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Yahrtzeit: Remembering a death to enhance a life

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In the virtually inevitable confrontation with the death of a loved one, particularly a parent, Judaism insists that though we mourn a death and are deeply saddened by it, we do not succumb to it. In Jewish thought, life is synonymous with growth and progress. Stagnation is the antithesis of life.

Yahrtzeit is rooted in the unyielding commitment of Judaism to growth, elevation and life. When one stands alone with his thoughts on the very day on which he lost a parent, it is only natural to feel a deep sadness and even a sense of melancholy or despair. Sadness is a part of mourning, it is even a part of life. Despair, however, is not Jewish.

On the yahrtzeit, despite the sadness, and perhaps in defiance of despair, Judaism charts a course for growth and spiritual elevation: the candle, the reflection, the kaddish, the prayers, the study. All of these enable using the day to embrace the deepest dimensions of life. On the anniversary of a death, the life of the living, and the soul of the departed continue to soar ever higher.