The Guides:

Mazornet, Inc. is proud to present its newest guide to Judaism.

MazorGuide's "Death and Mourning - A Jewish Perspective" - compiled
by Rivka C. Berman. 

For those who mourn death, for those who help them, this guide

 An attempt is made to cover the major streams of Judaism in an effort deem this guide practical and its resources helpful to all Jews.



Ha-Makom yenachem etchem betoch sh’ar aveilei Tziyon V’Yerushalayim.

“May God comfort you among the mourners of Zion and Jerusalem.”


Contact Us: DandM@Mazornet.com



Yahrzeit: Anniversary of a Death
       · Introduction
       · When to Mark A Yahrzeit
       · Yahrzeit Candle – Customs and Traditions
       · Fasting on Yahrzeit
       · Yahrzeit At the Synagogue
       · Charity and Torah Learning
       · Visiting the Cemetery

Years pass, time heals, but there is no need to forget. Jewish tradition acknowledges the need to relive a loss, to not totally let go, and sets the Yahrzeit date. Even though the word is German, the custom is Jewish in origin. In the Gemara, a Yahrzeit is described as a time to avoid joy, specifically by refraining from eating meat and drinking wine.

When to Mark a Yahrzeit

 In General
A Yahrzeit is an anniversary that commemorates a death according to the Jewish date. Yahrzeits tend to fall within three weeks before or after the secular anniversary. To help survivors remember the Yahrzeit date, Jewish funeral homes give out calendars and synagogues tend to send out Yahrzeit reminder notices.

Unlike the other mourning periods, a Yahrzeit is marked in years, not days or months. A Yahrzeit will be celebrated on the same Jewish date each year.

Leap Years
Leap years only complicate matters if a death took place during the Jewish month of . A Jewish leap year adds an entire second month of Adar to reconcile the Jewish lunar and secular solar calendars.

A death during a non-leap year Adar is commemorated during a leap year’s Adar I. A death during the leap year’s Adar II is commemorated during a non-leap year’s sole Adar. When a leap year returns, the Yahrzeit is celebrated in Adar II.

Unknown Yahrzeit Dates
If you know the secular date and year of death, then it’s easy to find out the Yahrzeit date. Special calendars with the Jewish and secular dates are a rabbi’s best friend, because these questions come up often.

Some children, who have no clue as to what one parent’s date of death was but are clear on the other parent’s, commemorate both parents on the known Yahrzeit.

When an exact Yahrzeit date isn’t known, but thought to be one of two dates, mark the Yahrzeit on the earlier date. That way the Yahrzeit is celebrated early and not, possibly, missed entirely.

Forgotten Yahrzeit
If a Yahrzeit was missed, it should be commemorated as soon as the oversight was noticed.

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Yahrzeit Candle – Customs and Traditions
About the Custom of Candle Lighting
Candles are found at many Jewish lifecycle events. Ki ner Elohim nishmat adam – the candle of God is the human soul. The flame casts pure light like a soul freed from its physical boundaries. Lit candles give a physical presence to the day.

These candles are available through synagogue gift shops, Jewish bookstores, kosher butchers/grocers, and even general supermarkets with a Jewish clientele.

When to Light
A 24-hour candle, Yahrzeit memorial candle, is lit at the onset of the Yahrzeit – after sunset on the eve of the anniversary.

If a Yahrzeit candle is to be lit on Friday night, light it before the Shabbat candles are kindled. Shabbat’s joys and prohibitions, including the command to refrain from lighting a fire, begin once the Shabbat candles are lit.

What to Say When lighting a Yahrzeit Candle
No blessing is said upon lighting the candle, though this is a time to share memories and reflect. Lighting one candle per household is the common custom.

How Many Yahrzeit Candles to Light
If more than one person is being commemorated on the Yahrzeit, light one candle for each soul.

Forgot to Light A Yahrzeit Candle?
Light a Yahrzeit candle on the morning of the anniversary if the candle wasn’t lit the night before.

Fasting on Yahrzeit
Fasting from the afternoon on the eve of the Yahrzeit until nightfall after the Yahrzeit is a time-honored custom, but not a halacha. Toning down one’s consumption of food by avoiding meat and wine is a variation on this tradition.

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Yahrzeit At the Synagogue
Leading Services
On the Shabbat before the Yahrzeit, being called up for the maftir aliyah, the last portion of the Torah read on Shabbat morning, is considered an important honor. Some recite the El Maleh Rahamim prayer at the afternoon mincha service after the Torah reading.

On the Yahrzeit itself, leading the prayers – at least the mincha service – is an important custom. Generally the Yahrzeit is commemorated after services with a few refreshments: cake and liquor with which to say a “l’chaim”, the “to life” toast.

Mark the day by saying the Kaddish with a minyan. In some congregations, a person observing a Yahrzeit will be called to the Torah for an aliyah. and for saying Kaddish.

Charity and Torah Learning
Donating money to charity or time to a good cause is a traditional way to mark a Yahrzeit. A life that inspires good deeds was a life well lived.

It is customary to learn Torah on a Yahrzeit, particularly a mishnah, laws and ethics drawn from the Torah upon which the Gemara is based. The word “mishnah” is written with the same letters as “neshama”, meaning soul.

Visit the Cemetery
See the section Visiting a Jewish Cemetery.


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Shiva & Condolence
Kosher Baskets

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Recommended Reading:


~ The Jewish Way in Death and Mourning
by Maurice Lamm (Paperback)

~ Consolation: The Spiritual Journey Beyond Grief
by Maurice Lamm

The Blessing of a Broken Heart by Sherri Mandell

~ Living a Year of Kaddish
by Ari L. Goldman

~ Saying Kaddish: How to Comfort the Dying, Bury the Dead, and Mourn As a Jew
by Anita Diamant (Paperback)

Goodbye, Mom: A Memoir of Prayer, Jewish Mourning, and Healing by Arnie Singer


~ Tears of Sorrow, Seeds of Hope by Nina Beth Cardin

~ A Time to Mourn a Time to Comfort (Art of Jewish Living Series)
by Ron Dr. Wolfson, Joel Lurie Grishaver (Editor) (Paperback)

~ Grief in Our Seasons: A Mourner's Kaddish Companion
by Kerry M. Olitzky (Paperback)

~ The Jewish Mourner's Book of Why
by Alfred J. Kolatch (Paperback)

~ Mourning & Mitzvah: A Guided Journal for Walking the Mourner's Path Through Grief to Healing
by Anne Brener (Paperback)

~ Jewish Insights on Death and Mourning
by Jack Riemer (Editor) (Paperback)