A Yizkor prayer for stillborn and infant deaths

A contemporary rabbi offers a prayer to be recited throughout the year by parents who have suffered neonatal loss.

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The Yizkor service in which Jews take note of close relatives who have died is recited on four days throughout the Jewish year: Passover, Shavuot, Yom Kippur, and Shemini Atzeret. Mourning a stillbirth or the loss of a child shortly after birth--which has been de-emphasized in Jewish tradition--has received more attention and concern in recent years. This new prayer (resonant with traditional language and themes) enables parents to remember their child in the months and years after his or her death. Reprinted with permission from Jewish Insights on Death and Mourning, edited by Jack Riemer (Schocken Books).

May God remember my daughter/son [name] bat/ben [parents' names] who has gone to eternal rest.

Her/his life was but the briefest flicker of a flame, extinguished before it had time to shed its light on the world but not before sharing its warmth with me.

Through the months of her/his gestation, I prepared to nurture and to love her/him. For the time that he/she lived, I gave to her/him everything a parent could have given and received everything I could have expected.

May the memory of the joy she/he brought to me in the short time that we were together strengthen me, and may God count that joy as the weight of a life filled with such blessing, binding through that love and joy [name] bat/ben[parents' names] in the bonds of eternal life.

For the gift of her/his life without transgression, I pledge to do acts of righteousness and tzedakah[charity] that she/he may merit eternal life and that I may find comfort in this world.

Rabbi Ira F. Stone

Ira F. Stone is Rabbi of Temple Beth Zion-Beth Israel in Philadelphia and an Instructor of Mussar and Modern Jewish Thought at the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College. He is the author of Seeking the Path to Life: Theological Meditations on God and the Nature of People, Love, Life and Death.