How You Can Elevate The Soul Of A Departed Loved One
Yizkor is the beautiful prayer for deceased parents and other relatives said on Yom Kippur and the Jewish Festivals. It means “May He remember” and is a very moving experience.
There are two parts to the Yizkor memorial service. One is praying for a departed soul to elevate it. The other one is pledging to donate charity on behalf of the deceased. This is based on the Jewish belief that departed souls benefit from acts of charity and other good deeds done in their stead. Donating to charity is a tremendous merit for the departed soul and also benefits the one who gave it. (Ohr Yechezkal, Middot pp.103-7).
In Yizkor we ask Hashem to remember our departed relatives and include them with the Patriarchs, Matriarchs and other righteous souls in heaven. We then commit to donate charity on their behalf after the holiday in exchange.
To fulfill what we say we’ll do is an obligation, as the verse states, “Do that what emerges from your lips” (Devorim 23:24).
Rabbi Yeshaya Horowitz, the Holy Shelah (1565-1630) wrote — “Giving charity on behalf of a departed person provides that soul with great benefit. It brings the soul great satisfaction (nachat ruach). This is true even if done for someone not related, how much more so for a family member.”
To sum up, by saying Yizkor, you and your departed relative become partners in giving charity and other good deeds done in their place. On the one hand, you become a better and more giving person. On the other hand,the departed soul of your relative is elevated and receives celestial benefits from your kindness and generosity. You and your loved one remain connected even after they have passed away.