For those of us who have experienced a significant loss in our lives, we have come to expect that feelings of loss will be more palpable at certain times of the year: a yartzeit, a birthday, certain holidays. Our tradition recognizes that the High Holy Days are a time we remember our loved ones. Another name for Rosh HaShannah is Yom Hazikaron, the Day of Remembrance. As God remembers us and we remember the lives we lived this past year, we cannot help but remember our loved ones whom we have lost.
Rituals during our High Holy Days provide tools to help us remember and honor our loved ones' memories. Yizkor, Memorial Services, are included in our Yom Kippur and Shemini Atzeret worship. It is a tradition to light memorials candles as well. In addition, some have a tradition of making cemetery visits during this time of year.
As we take time during this month of Elul to prepare ourselves spiritually for the High Holy Days, let us take the time to prepare ourselves for the sacred obligation of remembering our loved ones. On a practical note, just as we prepare our menus for holiday meals, this Elul message is a reminder to plan cemetery visits and to acquire memorial candles. On a spiritual note, this Elul message is a reminder to begin to prepare emotionally for the intensity of this season which will include feelings of grief and loss.
Who are the significant individuals in your life whom you have lost? How do they continue to shape and influence your life?
(Rabbi Rachel Kort)