Memorial Flames


Dear Rabbi,

I heard there is a custom to light a special, long-burning candle on one’s parent’s yahrzeit (date of the anniversary of passing). Why? Thanks.



  1. On this date, the widespread customs are to light a special candle, give charity and learn Torah if possible. Doing these special deeds in honor of one’s departed parents brings merit to them since their descendants are continuing to do mitzvahs in this world.

    Let me address your excellent question that deals specifically with the reason for lighting a special candle.

    The soul (aka neshama) of the departed derives joy from the kindling of lights. This enjoyment brings the soul to a state of spiritual expansion. The soul itself is a portion of light drawn from the light of the intellect (sechel). In Proverbs, King Solomon refers to this when he writes, “Man’s soul is God’s candle.”

    Therefore, every year on the anniversary of the passing of one’s parent, or other relatives, one kindles a light, which is called the yahrzeit candle — for on this day the soul has permission to travel about in the world. It comes and sees the light burning for it and receives great spiritual satisfaction from this.

    Some authorities write that it’s best to light the yahrtzeit candle in the synagogue. Perhaps this brings merit to the deceased by enhancing the honor and ambiance of the synagogue.

    Best wishes from the Team