Yahrzeit candle

Yahrzeit candle
Memorial candle that burns up to 26 hours
A yahrzeit candle lit in memory of a loved one on the anniversary (the "yahrtzeit") of the death
A yahrzeit candle beside a grave, inside a box designed to protect the candle from the wind.
A yahrzeit candle on a grave, inside a box designed to protect the candle from the wind.

A yahrzeit candle also spelled yahrtzeit candle or called a memorial candle (Hebrew: נר נשמה‎, ner neshama,[1][2] meaning "soul candle"; Yiddish: יאָרצײַט ליכט yortsayt likht, meaning "anniversary candle") is a type of candle that is lit in memory of the dead in Judaism.[3]

This kind of candle, that burns up to 26 hours, is also lit during the day of Yom Kippur or during Holocaust Remembrance Day ceremony (Yom HaShoah).



The use of a yahrzeit candle is a widely practiced custom, where mourners light a yahrzeit candle that burns for 24 hours, on the anniversary of the death on the Hebrew calendar.[4] The word "yahrzeit" (Yiddish: יאָרצײַט yortsayt ) itself means "anniversary" (or more specifically "anniversary [of a person's death]") in Yiddish, originating from German Jahr, year, and Zeit, time. It is customary to light the candle inside one's home, or near the grave of the deceased. The candle is also lit on Yom Kippur and there are also customs to light a yahrzeit candle on the dates when yizkor is said (Yom Kippur, Shemini Atzeret, final day of Pesach, and [the second day of] Shavuot). It is also customary to light the candle during the shiva, usually a larger one that lasts the entire seven days. The custom of lighting a yahrzeit candle comes from the Book of Proverbs 20:27 "The soul of man is a candle of the Lord."[4]

The custom of lighting a yahrzeit candle for the deceased is very widespread and deeply ingrained in Jewish life. Many Jews who are otherwise unobservant follow this custom.[4] Today, some people use an electric yahrheit candle that plugs into the wall instead of an actual candle for safety reasons.


The yahrzeit candle is lit during the week of Shiva (mourning). It is also lit at sundown on the eve of the yahrzeit (anniversary of the death) and at sundown preceding the start of Yom Kippur and at sundown preceding the last day of Succot, Passover and Shavuot. These holidays all have yizkor (memorial) in synagogue as well.

In culture

  • After Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin was murdered in 1995, the young people who came to mourn Rabin at the Kings of Israel Square where he was killed were dubbed the "Candles Youth" (נוער הנרות, noar hanerot) after the many yahrzeit candles they lit.
  • Yahrzeit candles are often lit by many Jewish communities on Yom HaShoah (Holocaust Remembrance Day) in remembrance of those who were killed in the Holocaust.


Further reading


  1. ^ Chana and Her Seven Sons, The Jewish Press, Chana Katz, December 8, 2004
  2. ^ Ner Neshama, Morfix Dictionary (Hebrew)
  3. ^ Memorial honors Yitzchak Rabin, The Daily Pennsylvanian, Brennan Quinn, December 6, 2000
  4. ^ a b c The Jewish Religion, Louis Jacobs, Oxford University Press, 1995

See also

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Look at other dictionaries:

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  • YAHRZEIT — (Yid.; Ger. Jahrzeit; lit. year time, i.e., anniversary), the anniversary of a death. For the determining of the yahrzeit, see mourning . The commemoration of the yahrzeit (on the Hebrew date of the anniversary) is observed both for outstanding… …   Encyclopedia of Judaism

  • Yahrzeit — /yahr tsuyt, yawr /, n. Judaism. the anniversary of the death of a parent, sibling, child, or spouse, observed by lighting a memorial lamp or candle the night before and reciting the Kaddish at the evening service of the day before and at the… …   Universalium

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