El Malei Rachamim

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"El Malei Rachamim" (Hebrew: אֵל מָלֵא רַחֲמִים, lit., "God full of Mercy", or "Merciful God") is a Jewish prayer for the soul of a person who has died, usually recited at the graveside during the burial service and at memorial services during the year.

Place in the Liturgy[edit]

In the Eastern Ashkenazi liturgy, the prayer is usually chanted by a chazzan for the ascension of the souls of the dead on the following occasions: during the funeral; at an unveiling of the tombstone; Yizkor (Remembrance) service on the four of the Jewish festivals, Yom Kippur, Shmini Atzeret, and the last day of Pesach and Shavuot; on the Yahrzeit on a day when there is public reading from the Torah, or the closest date before the Yahrzeit; and on other occasions on which the memory of the dead is recalled.[1] In the Western Ashkenazic liturgy, this prayer is usually not recited, although it has been adopted on various occasions in certain Western Ashkenazic communities (including K'hal Adath Jeshurun in Washington Heights).

In the Sephardi liturgy, a similar prayer is called Hashkavah and is recited by the reader of the Torah on Mondays and Thursdays.[2]

The recitation of the prayer in both Ashkenazi and Sephardi liturgies is usually accompanied by pledges for the donation of charity in memory of the deceased.[2]

Wording of the Prayer[edit]

Text of El malei rachamim at tombstone at Powązki Jewish cemetery in Warsaw

The prayer has a fixed structure, composed of a specific text in which is incorporated the deceased's name (in the case of an individual's commemoration), or a description of the deceased (in the case of the commemoration of a group).

Version for a deceased individual[edit]

The text of the mourner's prayer varies slightly depending on the gender of the one for whom is said.

If the mourner's prayer is recited on behalf of a woman, the following text is recited:[3]

If the mourner's prayer is recited on behalf of a man, the following text is recited:[3]

The prayer refers to a charitable pledge by the person saying it, and thus one should give charity

Version for the Remembrance of IDF Soldiers[edit]

Version for the Remembrance of Victims of the Holocaust[edit]

Cultural usage[edit]

From this prayer, the poet Yehuda Amichai wrote his poem "El malei rachamim",[5] starting with the words:


  1. ^ Ronald L. Eisenberg (1 January 2010). Jewish Traditions: A JPS Guide. Jewish Publication Society. pp. 87–. ISBN 978-0-8276-1039-2.
  2. ^ a b Birnbaum, Philip (1975). "El Male Rahamim". A Book of Jewish Concepts (Revised ed.). New York: Hebrew Publishing Company. p. 33.
  3. ^ a b "Machzor Yom Kippur Sefard, Memorial Services 10". Sefaria. Retrieved 2021-10-28.
  4. ^ KeZohar HaRaKia
  5. ^ "אל מלא רחמים". www.hofesh.org.il (in Hebrew). Retrieved 2023-11-05.