jewish Funeral Guide


Memorial Prayer

The traditional memorial prayer asking God to shelter the soul of the deceased “under the wings of His Divine presence” is recited on numerous occasions. This prayer is recited while the congregation stands. Ashkenazim call it Kel Maleh Rachamim / קל מלה רחמים while Sephardim call it Hashkavah / תפילת השכבה.

Technically memorial prayers may be recited by an individual even without a Minyan / המניין — a quorum of at least ten Jewish men over the age of thirteen required for public prayer, although this is uncommon.

When memorial prayer is recited. As was mentioned earlier, the Kel Maleh Rachamim / קל מלה רחמים or Hashkavah / תפילת השכבה memorial prayer is recited during the Jewish funeral either before or after the burial, depending on the local custom. It is often recited during the unveiling of the monument and upon visiting the grave. In some congregations this prayer is also recited after the Torah reading on Yom Kippur / יום כפור, Shemini Atzeret / שמיני עצרת, the last day of Passover / פסח and Shavuot / שבועות. On these days it is usually recited by the cantor as part of the Yizkor / יזכור memorial service in Ashkenazic and lately even some Sephardic congregations.

The custom in many congregations of Ashkenazim is to recite memorial prayers after the Torah reading on either Monday or Thursday close to the date of the Yahrzeit / יארצייט — anniversary of death. Alternatively, some prefer to recite them after the SabbathTorah reading, usually after the Sabbath afternoon reading. The memorial prayers are typically recited by the cantor, who holds the Torah scroll while reciting them. The cantor is permitted to recite memorial prayers for others even if his own parents are alive, but it is always preferable for the son of the departed to recite the memorial prayers himself. The memorial prayers are not recited by Ashkenazim on days of communal rejoicing, except when it is part of the Yizkor memorial service. Sephardim, however, have a custom to recite memorial prayers on the actual day of the Yahrzeit even when there is no Torah reading and even on days of communal rejoicing.