What exactly is Yizkor?
Yizkor is Hebrew for "may God remember." It is the first word of the Yizkor prayer, which is said for a spouse, a child, and a sibling and, according to most authorities, for parents during the first year.* Yizkor is recited four times during the year, on Yom Kippur, Passover, Shavuot and Sukkot.
Do I light a memorial candle when Yizkor is recited?
Yes. The 24-hour memorial candle should be lit in your home before the fast begins on Yom Kippur.
(On the other festivals, if your custom is to light a yahrzeit candle, use a flame from a pre-existing candle or other source to light the candle.) These memorial candles are widely available in synagogue gift shops, kosher stores, and often in supermarkets. There is no blessing recited when you light the memorial candle, although it is certainly appropriate to reflect upon the memory of loved ones. The candle may be placed anywhere in the home.
How is Tzedakah related to Yizkor?
It is appropriate to make a tzedakah contribution to honor those you are remembering, on the theory that the good deeds of the survivors elevate the souls of the departed. In essence, you and your departed relative become partners in this act of kindness.
The above is adapted from
A Time to Mourn, A Time to Comfort,
by Dr. Ron Wolfson, and from aish.com
*A note from Rabbi Sharfman:
Yizkor prayers can be recited starting with the first holiday after your loved one’s passing. The Kaddish is traditionally recited daily for 11 months for a parent and 30 days following burial for a spouse, sibling or child.