Memorial service, held, according to the German ritual, after the readings of the Law and the Prophets in the morning service on the eighth day of Pesaḥ, the second of Pentecost, the eighth of Sukkot (Shemini 'Aẓeret), and the Day of Atonement. In memory of a father the following is recited:
"May God remember the soul of my respected father,—, son of—, who has gone to his eternal home; on whose behalf I vow as alms—; may his soul be bound up in the bundle of life [see I Sam. xxv. 29] with the souls of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, Sarah, Rebekah, Rachel, and Leah, and all other righteous men and women that are in the Garden of Eden, and let us say, Amen."
The same prayer is recited in memory of a mother, with a change in gender; he whose father and mother are dead says both prayers. There is another formula for grandparents and for other kindred, and a special prayer for such as have died as martyrs for the faith. In some synagogues this prayer is followed by the reading of a list of those in memory of whom money has been given for charity; for them another form of prayer is used. In many places a similar prayer is recited on ordinary Sabbaths, after the readings from the Law and the Prophets, its opening words being: "El male raḥamim" (God, full of mercy). The service closes with the following memorial prayer for the souls of the martyrs:
"Father of Mercy, who dwelleth on high! May He in His abundant mercy turn to the saintly, the upright, the perfect, to those holy communities that gave up their lives for the glory of His name. They were lovely and pleasant in their lives, and in death they were not parted; they were swifter than eagles, they were stronger than lions [II Sam. i. 23], to do the will of their Master, the wish of their Rock. May our God remember them for good with the other just ones of the world, and avenge before our eyes the spilled blood of His servants [Ps. lxxix. 3], as it is written in the law of Moses, the man of God . . . [Deut. xxxii. 43]. By the hands of Thy servants the Prophets it is written . . . [Joel iv. 21 (iii. 21)]. And in Thy holy writings it is written . . . [Ps. lxxix. 10]; and it is also said . . . [Ps. ix. 13, ex. 6-7]."
In western Germany this "in memoriam" is read only on the Sabbath before Pentecost and on that before the Ninth of Ab; where the Polish minhag is used it is read on all Sabbaths that do not fall on days of rejoicing; and it is omitted when the new moon, other than that of Iyyar or Siwan, is announced. The custom of remembering the souls of the departed is traced to Pesiḳta xx., where mention is made of salvation of souls through charity and prayer. The Maḥzor Vitry (dated 1208) says that in its time "alms for the dead are set aside" only on the Day of Atonement, showing that the memorial service on the three festivals came into use somewhat later. In the Sephardic ritual the origin of the particular service for certain days in the year is unknown; but the "Hashkabah" (laying to rest) is, on ordinary Sabbaths and on festivals, or even on Mondays and Thursdays, recited in the synagogue, either after the Scroll has been returned to the Ark or, at the request of a son of the departed who has been called to the desk, immediately after he has read his part of the lesson. The prayer reads as follows, subject to modifications in the case of women or children:
"A good name is more fragrant than rich perfume; and the day of death better than the day of one's birth. The sum of the matter, after all hath been heard, is, To fear God, and keep His commandments, for this is the whole of man. Let the pious be joyful in glory; let them sing aloud upon their couches.
"May the repose which is prepared in the celestial abode, under the wings of the Divine Presence in the high place of the holy and pure—that shine and are resplendent as the bright light of the firmament—with a renewal of strength, a forgiveness of trespasses, a removal of transgressions, an approach of salvation, compassion and favor from Him that sitteth enthroned on high, and also a goodly portion in the life to come, be the lot, dwelling, and the resting-place of the soul of our deceased brother, . . . (whom may God grant peace in paradise), who departed from this world according to the will of God, the Lord of heaven and earth. May the supreme King of kings, through His infinite mercy, have mercy, pity, and compassion on him. May the supreme King of kings, through His infinite mercy, hide him under the shadow of His wings, and under the protection of His tent, to behold the beauty of the Lord, and to wait in His temple; may He raise him at the end of days, and cause him to drink of the stream of His delights. May He cause his soul to be bound up in the bond of life and his rest to be glorious. May the Lord be his inheritance, and grant him peace; and may his repose be in peace; as it is written, 'He shall come in peace; they shall rest in their beds; every one walking in his uprightness.' May he, and all His people of Israel, who slumber in the dust, be included in mercy and forgiveness. May this be His will! and let us say, Amen."
For a deceased scholar the following verses are prefixed: Job xxviii. 12; Ps. xxv. 12, xxxi. 20, xxxvi. 8-9. The rimed part is a poetic paraphraseand enlargement of the "El Male Raḥamim" of the German ritual.
Primarily, the "Hashkabah" is recited at the grave as a part of the burial service; when it is used at the synagogue a vow of alms, somewhat like that in the German ritual, is sometimes added. The making of vows of alms or of gifts for the repose of souls is unknown to the Talmud and to Maimonides. Shulḥan 'Aruk, Oraḥ Ḥayyim (621, 6), written in Palestine, but by Joseph Caro, a Spaniard, born after Spain had been a Christian country for centuries, teaches that on the Day of Atonement it is "customary to make vows for the dead"; and with the Sephardim such vows, coupled with "A name is better," etc., are commonly made on that day.
In many Sephardic synagogues a "Hashkabah" for a long list of deceased members is read on Kol Nidre night; in others, vows for the dead are made in the daytime, between musaf and minḥah. For the Hazkarot Meshumot in Reform congregations, see Memorial Service.