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Video:How to Light a Yahrzeit Candle

with Blaine Pennington

The lighting of a Yahrzeit candle is an old Jewish tradition that a family will perform in honor of a loved one who has passed away. Here's a video about the practice of lighting a Yahrzeit candle.See Transcript

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Transcript:How to Light a Yahrzeit Candle

Shalom, my name is Blaine Pennington and today I am going to teach you about the lighting of a Yahrzeit candle.

Meaning of Yahrzeit

The word Yahrzeit refers to the anniversary of a loved one's death. The lighting of a Yahrzeit candle is an old Jewish tradition that a family will perform in honor of a loved one who has passed away. Traditionally a Yahrzeit candle is lit on the following days: each day during the week of Shiva, or mourning, immediately following a death; every year at sundown on the eve of the Yahrzeit; and every year at sundown preceding the start of Yom Kippur and at sundown preceding the last day of Sukkot, Passover and Shavuot. Traditionally, Yahrzeit candles are only lit for relatives for whom one would normally recite the Mourner's Kaddish. There is not, however, any law forbidding the lighting of a Yahrzeit for someone who doesn't fall into this category.

The Act of Lighting the Yahrzeit Candle

The Yahrzeit is calculated according to the Hebrew calendar and is the anniversary of death, not burial. It is permissible, however, if someone preferred to use the secular calendar anniversary of their loved one's death as their Yahrzeit. Yahrzeit candles burn for 24 hours, and are lit at sundown on the eve of the Yahrzeit date because in the Hebrew calendar days begin at sunset. Only one candle is usually lit per household, but individuals are allowed to light their own candles if they wish. If you will be leaving the candle unattended at any point, be sure it is not near any flammable materials. Some families invest in special electric Yahrzeit candles to prevent a possible safety risk.

Meaning of Yahrzet Candle

Unlike most other Jewish traditions, there are not special prayers one must recite when lighting a Yahrzeit candle. It is a time to remember the person who has moved on and maybe even share some memories of that person with other loved ones. In the Jewish tradition, a flame is thought to represent a human soul, which is why lighting candles is a major part of most Jewish religious occasions. A flame breathes, flickers, grows, wanes, changes and eventually extinguishes, just like the human soul. A Yahrzeit candle is meant to remind us of the souls of our departed loved ones and of the fragility of life itself. It teaches us to embrace life and nourish it whenever possible.

That's all for now and I hope I've been helpful explaining the tradition of Yahrzeit candles to you. Check out About.com to learn more about Judaism. Shalom aleichem.

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