Tonight is my mother’s yahrzeit. It hard to believe it has been five years on the Jewish calendar since my mother died. I still find it difficult at times, but obviously have accepted this fact. In talking with psychologists, I have learned it is common for some people to feel emotional and physical pain around the anniversary of the death of a loved one.
Honestly, I think in this sense, Judaism has it right. There are things we do to mark the anniversary. I believe these items help individuals to deal with their lose. I will be at services tonight and tomorrow and will recite the memorial prayer that is said on the anniversary of the death. I will receive an aliyah (being called to the Torah), which is often an honor bestowed upon those who have yahrzeit. Actually, I will be chanting Haftorah. I will also be chanting two of the aliyot from the Torah in honor of my mother’s life. (Most synagogues have seven aliyot and maftir (the repetition of part of the last aliyah and haftorah. At my congregation they actually break the reading into ten).
I will also be following the custom of lighting a yahrzeit candle tonight, the candle that burns for 24 hours (or more) that is lit in the evening on the day the person died (The evening before as a 24 hour period in Judaism goes from sundown to sundown. Unlike most things in Judaism, this candle is lit without saying a blessing.
It never struck me as odd or unusual, I just accepted it. Then, when my mother passed away, after returning from the cemetery, as my father was lighting the candle (When someone passes away, you light a candle that burns for a week), my father explained to those assembled that you do not recite a blessing because the life was the blessing. (My father was always looking to teach others).
I had never thought of that. It never occurred to me. Still, I took a lot of comfort in this. What a great explanation (I do not think it was one of his own). We as Jews, we as human beings, need to remember that the lives of others is a gift, a blessing to us, and we should always appreciate it.
So tonight, as I light the candle, no blessing will be said, but I will take a moment to reflect on the blessing which was my mother’s life.