YAHRZEIT CAN­DLES

The Jewish Chronicle - - JUDAISM - RABBI JU­LIAN SIN­CLAIR

LIGHT­ING a memo­rial can­dle for de­parted loved ones on the He­brew an­niver­sary of their deaths is a very wide­spread Jewish prac­tice. How­ever, the way we do it might be miss­ing the point.

The Rosh, Rabbeinu Asher, wrote in the14th cen­tury that it is good to do­nate can­dles and oil lamps to the sy­n­a­gogue for use on Yom Kip­pur, “to atone for one’s mother and fa­ther”. How­ever, the Kolbo, a col­lec­tion of ha­lachic rul­ings, says that the rea­son is that peo­ple will be able to pray and study To­rah for longer and this will bring merit on the donor’s an­ces­tors.

The for­mer Sephardi Chief Rabbi of Is­rael, Ben­zion Uziel, states ex­plic­itly that this is the point of yahrzeit can­dles. Rabbi Ova­dia Yosef wrote that these days the same pur­pose can be ful­filled by giv­ing money to­wards cov­er­ing the shul’s elec­tric­ity bill. It seems then that the goal of yahrzeit can­dles is not the light it­self, but the spir­i­tual light that it helps to spread.

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