked her into the hospital and stayed with her. Had she died at home, the burial would have taken place on Yom Tov with the family walking to the local cemetery. But the hospital storage facilities allowed the funeral to be postponed until Motzei Rosh Hashanah. Close to a thousand people attended including the mayor, whose son had been her student.

When my own mother died I learned that most people continue to leave shul during the Yizkor memorial prayer until after the year of mourning. We found that there was not much basis for this custom, and the rabbi said I could do what I want (I went). I noticed that the teenage daughter, who had finished shiva only the day before, did stay for Yizkor. In our shul, the chazan (cantor) says a prayer in memory of the members who have died over the years. The mother’s name was read for the first time.

May her family take comfort from her memory during the coming year.


  1. I feel for them.
    When my own mother died I learned that most people continue to leave shul during the Yizkor memorial prayer until after the year of mourning.
    I’ve never heard of this. I’ve been going to a Sephardi shul pretty much since my mother died (actually, my mother’s illness and death was a catalyst for me to switch local allegiances). There, I have learned that all of Yizkor is an Ashkenazi custom. So what Etz Ahaim does is a modified form of Yizkor, since so many congregants desire the Yizkor service.
    a prayer in memory of the members who have died over the years
    That’s very nice, touching. There’s a Sephardi custom to say a mishberach for the dead, before one says one for the sick (the pattern is dead women, dead men, sick women, sick men–so you have to pay attention carefully). I remember the painful day I heard the rabbi say my mother’s name with the dead, instead of the sick. Painful but helpful, too. Someting about the public recognition of pain.
    Thank you for this post; my mother’s 10th yahrzeit is coming up soon.

  2. http://mother%20in%20israel says

    My friend once gave a talk about the proximity of the mitzvot of “hachnasat kallah” and “halvayat hamet” in the mishnah (attending the bride and accompanying the dead). She pointed out that both situations, death and marriage, are very intimate, but public as well and must involve the community.

  3. Boruch dayan emet, MiI.
    May her memory and Leora’s mother’s memory be for a blessing.
    May we have good news to share.

  4. http://Regular%20Anonymous says

    Baruch Dayan Emet
    I started staying in for Yizkor immediately following my father’s death. It seemed like the correct thing to do.
    I believe the “going out” is merely based on a superstition. In many shuls, they call the people back in as soon as the yizkor for parents is over and before they say yizkor for Shoah victims, soldiers, etc.

  5. http://Baila says

    I am so sad for this family. I am sure that your community will do all they can to help them get through this.
    When my husband lost his father, he also chose to stay for Yizkor the first time it came up–I think it was more a need than a choice.
    I have often wondered about the custom of people not needing to say Yizkor leaving the shul for the few minutes. Wouldn’t it be nice for us to also pay our respects? Or is it because of Ayin Hara, or respecting the privacy of the mourners? It always seems like a party atmosphere outside, almost disrespectful to leave…

  6. http://mother%20in%20israel says

    RA and Baila, my husband also think that no one should go out.

  7. FWIW, we heard that while you don’t actually participate in the prayers the first year, you still don’t leave the room as many/most do before being required to say kaddish.
    In any event, we can only hope the family can find comfort in the many people who came and showed support. May they know no more sorrow among the mourners of Zion and Jerusalem.

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