Yahrzeit Observances in Shul

It is very important to notify the Rabbi or gabbai of your synogogue that you are observing yahrzeit. This entitles you to certain privileges, such as first priority to lead services or to get an aliyah.

1. It is very important to recite the mourner's kaddish at every service on the yahrzeit: starting with Maariv on the evening which begins the yahrzeit and then Shachris (morning service), and Mincha (afternoon service). [1] Sometimes there is a Psalm added to Shachris so that the yahrzeit observer may recite one kaddish without the accompaniment of other mourners.

2. If the yartzeit falls on a Monday or Thursday, the men observing a yahrzeit should arrange to be called up to the Torah for an aliyah during Shachris. They should recite the half-kaddish after the Torah reading if the yahrzeit observer received shlishi (the 3 rd aliyah). If the Yahrzeit falls on a day that there is no Torah reading, then the yahrzeit observer should get an aliyah on the Torah reading just before the Yahrzeit. [2] (But should say the kaddish afterwards, right?)

3. If possible, the mourner should lead Maariv, Shachris, and Mincha. It would be wise if you currently do not know how to lead these services to ask the Rabbi in advance to help you learn so that you can lead all of them or at least some of them on the yahrzeit. Maariv is probably the easiest service to lead since the leader has the fewest things to read out loud of all the other prayer services.

4. It is customary to bring some food, drinks, and shnaaps to shachris so that people may say a blessing over their food in the merit of your loved one. Some people will say a l'chaim on the shnapps and all should wish the neshama an aliyah in the heavenly spheres. There are some Rabbis who hold that if a person is too weak to fast he should bring food and drinks to the shul so that he will rodef mitzvos (pursuing mitzvos) instead of fasting. [3] One should be careful when giving out food and/or drinks in shul that there should not be too much levity in the shul. [4]

5. Malei Rachamim Prayer:

    1. If the Yahrzeit falls on Shabbos, the one observing a yahrzeit recites the "Malei Rachamim" prayer found in Artscroll p.454 after the Torah and Haftorah service on Shabbos.
    2. If the Yahrzeit falls on Sunday, Tuesday, Wednesday, or Friday, the one observing a yahrzeit recites the "Malei Rachamim" prayer found in Artscroll p.454 after the Torah and Haftorah service on the Shabbat prior to the yahrzeit.
    3. If the Yahrzeit falls on a Monday or Thursday, some have the custom to recite the "Malei Rachamim" prayer on the day of the Yahrzeit instead of the Shabbos prior. [5] Others have the custom to recite the "Malei Rachamim" prayer on the Shabbat prior to the Yahrzeit.
    4. Please notify the gabbai or Rabbi of your intention to recite this prayer when you first enter the synogogue that day so that they will signal to you when to come and recite the prayer. The one who recites the prayer holds or touches the Torah while reciting the prayer.

e. English Translation: O G-d, full of mercy, Who dwells on high, grant proper rest on the wings of the Divine Presence - in the lofty levels of the holy and pure ones, who shine like the glow of firmament - for the soul of (name of deceased) who went on to his/her world, because without make a vow, I will contribute to charity in remembrance of his/her soul. May his/her resting place be in the Garden of Eden - therefore may the Master of mercy shelter him/her in the shelter of His wings for eternity; any may He bind his/her soul in the Bond of Life. Hashem is his heritage, any may he/she repose in peace on his/her resting place. Now let us respond: Amen.

6. If possible, you should try to recite the maftir on Shabbat as well. [6] This includes reciting the last aliyah during the Torah reading and then afterwards reciting the half-kaddish when the Torah reading has concluded. Then, it is customary for the person who received maftir to recite the brachas for the haftorah. If the Yahrzeit is on Shabbos, some are stringent to get a regular aliyah and not the maftir. [7] It would be wise to speak to the Rabbi or gabbai before Shabbat to arrange to do this and/or to have them help you prepare for it. (Please click here for tutorials).

7. If there is no minyan available or the son forgets to observe the yahrzeit, then he should choose another day to observe the yahrzeit. [8] For example, if he forget about the yahrzeit, then he should say kaddish (and do all the other mitzvahs like fasting) the day he remembers about the yahrzeit and in the following years he should treat that day as a yahrzeit.

One should try to avoid attending a wedding on the yahrzeit. [9] Likewise, one should not get married on their loved one's yahrzeit.

[1] Rema 376:4

[2] Pnei Baruch 39:12

[3] Pnei Baruch 39:34

[4] Some people put out cake or drinks in Shul after davening on a Yartzite (or birth...). There are Heterim (it may be permissible) to eat and drink in Shul (and speak Divrei Chol for a need) in a Shul, even in Eretz Yisrael, but it is better not to be lenient. Sometimes, people eat with their Tefilin on! If one cannot leave the food outside the Shul, one can put it in a Beis Medrash, or give it (or money) to the poor.

[5] Gesher ha'Chayim 32:4

[6] Birkei Yosef OC 284:1

[7] Pnei Baruch 39:12

[8] Pnei Baruch 39:7

[9] Rema YD Sof 391, Pischei Teshuva 391:8

Kaddish explained

If you are interested in more articles and video on this subject - please see our other related articles and videos on the top of this page. If you would like to see videos and articles on topics of Jewish Mourning please click on a link below.