Memorial Service

tea candles

This service is divided into seven parts to be said by different family members or friends. The seven candles may be lit after each part, or at the conclusion of the ceremony.


Just as in the birth of a child, the Jewish life cycle concentrates on the importance of naming our people. We see that God takes this responsibility when he names the first man he creates, Adam, meaning Earth. Adam’s name has a clear interpretation—from the earth was he born, on the earth shall he live. God takes this responsibility several times in the Torah, giving of a part of Himself through the use of his name. For example, Avram was changed to Avraham, and Sarai was changed to Sarah. Adding a letter of his name to their own displayed his love and commitment to them.

A Jew is often referred to as Yisrael, a person of the tribe. But the name Yisrael was originally given to Jacob, the grandson of Abraham and son of Isaac. After several struggles in his lifetime, God changed Jacob’s name from that of deceiver to Yisrael, the one who strives with God, and one who prevails. This name is being given to (fill in name) today, to represent the struggles and victories of his lifetime, s/he who represents the whole of Israel, as a member of our tribe, and as one of God’s creations; S/He who will finally rest and s/he who has been given the chance to now stand with God. Throughout our lives, we struggle and learn in the same way that Jacob did, with passing time, our lives are a cycle of creation. In this service, we will follow the cycle of creation and of life, realizing that each new stage brings us deeper into the taste of our existence on this earth, until it is our time to look, to say that our lives on this earth have been good, and to be given a place to rest with God.

Each day of creation represents a new opportunity to learn and grow. This ceremony has seven parts, each representing the days of creation, the days when darkness turned to light, and life began on earth.

PART I—Psalm 23

On the first day of creation, God created light. God separated the light and dark, and with it, gave His creations the ability to know the difference. With this new ability, God gives his creations the choice to see the light, an analogy for opportunity and knowledge. If we seek it, God will be by our side, and we will know this light.

Psalm 23
The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
He maketh me to lie down in green pastures; He leadeth me beside the still waters.
He restoreth my soul; He leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake.
Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for Thou art with me; Thy rod and Thy staff, they comfort me.
Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies; Thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life; and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.

PART II—Speech about (insert name)

On the second day, God created water; and with it the separation of water above and water below. Water is the essence of who we are, it flows in and out of us seeping into every crevice, thoughtfully and fully. Water is love. Love is there without thinking, its weight is heavy within us, and sustains us to survive.

(insert speech)

PART III—The Kaddish

On the third day, God created the soil, land and vegetation on the earth. The land represents our ability to travel throughout our lives, with God’s heaven as protection above us. The land provides for us food, sustaining our bodily growth, both literally and spiritually. In the time of death, we remember life, the spirit of our days on this land, feeding us and giving us the sustenance with which to grow. The Kaddish is said at the end of a person’s life, but is a confirmation of the beginning. The prayer evokes the days of creation, asking us to remember God’s name and the miracles he provides for us on this earth. It is a chance to speak of peace for those who are living, those who have passed and for all of Yisrael.

Kaddish Yatom

PART IVMemorywork

On the fourth day, God created the two great luminaries, the sun and the moon. Feeding off of one another, and giving the other strength, these two light up our world. They give us the gift of time, with each passing of the sun comes another day, and with it our memories. What a gift God has given us to remember.

by Jack Reimer and Sylvan D. Kamens

In the rising of the sun and in its going down, we remember them.
In the blowing of the wind and in the chill of winter, we remember them.
In the opening of the buds and in the rebirth of spring, we remember them.
In the blueness of the sky and in the warmth of summer, we remember them.
In the rustling of leaves and in the beauty of autumn, we remember them.
In the beginning of the year and when it ends, we remember them.
When we are weary and in need of strength, we remember them.
When we are lost and sick at heart, we remember them.
When we have joys we yearn to share, we remember them.
So long as we live, they too shall live, for they are now a part of us, as we remember them.

PART V—Inner workings

On the fifth day, God created the creatures on this Earth. Those that swarm on the land and swim in the ocean. There are creatures so far beneath and so well hidden in the trees that in our lifetime, we will never discover. It is too much for any one human to understand the inner workings of our great world. But one day, God says, in the world to come, we will discover all that we could not see.

(Insert poem, you may choose from any of the following or your own selection):
Dirge Without Music
The Five Stages of Grief

PART VITefillat Hederech

On the sixth Day, God created Man and Woman from him. Our bodies are created as vehicles for the deeds that our souls do on this Earth. When our time on this Earth is over, our souls travel to meet with God, and find comfort. God places us beneath the shelter of his wings and offers us his personal light, to warm and keep us. During our lives, we say a prayer for traveling from one destination to another. Today, we will say this prayer for (insert name) as his/her soul enters into the next life with all those that went before him/her.

May it be Your will, Hashem, our God and the God of our ancestors, that You lead him/her toward peace, guide his/her footsteps toward peace, and make him/her reach his/her desired destination for life, gladness, and peace. May you rescue him/her from the hand of every foe, ambush along the way, and from all manner of punishments that assemble to come to earth. May You send blessing in our handiwork, and grant him/her grace, kindness, and mercy in Your eyes and in the eyes of all who see him/her. May You hear the sound of our humble request because You are God Who hears prayer requests. Blessed are You, Hashem, Who hears prayer.

PART VIIEl Maley Rakhamim

On the seventh day, God looked at all that He had created and saw that it was very good. The time for rest had come. God did all that He could do on this Earth and now it was time for God to see us from a distance, acting in mysterious ways throughout our lives, and allowing us to feel Him during our hardest times. It is now (insert name)’s time to rest, his/her creations complete on this Earth. Following closely now in times of need, in times of comfort, and in times of joy, s/he will be there from above to illuminate his/her shadow upon us. The traditional prayer for those who have departed is El Malei Rachamim.

El Maley Rakhamim

(If lighting candles at the end, read the following prior to the candle lighting. If lighting a candle with each section, read prior to lighting the first candle.)

We light seven candles to represent each of the days of creation, each of the miracles that God provides, each of the lessons we take with us, and each in preparation for our final resting place.

May God grant peace to our departed family member, our Yisrael, as we celebrate his/her life and pray for the peace and comfort of his/her soul.

We will conclude with a prayer asking for God to grant peace to his people Israel forever (while lighting the candle(s) sing the following):

Oseh shalom bimromav
hu ya’aseh shalom aleinu
v’al kol yisra’el
v’al kol yoshvei tevel
v’imru: amen

May the One who creates harmony above,
make peace for us and for all Israel,
and for all who dwell on earth.
And we say: Amen.


Used by permission of author

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