Chapter 29: Yizkor

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Chapter 29: Yizkor[1]


It is a known and cherished custom of Ashkenazi Jewry to recite Yizkor on various occasions, during the Holidays, as will be explained. This prayer is recited in memory of the deceased and is meant to invoke Divine mercy for the soul, and bring it elevation. Various customs are recorded regarding when Yizkor is recited, as will be explained in this chapter.

1. When is Yizkor recited:[2]

The original custom was to recite Yizkor on Yom Kippur.[3] Likewise, the custom was to recite Yizkor on Shabbos, as explained below. [Today, however, the Ashkenazi[4] custom is that in addition to reciting Yizkor on Yom Kippur, it is also recited on the on the last days of the three festivals.[5] It is recited on the last day of the festival [i.e. last day of Pesach; last day of Shavuos] with exception to Sukkos, in which Yizkor is recited on Shemini Atzeres, as opposed to Simchas Torah.[6] It is no longer recited on Shabbos, as explained below. However, it is recited during the last day of the Shalosh Regalim even if it falls on Shabbos.[7]]

Rosh Hashanah: Yizkor is not recited on Rosh Hashanah, neither on the first day or the second day.[8] Nevertheless, the Chabad Rebbeim were accustomed to reciting Yizkor in silence on the second day of Rosh Hashanah.[9] Each person may decide whether to follow this custom on Rosh Hashanah.[10]

Shabbos:[11] The custom used to be to recite Yizkor on Shabbos [for souls within 12 months from death, or by the Shabbos prior to the Yahrzeit[12]].[13] However, it was not recited on a day that Tzidkasecha Tzedek was omitted.[14] Likewise, on Shabbos Mivarchim, Yizkor was only recited for those who were buried that week.[15] [Practically, it is no longer the custom today to recite Yizkor on Shabbos, even for the sake of those who were buried that week, and certainly not for other souls.[16]]

2. Who recites Yizkor?

All individuals who have lost a parent recite Yizkor for the sake of the souls of their father or mother who have passed away. It is recited by both sons, and daughters. The women recite it from the women’s section. There is an advantage in reciting Yizkor in the Shul that the deceased Davened in.[17] Those reciting Yizkor may add in their recitation the names of other souls, as explained in Halacha 4B.


3. Yizkor during the first year of Aveilus:[18]

Some Poskim[19] rule that Yizkor should not be recited at all during the first year since death, and one is also not to remain in Shul while it is recited.[20] Other Poskim[21] rule that one is to recite it even in the first year. Practically, the Chabad custom is that when Yizkor is taking place during the first year of Aveilus, the mourner remains in Shul for Yizkor, although he does not recite anything while there.[22] He is not to recite the Yizkor even quietly.[23]

If the mourner needs to say Yizkor for another parent who is past the 1st year:[24] If one is within the year of one parent and past the year for another parent, then only the parent’s name that is past the year is to be mentioned in Yizkor.

After 12 months in a leap year:[25] One who is still prior to the first Yahrzeit, but is past 12 months of mourning, is to remain in Shul and recite Yizkor regularly.

4. The Yizkor ceremony in Shul:

A. Who remains in Shul?[26]

All those who have a parent who has passed away, remain in the Shul. Those of whom both of their parents are alive, are to leave the Shul.[27]

What is one to do if there is a child sleeping in Shul?[28]

He does not need to be awakened and one may simply cover his face with a Tallis.

B. The Nussach:[29]

One recites the Nussach of Yizkor as printed in the Siddur. Those who cannot recite it in Hebrew, or have difficulty in understanding it in Hebrew, may recite it in their language.

C. Mentioning the names & Who to mention:[30]

How to say the name: During Yizkor one is to mention the name of the Niftar together with the name of his/her mother, such as Eliezer Ben Bashe Leah. One does not mention the name of the father of the deceased. [Even one who is mentioning his father or mother is to mention his father’s or mother’s name rather than simply say “my father” or “my father.”[31] Other Poskim[32] however rule one may say my father, although he is not to mention any honorific title to his name, such as “my master or teacher” and the like, as there is no prestige before G-d.]

