I recently met up with a friend of mine at shul the other afternoon. He was at minyan saying Kaddish for his father. Afterwards he asked me if I wanted to grab a cup of coffee and I agreed. I had a feeling he just needed to get away for a little bit and that he was having a little bit of a tough time with the yahrzeit. I agreed as I enjoy spending time with him and I thought he might need the time out.
My buddy told me he thought he did not have any trouble handling yahrzeit but his wife told him that was not the case. I began thinking how we all handle this differently. Of course there is the custom of celebrating the person’s life on the yahrziet; the reason for getting an aliyah, reading Haftorah or sponsoring a Kiddush or siyum.
When I first learned of this custom, it seemed foreign to me. I thought the Yahrzeit should be a quiet time for introspection. I think that it would probably be a tough time and not the proper time to celebrate.
While I know we all handle it differently, and I like my buddy usually have a difficult time of it, the more I think about the custom, the more I like it. It really is a wonderful idea to celebrate a person’s life. And, just like during the shivah period, when the mourner is not alone, on the Yahrziet, if you are celebrating the accomplishments of the individual who passed away, you are not alone either.
It has been my custom to read Torah on the Yahrzeit of my parents. This year, as my mother’s is approaching, I actually will be doing a little more. I will be chanting to Aliyot from Torah and I will be reading Haftorah as well. At least that is the game plan right now, so I should get started practicing.