Yizkor and Yahrzeit are terms commonly used in Jewish traditions in remembrance of the dead. Yizkor is a Hebrew word that means to remember, while Yahrzeit is a Yiddish term that means anniversary. Yizkor is usually a communal prayer to honor the good deeds of the departed loved one. Yizkor is recited four times a year during Jewish festivals of Passover, Shavuot and Sukkot and on Yom Kippur.        

Yahrzeit, on the other hand, is the anniversary of the departed. According to Jewish customs, the departed relatives should commemorate Yahrzeit by lighting a candle on the eve of the day the loved one passed on. The candle is a symbol of the soul.

Are you interested in Yizkor and Yahrzeit services?  For yizkor services go here to learn the significance of these traditions and why they were celebrated in Jewish customs. You also get to meet professionals who coordinate these rituals to help you deal with grief.

The Difference Between Yizkor and Yahrzeit

It is crucial to understand the significance and meanings of both Yizkor and Yahrzeit to differentiate them. By understanding the significance of these rituals, you can understand when to use each festival and the activities or life circumstances relating to each term.

Yizkor as a Memorial Service

As a memorial service for the deceased, the actual meaning of Yizkor is remembrance. During the festival, prayers are held in honor of the dead. A closely related individual says the prayers to the deceased. It could be the deceased person’s spouse, child, parent, or close friend. Friends and relatives will participate in remembering the deceased’s good deeds and reciting the Yizkor prayers.  A Yizkor memorial service also consists of lighting candles and fasting in some cases. If you choose to fast and light candles, you should start before sunrise and wait until sunset to end your fast. The Yizkor memorial service also includes a Yom Kippur. 

Yom Kippur refers to a celebration of the Day of Atonement which is a fantastic moment that involves remembering the novelty and highlights of the life of the deceased. These could be moments when the deceased shared their vision and deepest desires, especially those connected to religious beliefs. For example, you could celebrate the dead person’s personality and talk about these attributes and lessons learned from their life.

The Importance of Yizkor

As a festival that involves the belief that the soul is eternal, the celebration of Yizkor is to firmly believe in the assurance that a beloved dead once gained the merit of their good deeds during their lifetime. At the same time, the festival serves as a reflection of things the deceased achieved and what they would attain if they were alive. 

Yahrzeit as an Anniversary of Death

Yahrzeit is an anniversary of death itself. Each year, the festival is observed, especially according to the Hebrew death dates. During Yahrzeit, there is also the lighting of candles that start at dawn until sundown.

During the ritual;

  •  Family members select the photos of the departed loved one
  • Set candles on a tray with water and set the photos around the candles.
  • Invite loved ones to share memories of the departed as you watch the flames burn out.
  • Pass the teachings of the departed loved one to the children.

The lighting of Candles during Yizkor Rituals

The lighting of the candle was done traditionally by relatives to symbolize the soul was eternal. A white candle was used to symbolize the transitioning of the soul. During this time, you hold the candles to symbolize the brevity the deceased lived and showed when they were alive.

The Yahrzeit Charitable Contributions

Biblically and within the Jewish traditions and religion, the next thing to do after lighting candles and mourning during Yahrzeit is honor the departed through charitable contributions. 

During Yahrzeit, it is customary to attend services at the synagogue.

Yahrzeit is commemorated annually as well as during all major Jewish holidays.

The Importance of Yahrzeit

As a celebration that accepts death, Yahrzeit is an act of remembering the death of someone you love to create honor for the days they were alive and as a symbol of recognizing the afterlife of their body and soul.

Why You Should Consider Celebrating Yizkor and Yahrzeit

Going through grief can be difficult. The memories of a departed loved one are the only remaining connection to them after death. Yizkor and Yahrzeit help deepen these connections and amplify the deceased’s role during their lifetime.