Mentioning men and women separately:[33] Men and women are to be mentioned separately in Yizkor.

Mentioning the Rebbe:[34] It is customary amongst Chassidim to mention in Yizkor the name of the Rebbe that they were Chassidim of. This has an effect on the Chassid saying it.

Mentioning other souls: Those reciting Yizkor may add in their recitation, the names of other souls and deceased relatives, such as a sibling, or spouse. If a child passed away r”l, his name may also be mentioned, even if he was below the age of Chinuch. If one’s spouse passed away and they then remarried, it is debated whether their names may be mentioned in Yizkor or if they are to have another do so for them.[35]

One who committed suicide:[36] The soul of a parent, or other individual, who committed suicide r”l, may be mentioned during Yizkor.

D. Pledging charity:[37]

One is to pledge charity during Yizkor on behalf of the soul of the deceased. Doing so helps bring atonement for the soul, if the deceased person would have given the charity if he were to be alive.[38] [This is one of the main purposes of the Yizkor. One is to explicitly state in his pledge that he is doing so Bli Neder, otherwise it has the status of a Neder.[39] It is proper for the pledge to be paid immediately after Yom Tov.[40] Some are accustomed to already distribute the charity before Yom Tov, and then say in the Nussach “As I have given.”[41]]


Holding on to the Eitz Chaim:[42]

The Chabad custom is to take hold of the Eitz Chaim while reciting Yizkor.[43] This was the custom of the Rebbe Rayatz.  

E. No Minyan:[44]

Yizkor is to be recited even if a Minyan is not present in the Shul.

May one say Yizkor at home in private?[45] Yes.

5. Av Harachamim:[46]

On the second day of Yom Tov in the Diaspora [1st day in Eretz Yisrael] when Yizkor is recited, the entire congregation may choose to say Av Harachamim prior to Ashrei of Musaf on Yom Tov, and not just those who have remained for Yizkor.

6. Keil Malei Rachamim:[47]

Some are accustomed to reciting the prayer of Keil Malei Rachamim upon saying Yizkor.[48] Others, however, negate this custom.[49] Practically, the Chabad custom is not to say it on Shabbos or Yom Tov.[50]

7. The Yizkar candle:

Many are accustomed to have a Yizkor candle lit during the days that Yizkor is recited.[51] However, it is not the Chabad custom to light a candle for Yizkor.[52] The Rebbe and Rebbe Rayatz did not light Yizkor candles.[53]

When to light it:[54] It is forbidden to light a candle on Yom Tov unless its light is needed for the room.[55] Therefore, those who light a Yizkor candle, are to light it before Yom Tov.[56] [Accordingly, in Eretz Yisrael, a 24-hour candle is to be lit before Yom Tov, while in the Diaspora a 48 hour candle is to be lit before Yom Tov.]

Lighting in Shul if one did not light the candle before Yom Tov: One who did not light the Yahrzeit/Yizkor candle before Yom Tov may light it on Yom Tov inside an active Shul, [in the room where the prayer takes place[57]].[58] One is not to light the candle in one’s home on Yom Tov, unless it is lit in an area that is dark and one intends to also use the light in order to see in the room.[59]

Asking a gentile to light the candle:[60] In all cases that one did not light a Yahrzeit or Yizkor candle before Yom Tov, it is permitted to ask a gentile to light it for him.

Lighting a candle for other relatives: The above leniency of lighting a Yizkor candle on Yom Tov in one’s home only applies towards the Yahrzeit or Yizkor of one’s parents, and not other relatives. It is forbidden to light candles on behalf of other relatives inside one’s home, if one does not need the light.[61] Even in Shul, one is not to light too many candles.[62]  

8. Getting an Aliyah:[63]

It is not the custom to be particular to receive an Aliyah on the day of Yizkor.


