Rabbi Guy Tal: Yizkor – past, present and future

by Rabbi Guy Tal

Rabbi Guy Tal

(AJNews) – According to the sages, there are ten ‘Commandments of Memory’ in the Torah, of things we must remember:

The Exodus from Egypt.

The Shabbat.

The Manna.

The Evil Deed of Amalek.

The Revelation at Mount Sinai.

The Complaints of Our Ancestors Against G-d in the Desert, Especially the Sin of the Golden Calf.

The Plots of Balak and Balaam to Harm Our Ancestors.

The Deeds of Miriam the Prophetess.

The Commandment to Remember G-d, for He Gives You the Power to Succeed.

The Remembrance of Jerusalem – May It Be Built and Established Speedily in Our Days, Amen.

The events of the Exodus from Egypt, the Manna, the Evil Deed of Amalek, the Revelation at Mount Sinai, the Complaints of Our Ancestors in the Desert, the Plots of Balak and Balaam, and the Deeds of Miriam the Prophetess are all memories of the past. The Shabbat and the commandment to remember G-d are relevant to the present, while the remembrance of Jerusalem is linked to the future – the construction and establishment of Jerusalem in the time of redemption.


Yizkor – the memory brings back things that are no longer present, that have passed away, what has been forgotten but returns to us through our minds. In the final words of Moses, the greatest leader of our nation, he urges us to remember:

“Recall the days of old,

Reflect on the years of ages past;

Ask your father, and he will inform you,

Your elders, and they will tell you.”

Moses instructs us to cherish history, the past, to seek wisdom from our parents and elders, as their knowledge is invaluable and cannot be acquired in any other way.


Memory also serves as a vital tool for the present. We recollect things that demand action at this very moment and translate them into reality. Similarly, the Torah instructs us to remember its teachings in a way that activates and influences our current lives. One commandment, in particular, explicitly calls for remembrance and entails the obligation to “bind”. For tzitzit, it is said: “and you shall see it and remember all the commandments of the LORD.”, and we are required to tie the fringes to the corners of our garments.

Binding and memory are intrinsically linked. Binding represents commitment and a bond that exists in the present moment. Through the observance of tzitzit, we manifest our commitment to the fulfillment of the commandments – “and you shall remember all the commandments of the LORD, and fulfill them.”


Memory also extends to the future, empowering us to shape a vibrant destiny. It is not a static recollection of a bygone era, but a living memory that urges us to take action and influence what lies ahead. The prophet speaks of G-d’s yearning for His son Ephraim: “Ephraim is a dear son to Me, a child of delight; for as soon as I speak of him, I surely remember him still, My heart yearns for him; I will surely have compassion on him, declares the LORD.” G-d’s remembrance of Ephraim sparks a longing and a desire to change the situation, thereby promising a compassionate future – “I will surely have compassion on him again.” Past memories inspire present action, shaping the promise of what is yet to come – “I will surely have compassion on him again.”

During the holidays, especially during the High Holidays, we are infused with new energy and sanctity, preparing us for the days to come. An integral part of this energy is drawn from the past. During Passover, we recall the Exodus from Egypt; during Shavuot, the giving of the Torah; on Rosh Hashanah, the creation of the world; on Yom Kippur, the words of G-d “I have forgiven according to your word” spoken after the sin of the Golden Calf; and during Sukkot, we remember “For in Sukkot, I made the Israelites live when I brought them out of the land of Egypt.” These memories instill in us faith and values, granting us the strength to construct our lives and shape our future.

This strength does not solely originate from collective memories but also from personal recollections. Our origin, our childhood, and the people who influenced our lives are part of the fabric that revitalizes and constructs our future. We remember our loved ones, praying for the elevation of their souls and their eternal rest under the wings of the Almighty. Simultaneously, we ask for their strength, faith, and values to be bestowed upon us. May G-d remember us, may we remember, and may the memory live within us – Yizkor.

Yizkor will be said at Beth Israel Synagogue, 131 Wolf Willow Road, on the following days: Yom Kippur, September 25th 10:00 am and Shmini Atzeret, October 7th, 10:30 am.

Rabbi Guy Tal is the spiritual leader at Beth Israel “The Family Shul’ – Edmonton’s Modern Orthodox Jewish Congregation. 

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