Traditionally, Jews recite the Yizkor prayer for their deceased parents. But what does one say for a parent who was abusive or neglectful, especially if the survivor’s feelings for their parents are unresolved or acrimonious?
Two rabbis have written these moving renditions which you may choose to recite in addition to, or in place of the traditional Yizkor prayer.
A Yizkor Meditation in Memory of a Parent Who Hurt
By Rabbi Robert Saks
Dear God,You know my heart.Indeed, You know me better than I know myself, so I turn to You before I rise for Kaddish.My emotions swirl as I say this prayer. The parent I remember was not kind to me. His/her death left me with a legacy of unhealed wounds, of anger and of dismay that a parent could hurt a child as I was hurt.I do not want to pretend to love, or to grief that I do not feel, but I do want to do what is right as a Jew and as a child.Help me, O God, to subdue my bitter emotions that do me no good, and to find that place in myself where happier memories may lie hidden, and where grief for all that could have been, all that should have been, may be calmed by forgiveness, or at least soothed by the passage of time.I pray that You, who raise up slaves to freedom, will liberate me from the oppression of my hurt and anger, and that You will lead me from this desert to Your holy place.
A Yizkor Prayer For Victims of Abuse
May God remember my (father) (mother)_____________________ben/bat____________________who has gone to his/her eternal home.May he/she be granted an opportunityto expiate the sins of his/herterrible acts against me.May the loving fire of God’s justicerelieve him/her of the pain which corruptedthe natural love of a parent for a child.May God help me rememberthat my mother/father joinedwith God in giving me the gift of lifeand for that gift, despite the painthat has at times accompanied it,I am grateful.Mindful of that gratitudeand as an offering on behalf of myfather’s/mother’s penitence, I pledgeto do acts of loving kindness and charity.May my father/mother at last fine peacein the eternal bond with God.May I find peace in this worldand salvation in the world to come.
Pronounced: YIZZ-kur, Origin: Hebrew, literally “May God remember,” Yizkor is a prayer service in memory of the dead, which is held on Yom Kippur and on the last day of each of the three festivals, Passover, Shavuot and Shemini Atzeret.