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Dear Rabbi: Memorial Prayers

I do hope you are well. It has been three years since I first wrote to "Dear Rabbi" just after the death of my father. As you said, time is a great healer and I find that these days I remember my father with a smile rather than with tears.

My question for you now is this. When I light the Yahrzeit, memorial, candle in memory of my father, as I do whenever there is Yizkor, is there a special prayer to be said? I usually just light it and say, "I light this memorial candle in loving memory of my father, Norm Norman. May he rest in peace."

Is that correct?

Wishing you all the best of everything always,




Dear Sharon,

I'm pleased that God has sent you consolation, and that the memories of your father are now sources of strength, courage, and cheer. I'm sure you miss him still, but your sorrow hasn't erased the joy of your love for each other.

The tradition of lighting a memorial candle annually is a beautiful one. There is no required prayer to accompany the act, although some prayer books do offer appropriate words to recite at that time. In Conservative Judaism's Sim Shalom, and in the Reform Movement's Gates of the Home, you will find lovely reflections. On a personal note, when I light Yahrzeit candles for my loved ones, I place a photograph of them nearby so the light of the candle can flicker and illuminate their image.

God bless you,

B'virkat Shalom,

Rabbi Artson

Hebrew for "time of [one] year," referring to the anniversary of the day of a relative's death. Hebrew for "remembrance," a memorial prayer service. Hebrew for "my master," the term refers to a spiritual leader and teacher of Torah. Often, but not always, a rabbi is the leader of a synagogue congregation.
Rabbi Bradley Shavit Artson

Rabbi Bradley Shavit Artson serves as the Dean of the Ziegler School of Rabbinic Studies, and is the author of The Bedside Torah.

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