[1] See Shaareiy Ephraim 10:32; Kitzur SHU”A 133:21; Gesher Hachaim 1:31; Pnei Baruch 38; Nitei Gavriel Volume 2 chapters 78-79

[2] See Piskeiy Teshuvos 284:14; Nitei Gavriel Aveilus 78:4

[3] Admur 621:14; Rama 621:6; Kol Bo 70

[4] Sephardic communities do not recite Yizkar.

[5] The custom of Yizkor on Yom Tov is first mentioned in Rama 284:7 and Admur 284:14 regarding Shabbos and 621:14 regarding Yom Kippur; Some Poskim explicitly negate its recital on the Yomim Tovim, when we are commanded to rejoice. [Machzor Vitri 312; Rokeiach 217] The following Poskim, however, mention the custom of reciting Yizkor also on Yom Tov: Maharil Hilchos Sukkah and Levush 490:9 regarding Shemini Atzeres; Mavor Yabok Sifsei Rinanos 23; P”M 547 A”A 2; Kav Hayashar 86; Yalkut Hagershoni 621:2; Shaareiy Ephraim 10:31; Kitzur SHU”A 133:17; Siddur Yaavetz; Darkei Hachaim 34:21; Betzel Hachochmah 4:119; Shaar Hakolel 26:6 mentions the custom of reciting Yizkor on Yom Kippur and the three Shalosh Regalim; See Nitei Gavriel Aveilus 2 78:4 that so is custom even though there is no known source for this in Poskim [See there footnote 11]

[6] Nitei Gavriel 78:4

[7] Kitzur SHU”A 133:21; See Shaareiy Ephraim 10:31; Nitei Gavriel 78:9; Piskeiy Teshuvos ibid; Shaar Hakolel ibid

[8] Shaareiy Ephraim 10:31; Nitei Gavriel Aveilus 78:7; Divrei Torah 3:61

[9] Toras Menachem 1989 2:284; 1983 1:56 [brought in Shulchan Menachem 3:94]

[10] Toras Menachem 1983 1:56 [brought in Shulchan Menachem 3:94]

[11] Admur 284:14; Rama 284:7; Shivlei Haleket 81; See Piskeiy Teshuvos 284:14; Nitei Gavriel 78:1; 79:18-20

[12] Whose Neshamos were mentioned? The main institution of the Shabbos Yizkor was for the souls of people who are within 12 months from the passing. [Kneses Hagedola 307:8; Shaareiy Ephraim 10:33] Likewise, on the Shabbos before the Yahrzeit, or Shabbos of the Yahrzeit, the souls were mentioned. [Ketzos Hashulchan 83 footnote 12]

[13] The reason it is allowed on Shabbos: Yizkor is not considered a supplication, which is forbidden on Shabbos, but rather a blessing, and is thus allowed. [Admur ibid; Rama ibid]

The reason it is done on Shabbos: As Shabbos is a day of rest, similar to the future times in which the dead will rest and not be judged, and therefore it is befitting for them to be mentioned for blessing, and prayed for. [Shivlei Haleket ibid] By doing so, the souls of the dead become ones guarantors. [Mateh Moshe 458] Alternatively, since those who did not keep Shabbos continue their stay in purgatory even on Shabbos, therefore we pray for them. [Elya Raba 284:12] Alternatively, it helps revive their soul. [Siddur Otzer Hatefilos in name of Mavor Yabok] See also Pesikta Rabasi 20; Midrash Tanchuma Haazinu

[14] Admur ibid; Levush 284

[15] Admur ibid; M”A 284:7; Maharil Rosh Chodesh 8

[16] Yizkor on Shabbos was Omitted from Admur in Siddur; Nimukei Orach Chaim 284:2; Maharam Brisk 2:52; Betzel Hachochmah 4:121; Ketzos Hashulchan ibid regarding first year, although he does record the custom before the Yahrzeit; Igros Moshe 2:74, however, does record this custom; See Piskeiy Teshuvos ibid and Nitei Gavriel 78:3 [See there also regarding Hashkava, Keil Malei Rachamim]

