Yahrzeit is a Yiddish word meaning the anniversary of a death. It is the yearly reminder of a loved one’s death (usually the anniversary of the Hebrew date, but many choose to observe the civil calendar date equivalent). It should be mentioned that if a loved one died after sunset, the civil date equivalent may be the next day on the calendar since Hebrew days begin at sunset. Tools to convert between Hebrew and civil dates are available on the web or we can do it for you (for example see https://www.hebcal.com/converter).
It is traditional to light a twenty-four-hour yahrzeit memorial candle in one’s home at sundown on the evening that the yahrzeit begins. Traditionally, we observe yahrzeit dates for parents, spouses, siblings and children, although a yahrzeit may be observed for anyone to whom one feels especially close.
Yahrzeit candles are also known as yizkor candles, because they are also lit on the four Jewish holidays that include a Yizkor memorial, service (Yom Kippur, Sh’mini Atzeret, Passover and Shavuot). The candle is a reminder of the eternal soul of our loved ones, and while lit we recall their lives and honor their memories. Yahrzeit candles from Israel can be purchased in our Gift Shop and at local stores.
Our community recites the Mourner’s Kaddish at the end of our Shabbat morning services to provide comfort and strength to all who are remembering a yahrzeit. We maintain a database to hold the dates on which members would like to remember a yahrzeit. A letter will be mailed to members approximately one month before each yahrzeit date as a reminder of observance.
In some communities, the names of relatives of members with an upcoming yahrzeit are read on the Shabbat before the date of the yahrzeit (should the yahrzeit not fall on Shabbat). At Congregation Kol Shalom, our default practice, unless another date is requested, is to mention names on the Shabbat following the yahrzeit. A detailed explanation of our minhag (tradition) can be found in a responsum by Rabbi Strasko at https://www.kolshalom.net/learning/rabbinic-responsa.
If you have a preference about when the yahrzeit(s) of your loved one(s) should be observed, we will modify our database according to your wishes (i.e., Hebrew date, civil date, Shabbat before, or Shabbat after). Please contact our Temple Administrator to provide new yahrzeit dates for loved ones (or to update existing dates).
Judaism encourages honoring and remembering our loved ones through tzedakah (charity), especially charitable acts on behalf of the Jewish community. At Congregation Kol Shalom, a contribution in memory of a loved one may be made to the General Fund or to another fund of your choice. Congregation Kol Shalom also maintains a beautiful memorial board on the rear wall of our sanctuary with raised plaques, as permanent reminders to our community, and is a meaningful way to memorialize loved ones.
If you have further questions, please contact Rabbi Strasko or the Religious Practices Committee for additional information or clarification.