Traditionally, a Yahrzeit is observed on the anniversary (on the Jewish calendar) of the passing of a parent, but may also be said for a child, sibling, grandparent, other relative, or friend. A Yahrzeit or memorial candle (may be electric) is lit and burns for 24 hours, doing so keeps the memory of your loved ones alive, for generations to come. It’s a good time for family and friends to reflect on the person’s impact and legacy.
It is a day conditioned by the need to honor one's parent in death as in life, through study and charity and other deeds of kindness.
If the deceased was buried two or more days after the death, some have the custom of observing the first Yahrzeit on the anniversary of the day of the burial as opposed to the anniversary of the passing (though in all subsequent years the Yahrzeit is observed on the anniversary of the death).
Others disagree and observe the Yahrzeit on the anniversary of the passing even on the first year - regardless when the burial happened. We offer you two calendar tools. The first, published by Chabad.org, while the second is from the website for the Aish HaTorah. Both follow this accepted custom of observing Yahrzeit on the anniversary of the passing, rather than the burial.
A DAY MARKED WITH DEEP FEELINGS AND INTROSPECTION
In truth, the Yahrzeit should not call forth any feeling of sadness, but rather a feeling of earnest reflection, introspection and self-examination. With a view to attuning one’s life on this earth to the life-path of the soul Above, which is constantly on the ascent. This is to say, just as the soul On High is continuously rising; year after year, going ‘from strength to strength,’ so must also all those left behind on this earth, who are the associated with the departed soul, steadily go from strength to strength, through advancement in ‘Torah, worship, and the practice of good deeds.’
"In this way, also, children give the greatest possible joy to their dear departed parents. This also underlines the basic view of our religion, that in reality there is no ‘death’ in matters of G-dliness, Torah and Mitzvoth, experience this transition is one direction only - going strength from strength, higher and higher, first in this world and later in the following world. Olam Haba - always on the ascent."
YAHRZEIT HOME OBSERVANCES
It is customary to light a Yahrzeit candle on the eve of the Yahrzeit which is kept burning for twenty-four hours. This practice is linked with the thought expressed in Proverbs 20:27, “The spirit of a person is the lamp of the Lord.”
SYNAGOGUE YAHRZEIT OBSERVANCES
On the Sabbath prior to yahrzeit, a mourner typically receives an aliyah, a Torah honor. The synagogue usher should be made aware of the yahrzeit.
The mourner also recites the Kaddish at the Sabbath service.
CEMETERY YAHRZEIT OBSERVANCES
The annual visit to the grave at Yahrzeit is a traditional custom. At graveside one may recite the Psalms, selections of which are indicated in the chapter on unveilings, and then the Malei Rachamim prayer in Hebrew or English. Mishnah should be studied at the graveside, if at all possible. The Hebrew or English text may be used.
Should you have any questions about Yarhtzeit, please email us. We welcome your inquiries, and will do the best we can to support you in your observance of Yarhtzeit.