[17] See Mavor Yabok Sifsei Rinanos; Nitei Gavriel 79:8

[18] See Nitei Gavriel 78:12

[19] Makor Chaim 547; Kerem Shlomo 668; Shaareiy Ephraim Pischeiy Shearim 10:31; Kitzur SHU”A 133:21; Mishmeres Shalom Hei 26; Darkei Hachaim 34:21; Many other Sefarim, brought in Nitei Gavriel ibid footnote 23

[20] The reason: Several reasons have been offered as to why Yizkor is not recited in the first year, including: 1) As the death is too fresh and will bring sadness on Yom Tov; 2) As the souls are still in purgatory during the first year and cannot be of assistance to the living.

[21] Levush Y.D. 347; Divrei Torah 1:29 of Munkatcher; Dudaei Hasadeh 85; Beir Moshe 5:152; conclusion of Nitei Gavriel ibid if there is no set custom

[22] Sefer Haminhagim p. 125 English; Igros Kodesh 3:56 [printed in Shulchan Menachem 2:251]; So directed also the Chazon Ish

The reason: On the one hand there is no need to recite it being that during the first year the Neshamah is regardless remembered by the Avel, and consequently remembered above in Heaven. On the other hand, there is no reason for him to leave the Shul, as there is no Ayin Hara in such a case. [Rebbe ibid]

[23] So is the final ruling of the Rebbe in Sefer Haminhagim ibid, unlike Igros Kodesh 3:7 [printed Shulchan Menachem 5:308] in which the Rebbe directs to recite the Yizkor silently, based on a directive of the Rebbe Rashab

[24] See Nitei Gavriel 78:15

[25] Directive of Rebbe Rashab to Rav Yaakov Landa brought in Otzer Minhagei Chabad Yom Kippur 195; Melamed Lehoil 1:52; Betzel Hachochma 4:121; Nitei Gavriel 78:16

[26] Shaareiy Ephraim 10:32; Kitzur SHU”A 133:21; Nitei Gavriel 79:1

[27] The reason: This is due to Ayin Hara.

[28] Nitei Gavriel 79:2

[29] Nitei Gavriel Aveilus 79:12

[30] Kaf Hachaim 284:37 based on Zohar; Siddur Torah Or; Hamelech Bemisibo 2:166; Igros Kodesh Miluim, [printed in Shulchan Menachem 2:251]; Mishnas Sachir 2:233 that so is the custom in Ungarin; See Divrei Torah Munkatch 2:90; Nitei Gavriel 79:14 in name of Poskim

Other customs: Some are accustomed to mention the name of the father by Yizkor. [See Zohar brought in Hamelech Bemisibo ibid; Mishnas Sachir 2:233 that so is the custom in Poland; Nitei Gavriel 79:14 in name of Poskim and that so is the custom] See Divrei Torah Munkatch 2:90

[31] Kneses Hagedola Y.D. 240 in name of Sefer Chassidim; Rav Akiva Eiger; Kaf Hachaim 119:6

[32] Mavor Yabok Mamar Sifsei Tzedek 8, brought in Chida Shiyurei Bracha Y.D. 335; Nitei Gavriel 79:16

[33] Nitei Gavriel Aveilus 79:13

[34] Maharil; Likkutei Chaver Ben Chaim that so he did for the Chasam Sofer; Toras Menachem 46:343 [printed in Shulchan Menachem 2:252]; Nitei Gavriel Aveilus 79:15

[35] See Dudaei Hasadeh 14; Gesher Hachaim 31:9; Nitei Gavriel Aveilus 79:10

[36] Mahariy Asad 355; Nitei Gavriel 79:11

[37] Rama Y.D. 249:7 “The custom of pledging charity during Yizkor is an old custom and it helps the soul of the deceased”; So rule regarding Yom Kippur: Admur 621:14; Michaber 621:6; Rokeiach 217; Mordechai Remez 727; So writes regarding the Yizkor said on Shabbos: Shibulei Haleket 81; Beis Yosef 284; Bach 282; Nitei Gavriel Aveilus 79:127

