Question: What is the “Azkara” that is customarily held on the anniversary of a parent’s passing?
Answer: After an individual passes on to the next world, he is judged for all of the actions he performed throughout his entire life, for all of one’s pursuits in this world are all futile besides for one’s pure soul which will one day be made to pass judgement before Hashem.
On the seventh day following one’s passing, the individual is judged in a more detailed manner and it has therefore become customary to hold an “Azkara” (memorial service) on the night of the seventh day since the passing of the deceased in order to awaken Heavenly mercy by increasing merits on behalf of the deceased’s soul. Similarly, an “Azkara” is held on the night of the thirtieth day since the passing as well since the deceased is judged in an even more detailed manner at that point.
Similarly, the individual is judged every year on the anniversary of his death. If they see that one’s children and actions are having a good impact on the world, for instance, if the deceased bequeathed a sum of money to a Yeshiva in which Torah is studied, such actions assist the deceased’s soul in reaching higher and loftier spiritual levels in the World to Come. It is therefore customary to perform an “Azkara” on every subsequent year on the anniversary of death by increasing Torah study and blessings in memory and honor of the deceased.
Let us now recount an unbelievable incident which occurred approximately three weeks ago. A resident of Petach Tikvah by the name of Ofer Amar studied in an institute named “Midrashiyat Noam” in Pardes Chanah approximately forty years ago. While studying in the program, he had a friend who was Torah-observant at the time.
When both young men completed their studies at the school, each one went his own way. Ofer became a G-d-fearing Jew and built a home of Torah and Mitzvot while the other young man completely left religious life throughout the years, along with the rest of his brothers, such that he did not even keep the most basic Mitzvot. Nevertheless, this individual and his brothers found much success in the material world and he eventually became very successful in the world of advertising and was actually hired to manage the advertising campaign of one of the most irreligious political parties in Israel.
Throughout the years since they had left the school, the two friends had not kept in touch with one another and none of them had any idea about the happening of the other. Several days ago, Ofer dreamed that he was present at the “Azkara” for the mother of his old friend from school. Also present at the “Azkara” was the mother herself and Ofer could see that she was visibly angry and upset about the way her sons were conducting an “Azkara” for her. Ofer then awoke.
Ofer was in a dilemma about what to do because he had never been one to have many dreams and certainly not strange ones like these about an old friend whom he had not heard from or even thought about for many years. He decided to track down his old friend and tell him what had happened. He eventually found his friends number and he sent him a text message about everything he had seen in his dream.
A few minutes later, the friend called up Ofer, seemingly startled. “Ofer, my friend, are you being serious?” he asked. Ofer replied, “Of course I am. This is what I saw.” The friend proceeded to ask, “Did you possibly think about me or hear something about me recently?” Ofer replied, “I did not think about you at all and I had no idea what you were up to.” The friend then exclaimed, “You should know that my mother passed away two years and five days ago. Before she passed on, she saw that my brothers and I were not living as Torah-observant Jews. She told us, ‘I am soon departing from this world. If after I die I see that there is a continuation to the world after death, I will come back down to this world and give you a sign.’ Several days later, she passed away.”
“After her passing, we held an “Azkara” on the anniversary of her death and five days ago, we marked the “Azkara” for her second Yahrtzeit. At the memorial, I got up in front of everyone and said: ‘Do you remember how our mother promised that if life continued after death, she would give us a sign? Two years have passed and we have not received any such sign and thus, this that people say that the soul ascends to the upper realms must not be true. Therefore, even tonight at this “Azkara” we will not recite Tehillim or Mishnayot in mother’s merit, for there is no such thing as a soul at all! Let us just eat, drink, and enjoy our lives!”
The friend then addressed Ofer, “When you sent me that text message, I realized that my mother does indeed see what is happening in this world and she merited sending a sign to us through you that she is in the Next World and that she is upset about the actions of her sons.” This dream and message shook up the entire family for the next several days. With Hashem’s help, they will find their way back to the Torah and Mitzvot very soon.