When it comes to the Jewish stages of mourning as well as the memorial services, those bereaved from the loss of a loved one look to the Torah and other texts for guidance and wisdom. Rabbis encourage those coping with a loss to find healing in sacred Jewish literature. Additionally, the right poetry or writings can help those present at a memorial find solace in the words.
Following the death of a loved one, we find ourselves in a deep state of emotional and spiritual darkness. Finding the right readings for a Jewish memorial service is important. Much like the right headstone symbols, they can be an enormous comfort to those in attendance. Below, we’ve gathered some esteemed passages for Jewish memorial services. If you’re looking for the perfect words to honor your faith as well as your loved one’s life, take a look below for some inspiration.
1. Psalm 23
Out of the 150 psalms, the 23rd is the most widely recognized. It’s frequently recited at funerals and memorial services. Many who have attended Jewish memorial services in the past recognize it. In fact, even those who haven’t attended Jewish funerals often recognize it, as well.
Written by King David, Psalm 23 presents powerful themes of faith and divinity. King David describes God as a shepherd guiding us through “green pastures and still waters.” Many mourners find tremendous comfort in Psalm 23, which is why it’s so frequently spoken during memorial services:
“23:1 The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want. 23:2 He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters. 23:3 He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. 23:4 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. 23:5 Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over. 23:6 Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the LORD for ever.”
2. “There Are Stars” by Hannah Senesh
Hannah Senesh was not just a gifted Jewish poet. She was also a renowned Jewish heroine who is celebrated to this day. Senesh was parachuted by British forces into Yugoslavia during World War II to assist in the rescue of Hungarian Jews. She was arrested at the Hungarian border and tortured for information. However, she refused to reveal the details of her mission. To this day, she is hailed as a national heroine and poet of Israel.
Hannah Senesh’s poem “There Are Stars” does not actually come from sacred Jewish texts. However, Senesh’s status as a Jewish heroine as well as the appropriate nature of the poetry has elevated it to a nearly sacred level. It’s a brief, but beautiful, meditation on death, loss and hope:“There are stars whose radiance is visible on Earth though they have long been extinct. There are people whose brilliance continues to light the world even though they are no longer among the living. These lights are particularly bright when the night is dark. They light the way for humankind.”
It’s undeniable that when we lose our loved ones, we suffer. It’s an unfortunate, but inevitable, part of life. A passage written by Levi Yitzchak of Berditchev is a perfect exploration and examination of that suffering we must endure when grieving.
“Why?” is a passage unique for its time – it comes across as a challenging of God. Yitzchak, in his writing, finds human suffering incomprehensible. Many who attend Jewish memorial services find consolation and solace in the words:
Eternal Presence of the world, I am not asking You to show me the secret of your ways, for it would be too much for me. But I am asking You to show me one thing: what is the meaning of the suffering that I am presently enduring, what this suffering requires of me, and what You are communicating to me through it. Eternal Presence of the world. I want to know not so much why I am suffering but whether I am doing so for your sake.
At Fox Monuments, our top priority is to help families navigate dark and difficult times. We aim to make the entire experience as stress-free and smooth for you as possible. In addition, we collaborate with you to create a memorial that pays tribute to the life of your loved one.By selecting the right words to read at a memorial service, you’ll be making an enormous contribution to the comfort and peace of those present. Any one of these passages can respectfully honor the life of your loved one.