Yizkor is founded on two fundamental Jewish beliefs; one, that the prayers and actions of people in this world can have an elevating spiritual effect on the souls of the departed, and two, that a primary, God-given mission in every person’s life is to make the world a kinder, better, more beautiful place. In Jewish life, this pursuit of kindness is known as olam chesed yibaneh, “to build a world of kindness.”
Yizkor is a beautiful expression of these ideas. The central element of yizkor is the commitment to make a charitable donation in honor of ones departed relative. By making such a commitment, you are affirming the belief that God wants us to do what we can to be helpful and alleviate the suffering of others. When you make an effort to help someone else, and do so in honor of a relative, then the relative becomes the motivating cause behind your act of kindness.
In essence, you and your departed relative become partners in this act of kindness. The result is that you become a better, more giving person, the departed soul of your relative is elevated and the recipient benefits from your kindness and generosity.