The Essence of Yizkor

by | Sep 17, 2005 | 0 comments

I had a powerful experience I’d like to share with you. About six weeks ago I traveled with my family to Buffalo, the city that I grew up in. I took advantage of the trip and went to visit my mother’s A”H kever. It was a beautiful summer day, which presented a very unusual experience for me. My mothers Yahrtzeit and funeral were in the middle of the Buffalo winter. I once had to shovel my way through to the gravesite. I always had to bring special gear to withstand the winds of the open field and frankly I never stayed very long so as not to become an Olah Chadash. Anyway, six weeks ago the sun was shining, the birds were chirping and the landscaping was actually exquisite. I went to my mothers Kever stayed for a while and than leisurely strolled back toward the entrance, where my van was parked. I looked around at the different Kevarim. It is a fairly modern cemetery so I had recognized many of the names. In the distance my eye caught a very unusual kever. It was different than the rest. It was small and much older. It didn’t seem to belong. I couldn’t help but walk across a number of rows to see this kever. I read the kever and it was different. Unlike the other stones it was all in Hebrew. The stone belonged to a little child named Yitzchok ben Feitel Tzvi. He was born in the year 1919, lived 5 years and died in 1924. The family name was Abel, whom I believe were in the Bagel business in Buffalo. I imagined for a moment what his short life must have been like in the same place that my father and I grew up. Suddenly it hit me. I read the kever again and again, that day; the 26th day of Av was his yahrtzeit! I had come to this little boy’s kever on his yahrtzeit. I just happened to be there that day and I just happened to notice. Wow! I said a kel moleh rachamim for this boy and my wife called Monsey and asked our Uncle Willie to say Kaddish.

The episode was nothing short of a miracle. It also made me think. This child had never sinned. He was surely sitting in Gan Eden and wasn’t missing a thing. The ordeal of this world was behind him now and he could pretty much forget about Olam Hazeh. So why 70 years later did he want my Kel Moleh? Why was the Kaddish so important that my entire trip to Buffalo was organized in Shomayim around this boy? The answer is simple. Olam Haba and Olam Hazeh are not two different worlds. They are completely dependent on each other. Olam Haba has everything but Olam Hazeh. We all heard about how the Vilna Gaon cried before he left this world because he would no longer have the opportunity to do Mitzvos. Once you are in Gan Eden you can’t grow any more. BUT, our yizkor, our Kaddish, our Mitzvos as measly as they may seem do make a difference. They lift the Neshama to new heights. They are the only chance of growth for those that have left us.

This is the essence of Yizkor. It is something we can do, something we can give back. As we stand before Yizkor I’d like to make another appeal. Not for money necessarily but for time and effort. For the sake of those that you love make a new commitment. Make a new seder, come to a Shiur, learn a Mishnah a day or a chapter of Tanach. Have more guests, do something. Bra Karey davua, a child is like knees to his ancestors. The knees lift up the person. When are own parents and grandparents and relatives stand at their new found heights because of us, so much closer to Hashem they will certainly be a maylitz Yosher for us and our family and for the whole Klal Yisroel.

By Rabbi Yaacov Haber

Rabbi Yaacov Haber has been a leading force in Jewish community and Jewish education for over forty years. He lived and taught in the United States, Australia and in Israel. He is presently the Rav of Kehillas Shivtei Yeshurun, a vibrant community in the center of Ramat Bet Shemesh, Israel, and serves as the Rabbinic guide to many of its wonderful organisations.


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