Yahrzeit Candle

Lighting the Yahrzeit Candle to Commemorate a Loved One

Yahrzeit is a Yiddish word that refers to the anniversary of a death. Every year, Jewish families may light a Yahrzeit candle in remembrance of a family member or a friend. Although not required by Jewish law, this is still a relevant tradition in which many Jewish families participate. There are many reasons to practice this custom that consists of reflection, remembrance, and prayer. Keep reading if you would like to learn about Yahrzeit, the importance of the Yahrzeit candle, and more.

If you continue reading, you may discover more about the following:

  • What is Yahrzeit and the Yahrzeit candle
  • When to light the Yahrzeit candle
  • Why lighting the candle is an important tradition
  • Prayer recited during the candle lighting

What Is Yahrzeit and the Yahrzeit Candle

Yahrzeit is the anniversary of a loved one’s death. The word originates from the Yiddish language- a language primarily spoken before the Holocaust by Jews in central and eastern Europe. The term “Yahrzeit” has a German influence. Although the name of the tradition comes from one specific part of the world, Jews all over practice lighting the Yahrzeit candle and remembering loved ones.

Yahrzeit is a famous Jewish tradition that almost all Jews practice. No law of Judaism states Jews must practice Yahrzeit every year. However, many still participate in it to commemorate those connected to them in mortal life.

During the commemoration of a loved one’s death, Jewish families have many customs. The principle tradition is to light the Yahrzeit candle. Other practices include fasting, giving to charity, and praying. Families also may go to the synagogue or the cemetery to continue their remembrances.

The Yahrzeit candle is a crucial element to remembering loved ones on the anniversary of their death. A candle is often the symbol of the soul. Lighting one represents a soul that is no longer on earth. Typically, people light the wick at the very beginning of the anniversary day- at sundown. It should then burn for 24 hours. It is customary to let the candle extinguish itself, allowing the flame to take its course.

Most Jewish families dedicate Yahrzeit primarily to their deceased parents, although it is possible to have days of remembering close friends, siblings, and other family members.

When to Light the Yahrzeit Candle

Yahrzeit usually takes place on the anniversary of the death of a loved one. The date of commemoration must take place according to the Hebrew calendar rather than the Gregorian calendar.

It is most common to remember departed loved ones on the anniversary of their death. There is also a tradition of doing the same on four major Jewish holidays as well. These holidays include Yom Kippur, Passover, Shavuot, and Shemini Atzeret. The reason that Jews remember their deceased relatives on these holidays is because their designated services in the synagogue require Yizkor.

The Yizkor is, essentially, the recitation of prayers dedicated to the deceased and the remembrance of different members in the community. Unlike the more private setting at home for Yahrzeit, the Yizkor takes place in the synagogue.

Overall, there are different times of the year to light the Yahrzeit candles or, in the case of Yizkor, the Yizkor candles. The two are pretty much the same as they both represent departed loved ones. It is respectful to let the candle burn for the entire day on the anniversary of a loved one’s death. A candle, in this case, the Yizkor candle, can be lit on one of the four Yizkor dates since part of the holiday’s synagogue services include the remembrance of the deceased.

Why Lighting the Candle Is an Important Tradition

There are many reasons to light the Yahrzeit candle. The Jewish faith does not allow its practitioners to spend too much time grieving over the loss of loved ones. So, on the designated days of remembrance, lighting the Yahrzeit candle is a respectful tradition with lots of unique rationales.

One reason that Jewish families light the Yahrzeit candle is to fill a void symbolically. After the death of a person, there is often an empty hole left in their absence. The candle’s flame serves to light the void on the day of remembrance.

Another reason deals with the forgiveness of one’s soul. Rabbi Asher ben Yechiel, a well- known rabbi who lived in the late 13th and early 14th centuries, said that God protects and forgives the departed souls when families light a candle in their memory. Another rabbi of the same period stated that the candle also serves to bring happiness. When people see the light from the flame, the same light transfers into one’s symbolic soul.

Prayer Recited During the Candle Lighting

Since the lighting of the Yahrzeit candle is a religious ordeal, there is a common prayer that goes along with it. This is the English translation of a prayer called the Mourner’s Kaddish. It does not come from any traditional Jewish text. Instead, it is a traditional prayer that many families say as they remember their loved ones.

Glorified and sanctified be God’s great name
throughout the world
He has created according to His plan.
May He establish His kingdom in your lifetime
and during your days,
and within the life of Israel, speedily and soon;
and say, Amen.

May His great name be blessed forever and to all eternity.
Blessed and praised, glorified and exalted,
extolled and honored, adored and lauded
be the name of the Holy One,
beyond all the blessings and hymns, praises and consolations that
are ever spoken in the world;
and say, Amen.

May there be abundant peace from heaven, and life, for us
and for all Israel;
and say, Amen.

He who creates peace in His celestial heights,
may He bring peace to us and all Israel;
and say, Amen.

All in all, lighting the Yahrzeit candle is a deeply personal event that Jews typically practice five times a year. The candle is full of religious and existential symbolism that helps to commemorate deceased loved ones.

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