[38] See Admur ibid; M”A 621:6; Taz 621:4; Rokeiach ibid

[39] Michaber Y.D. 203:4; Kitzur SHU”A 67:3; Nitei Gavriel 79:28

[40] See Alef Hamagen 581:102; Nitei Gavriel 79:30

[41] Gesher Hachaim 31:2-3; Nitei Gavriel 79:29

[42] Igros Kodesh 3:220 [printed in Shulchan Menachem 2:251]; Hamelech Bemisibo 1:309; Otzer Minhagei Chabad Yom Kippur p. 222

[43] This is learned from a play on words “Eitz Chaim Hi Lamachazikim Ba”, that one is to hold on to the Eitz Chaim for long life. [Hamelech Bemisibo ibid]

[44] Dudaei Hasadeh 12; Gesher Hachaim 31:6; Nitei Gavriel Aveilus 79:17

[45] Based on above!

[46] Toras Menachem Reshimos Hayoman p. 419 [printed in Shulchan Menachem 2:252]; Hamelech Bemisibo 2:58; Otzer Minhagei Chabad p. 269

[47] See Nitei Gavriel Aveilus 79:18-26; Piskeiy Teshuvos 284:14

[48] Elya Raba 547:1; P”M 547; Shaareiy Ephraim 10:32; Rav Poalim 4:35

[49] Arizal in Taamei Hamitzvos Vayechi; Mishnas Chassidim Gemilus Chassadim 3:1; Emes Leyaakov [Algazi] Kerias Hatorah 5

[50] See Shaar Hakolel 26:6

[51] See Aruch Hashulchan 514:19; Betzel Hachochma 4:29; Sefer Hachaim Hanitzchiyim 12:2

[52] Hamelech Bemisibo 1:321 [printed in Shulchan Menachem 2:250]; However, in Luach Kolel Chabad it says to light it.

[53] Heard from Rav Leibel Groner

[54] See Admur 514:13-14; Biur Halacha 514:5 “Ner”; Kaf Hachaim 514:79; Piskeiy Teshuvos 514:14; Nitei Gavriel 55:2; Aveilus 79:5

[55] Admur 514:13; Michaber 514:5

[56] Biur Halacha ibid; Piskeiy Teshuvos ibid footnote 70; Nitei Gavriel ibid; See SSH”K 13 footnote 27

The reason: As it is forbidden to light a Ner Shel Batala on Yom Tov. [Admur 514:13; Michaber 514:5]

[57] Nitei Gavriel ibid

[58] Admur 514:14; Michaber 514:4; P”M 132 M”Z 2; Kesav Sofer 75; Biur Halacha ibid; Kaf Hachaim ibid;  Piskeiy Teshuvos ibid; Nitei Gavriel ibid

The reason: One may light any candle in Shul, as it is considered a Neir Shel Mitzvah, as it gives honor to the Shul. [Admur 514:14; Michaber 514:4]

Other Opinions: Some Poskim rule one may never light a Yahrzeit candle on Yom Tov, even in Shul. [Daas Torah 514 in name of Imrei Eish] Some rule one may only do so through a gentile. [Kitzur SHU”A 98:1]

[59] P”M 132 M”Z 2; Daas Torah 514 in name of Imrei Eish 40; Kitzur SHU”A 98:1; Piskeiy Teshuvos ibid

The reason: As it does not add any light to the house even at night being that we have electricity. Thus, it may not be lit as it is considered a light that serves no purpose which is forbidden to be lit on Yom Tov. [Admur 514:13; Michaber 514:5; P”M ibid]

[60] Kitzur SHU”A ibid

[61] See Nitei Gavriel 56:5

The reason: As there is no Mitzvah of honoring these other relatives, and hence the candle is not considered a Ner Shel Mitzvah, but rather a Ner Shel Batala.

[62] Aruch Hashulchan 514:19; Nitei Gavriel 56:6

[63] Igros Kodesh 3:220 [printed in Shulchan Menachem 2:250]

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