The word is also
used by non-Yiddish-speaking Ashkenazi Jews, and refers to the annual
anniversary of the day of death of a relative. Yahrtzeit literally means
"time of [one] year".
to fulfill this observance are the children, siblings, spouses and parents
of the deceased. The custom is first discussed in detail in Sefer HaMinhagim
(pub. 1566) by Rabbi Isaac Tyrnau.
falls annually on the Hebrew date of the deceased relative's death according
to the Hebrew calendar.
law requires that one should fast on the day of a parent's Yahrzeit, although
this is not required, some people do observe the custom of fasting on
the day of the Yahrtzeit. Among many Orthodox Jews it has become customary
to make a siyum by completing a tractate of Talmud or a volume of the
Mishnah on the day prior to the Yahrtzeit, in the honor of the deceased.
A halakha requiring a siyum ("celebratory meal"), upon the completion
of such a study, overrides the requirement to fast.
are required to commemorate the death of a first-relative: mother, father,
brother, or sister. The main halakhic obligation is to recite the mourner's
version of the Kaddish prayer at least three times, Maariv at the evening
services, Shacharit at morning services, and Mincha at the afternoon services.
will have lights on a special memorial plaque on one of the synagogue's
walls, with names of synagogue members who have died. Each of these lights
will be lit for individuals on their Yahrzeit, and all the lights will
be lit for a Yizkor service.
Some have a custom to visit the cemetery on fast days (Shulchan Aruch Orach Chayim 559:10) and before Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur (581:4, 605), when possible, and for a Yahrzeit. During the first year the grave may be visited on the shloshim, and the yartzeit.
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