Each year on the Jewish anniversary of the death of a loved one, a proper commemoration should take place. Some people are careful to do the following:
- Light a yahrzeit candle at home the night before, because the Jewish day begins in the evening.
- Give tzedakah in your loved one's memory.
- Learn Torah that day. Read from a book about Judaism or Torah ideas, or arrange to learn with someone from the community.
- Recite Kaddish. If you cannot, arrange for someone to recite it on your behalf.
- Sponsor a kiddush in synagogue on that day, or on the Shabbat that falls at the end of that week.
It is significant to note that in Judaism we downplay birthdays, never commemorating the date of birth of one who has passed away, yet we are careful to mark the anniversary of someone's death.
Although the day of birth holds all the potential for the life that will be, the day of death is the marker of who we actually became. Our worth is measured according to how much of our potential was realized. Did we live up to who we were to the best of our ability in the time that we had?
The yahrzeit's annual commemoration is a time to feel the sadness – but also to celebrate who they were and the life they lived.