Yahrzeit Outside Shul

Observances outside the synogogue

1. Lighting the Yahrzeit Candle: The tradition of lighting a yahrzeit candle has its customs dating back since very early times and almost all Jews observe this custom. The reason why we light a Yahrzeit candle is that on this day, the neshama/soul is allowed to come down into this world and when the soul “sees†the candle lit for it, the soul derives tremendous pleasure as a result. Any Judaica store will have these candles. They are called yahrzeit candles because they have enough wax to last the entire day, but any candle that could last that long will be just as good. The candles should be lit on the eve of the yahrzeit. The candles should burn through the entire 24-hour period.[1] Each mourner should light his/her own yahrzeit candle. It is good to light the Yahrzeit candle in the synogogue[2] but ask your local orthodox Rabbi whether it is custom in your area to light it in the shul or at home. It is important not to extinguish the yahrzeit flame, unless it poses an immediate danger. One may not light the flame on Shabbos or a Yom Tov. In this case, the candle should be lit before the holiday. If a person forgot to light a Yahrzeit candle, he should give the monetary value of the candle to a poor Jewish person.

2. Fasting: It is a mitzvah to fast on the day of the yahrzeit of a mother or father[3] starting from dawn to arouse within oneself, self-examination and repentance.[4] To do teshuva (repentance) and to fortify your commitment to Judaism is a very high merit for your loved one on the day of the yahrzeit. Another reason why we fast on the yahrzeit of a father or a mother is that the childs “mazal†is down on that day evidenced from the fact that one of their parents died that day. Others say the reason is that on that day the deceased parent is being judged in the higher world and the fasting affects an atonement for the deceased.[5]

One should be careful in committing himself to the custom of fasting on the yahrzeit, because he can created an implied neder (vow) through his actions and could violate this neder in future years if he does not fast or make a hetera neder.[6] For this reason, if you wish to fast, you should verbalize that you are only doing it for this year and that your actions should in no way created an implied neder. If you fast, you must remember to add the “aneinu†insert into your Shemona Esrai/Silent Amida in Mincha. If you cannot fast, either you are too weak or for any other reason, then you should at least avoid eating meat or drinking wine during this period since these foods symbolize joyous times and it is disrespectful to behave joyously on their yahrzeit.[7]

b. If the following conflicts occur on the yahrzeit you are not permitted to fast:

i. When tachanun is not recited[8] (including Sukkot, Pesach, and Shavuot since G-d ordained these times to be joyous. Also, we don’t fast if the Yahrzeit falls on Shabbos, Rosh Chodesh, Chanukah, Purim (both days), Purim Katan both days, the month of Nissan, the days between Yom Kippur and Sukkot, erev Yom Kippur

ii. The day of your son’s Bris Milah (circumcision). If the father wants to fast until Mincha Gadola he may do so.[9]

iii. The day of your son’s Pidyon Haben (redemption of the first born. If he wants to fast until Mincha Gedolah he may do so.[10] iv. a bride and groom may not fast during the week following their wedding.[11]

3. Torah Study: You should make every effort to study some Torah on the yahrzeit as this a great merit to your loved one. Many people learn mishna on the yahrzeit, such as the chapters that begin with the initials of your loved one. Afterwards it is also customary to learn the last 4 Mishnayot of the 7th chapter in Masechta Mikvaot, whose initial letters, spell the word, Neshama, and Chapter 24 of Masekta Kelim.[12] However any Torah will suffice whether it be the Bible, Prophets, Mishna, Talmud, whether in English or in Hebrew.

4. Charity (Tzedakah): Giving charity to those who need it is another great merit to your loved one. Giving money to the poor, orphans, or to Torah study among others are very worthwhile causes. We have listed here a list which is in our opinion some of the best charities to give money to. (use this as a recripocal link exchange)


[1] Gesher ha’Chayim 32:4

[2] B’Tzel ha’Chachmah

[3] OC 568:7, Rema 376:4. Some learn from Shevu’os 20a – Gra 376:7

[4] Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 221:1).

[5] Maharam Mintz 9)

[6] Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 221:

[7] Some also say that the restrictions of the 12 months of Aveilus apply, but this does not include meat and wine.

[8] Rema OC 568:9

[9] Mishna Brurah 568:46

[10] Sha’arei Teshuva 568:19

[11] Sha’arei Teshuva 568:19

[12] Pnei Baruch 39:13

Disclaimer

The articles are not meant to be halachic rulings, so please contact a posek regarding your situation. Our website is intended to be a helpful guide, but for everything contained in the articles, or to the extent that we inadvertantly made a mistake on one of the articles, please contact your local Orthodox Rabbi regarding it.