The Meaning and Purpose of Yizkor: Exploring the Soul and the Afterlife
Benjamin Sommer traces Yizkor's phrasing back to Aramean, Canaanite, and Babylonian texts from the first and second millennia BCE.

The Meaning and Purpose of Yizkor: Exploring the Soul and the Afterlife in the Ancient Near East, Biblical Israel, and Medieval Judaism

What is the purpose of uttering the Yizkor prayers? From a ritual point of view, what are we accomplishing when we say the words of this prayer? Benjamin Sommer traces Yizkor’s phrasing all the way back to Aramean, Canaanite, and Babylonian texts from the first and second millennia BCE, providing a surprising view of the function of the Yizkor ritual that entered Ashkenazic liturgy starting in the twelfth century C.E. A better understanding of Yizkor’s roots in the biblical world helps highlight the centrality of the idea of resurrection in traditional forms of Judaism, and constitutes a revealing case of remarkable continuity in Jewish thought and Jewish ritual over the course of several millennia.

NOTE: This program was part of our Summer 2021 Virtual Rabbinic Torah Seminar,  Torah of Possibility for an Uncertain Future

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