After the initial periods of mourning, there are ongoing observances and memorials that many Jews perform. Remembrance is an important traditional Jewish value, and these observances focus on remembering those we have lost.
Yahrzeit is the annual observance of a death, held on the date of death using the Hebrew calendar. The tradition of yahrzeit is based on the idea that by observing someone’s death, we are making note of what someone became and what he or she accomplished during his or her lifetime.
Yahrzeit includes the lighting of a special yahrtzeit candle (lit at sunset the day preceding the anniversary date and lasting until sunset of that day). A special prayer is sometimes recited when lighting the yahrzeit candle.
Also, mourners recite Kaddish at a minyan held at a synagogue and often make a charitable tzedakah contribution in memory of the deceased.
Sinai provides ten-year yahrzeit calendars and has yahrzeit candles available for you.
Finding the Hebrew Date
To convert the Gregorian calendar date to the Hebrew calendar date, enter the Gregorian date below and indicate whether the time of death was after sunset. After clicking on "Get Hebrew Date," you will see the date of death in the Hebrew calendar along with the corresponding dates in the Gregorian calendar on which to observe yahrzeit.
Copyright © 2006 Michael J. Radwin. All rights reserved.
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Yizkor means "remember," and it is the annual remembrance of those we have lost—in our own families and in the Jewish community as a whole. It is held in the synagogue during these major Jewish holidays:
- Yom Kippur
- The last day of Passover
- The last day of Shavuot
- The day following the end of Sukkot (Shmini Atzeret)
The association of a memorial prayer with these holidays may go back to the Middle Ages, when many Jews were killed by Christians as they made their way to Israel as Crusaders. These prayers therefore connect contemporary Jews to their ancestors.
While Yizkor is recited only by those who have lost a family member, it is also considered a way for all Jews to remember Jews who perished in the Shoah (Holocaust), as there is no one left to recite Kaddish or Yizkor for many of them, and for soldiers who have given their lives for the state of Israel or the United States.
On the afternoon before these holidays, one should light a yahrzeit candle at home in memory of the deceased. These candles burn continuously for approximately 24 hours. Please contact Sinai if you would like a memorial candle.
Yizkor prayers also encourage mourners to make a charitable donation to honor the memory of the deceased.
Visiting the Gravesite
Anyone can visit the grave at any time, but there are certain days when people traditionally visit:
- After ending the restrictions of shiva
- On shloshim, the 30th day of mourning
- At the end of the first year of mourning or in conjunction with the unveiling
- At times of yahrzeit, the anniversary of the death
- The Sunday between Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur (Kever Avot—honoring ancestors)
The custom when visiting a gravesite is to place a small stone on the grave using the left hand. This is an indication that someone visited the gravesite and has participated in the burial of the deceased. It also goes back to the times when graves were marked with mounds of stone; by leaving one, you are helping maintain the marker.
To learn more about the tradition of yahrzeit, you can view the video “Jewish Mourning Rituals: An Overview” on this page.