Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Do You Light Yahrzeit Candles on Passover?

My Darlings,

It has come to my attention that many of you are wondering if/when one should light a Yahrzeit  candle on Passover. The short answer - Yes!

Yahrzeit candles are also supposed to be lit whenever a Yiskor (remembrance) service is said in synagogue. This would be, Yom Kippur, and the last day of the three pilgrimage holidays: Shemini Atzeret (the 8th day of Sukkot), Passover, and Shavuot.

Remember my quizative ones, Jewish 'days' begin at sundown of the previous day (according to our secular-everyday- calendar). So, for Pesach you will light the Yahrzeit candle at sundown the evening before the final day of Passover. If you are Reform or live in Israel and celebrate the holiday for 7 days, this will be after sundown on April 20th 2014. If you are Orthodox or Conservative and observe Pesach for 8 days, you will light your candle(s) on the evening of April 21st 2014.

Now don't fret if you forget the evening before. It is still permissible (among all streams of Judaism) to light the candle the following day if you have forgotten.

Here is a link to find the candle lighting times in your area. There is even a mobile app if your phone is smarter than you are!

If you have more questions, please feel free to leave me a comment and I'll be glad to respond!

May you have fond memories of sharing Pesach with your departed loved ones.

Tanta Golda


  1. Dear Tanta Golda,

    I'm confused about the date of the last day of Passover. I just joined a Conservative synagogue. I'm thinking that the last day of Passover for me this year would be Tuesday, April 2 (starting Monday evening, April 1) because we celebrate for 8 days and the first day started Monday evening, March 25. Am I wrong?

    Grateful for your blog

    1. My dearest Confused - You are correct! Tanta Golda miscounted. Oy! Sometimes this sundown to sundown tradition befuddles Tanta Golda.
      Thank you for pointing this out. You will notice I have corrected the blog to reflect what your eagle (not a kosher bird BTW) eyes picked up.

      For Conservative/Orthodox Jews Passover ends on April 2nd - so Yahrzeit candles are lit on the evening of the 1st.
      For (many) Reform Jews and all those living in Eretz Yisrael Passover ends at sunset on April 1st - So Yahrzeit candles should be lit on the evening of March 31st.

      Your comments and corrections are always welcome.

      (And I'm delighted that you enjoy my blog)

      Tanta Golda

  2. Do sephardim light yahrzeit candles or merely fast?

    1. Anonymous,

      You bring up an interesting question. In her research, Tanta Golda has found nothing to indicate that Sephardim do NOT light candles. From this, I take it that the standard is to light them.

      Having said that: Lighting candles among either the Ashkenazi or Sephardim is a minhag-community custom, not halacha-law. So it may be that some Sephardic communities do not light candles.

      Fasting on a yahrzeit is a custom among the Orthodox of both communities, but is not practiced among the majority of those in other streams of Judaism.

      There is also a tradition of engaging in Torah study with a minyon on the day of a yahrzeit to help honor the deceased. (Again, we see this mostly among the most observant)

      Thank you for your encouraging Tanta Golda to learn more about the variety of Jewish customs that exist!

      Tanta Golda

  3. I am very curios to gather all information regarding Yahrzeit Candles. I would like a better explanation of how to do a Yahrzeit service and why do we do it.

    1. Anon - I’m not exactly sure what you’re asking - it may just be the way we are using terms. Hopefully, I’ll answer your question.
      When we commemorate a loved one’s Yahrzeit - the anniversary of their death - we don’t perform any sort of service. You light the yahrzeit candle at sunset the evening before the actual anniversary. No blessing is said, but you can take a moment or two to reflect on the person you lost.

      Yiskor is a service, usually held at the synagogue, four times a year: at the conclusion of Yom Kippur, and the last day of the three pilgrimage holidays: Shemini Atzeret (the 8th day of Sukkot), Passover, and Shavuot. This is a communal way of recognizing death in our community, and to provide a way to support one another. In a sense, you are reminded that you are not alone in loss.

      In a synagogue service there may be a number of readings, including the Al Mal Rachamem (G-d Full of Compassion). Without fail, the key prayer is the Mourner’s Kaddish. This can only be said in the presence of a minyon - at least ten Jewish adults (men, if you are Orthodox). This last part is probably why the Yiskor service is done during the Pilgrimage holidays. One was assured of having a minyon.

      I hope my darling Anonymous, that this answers your question. If not, please write back! Love, TG

  4. It took a non-Jew to tell me that she thinks a memorial candle can be lit for a loved one on Passover. She has another Jewish friend who told her this so I decided to find out for myself. So I guess it is true. I don't remember my mom ever lighting memorial candles on Passover, but she might have. Thank you for your help.

  5. Barbara - I will admit that I didn't pay as much attention as I should have as a child as to when my own mother lit yarhzeit candles. It's never too late to learn more about our traditions. I'm glad your friend pointed you in the right direction and Tanta Golda was able to confirm.
    Hag Samach!

  6. I am continually amazed by the amount of information available on this subject. What you presented was well researched and well worded in order to get your stand on this across to all your readers.
    עו"ד נועם קוריס

  7. Are we staying that a yahrzeit candle be lit on erev Pesach? I’m confused now.


Please feel free to leave your questions for Tanta Golda here.