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Yahrzeit candles are commonly lit on the days when Yizkor is recited.

Hazkarat Neshamot (Hebrew: הַזְכָּרַת נְשָׁמוֹת, lit.'recalling of the souls'),[note 1] commonly known by its opening word Yizkor (Hebrew: יִזְכּוֹר, lit.'may [God] remember'), is an Ashkenazi Jewish memorial prayer service for the dead. It is important occasion for many Jews, even those who do not attend synagogue regularly.[2] In most Ashkenazi communities, it is held after the Torah reading four times a year: on Yom Kippur, on the final day of Passover, on the second day of Shavuot, and on Shemini Atzeret.[3][note 2]

In Sephardic custom there is no Yizkor prayer, but the hashkavot serve a similar role in the service.


Yizkor prayer in a maḥzor from 1876.

The earliest source of Yizkor is the Midrash Tanchuma, which mentions the custom of remembering the deceased and pledging charity on their behalf on Yom Kippur.[5] According to the Sifre, reciting Yizkor on Yom Kippur achieves atonement for those who have died.[6] The service was popularized amid the persecution of Jews during the Crusades.[7]


It is customary for those with both parents alive to leave the main sanctuary during the Yizkor service, out of respect or superstition.[8][6] It is usually not attended within the first year of mourning, until the first yahrzeit/meldado has passed. The Yizkor prayers are intended to be recited in a synagogue with a minyan; if one is unable to be with a minyan, one can recite it without one. Still, this practice is a custom and historically not regarded to be obligatory.[9]

In some congregations, Yizkor begins with responsive verses and may also include Psalm 91.[10] In addition to personal Yizkor prayers, there are also often collective prayers for martyrs and for victims of the Holocaust, and an appeal for charity.[8][7] The service concludes with the prayer El male raḥamim.[11]

Yahrzeit candles are commonly lit on the days when Yizkor is recited.[12]


  1. ^ German: Seelenfeier, lit.'soul celebration'[1]
  2. ^ Some Western Ashkenazi communities historically said Yizkor on the Shabbat before Shavuot and on the Shabbat before Tisha B'Av.[4]


  1. ^ Friedland, Eric L. (1984). "The Atonement Memorial Service in the American Maḥzor". Hebrew Union College Annual. 55: 243–282. JSTOR 23507616.
  2. ^ Axelrod, Matt (2013). Your Guide to the Jewish Holidays: From Shofar to Seder. Lanham: Jason Aronson. pp. 62–64. ISBN 978-0-7657-0990-5.
  3. ^ Hauptman, Judith (2021) [2002]. "Death and Mourning: A Time for Weeping, A Time for Healing". In Morgan, John D.; Laungani, Pittu (eds.). Death and Bereavement around the World: Major Religious Traditions. Vol. 1. London: Routledge. p. 74. ISBN 978-1-351-84493-2.
  4. ^ "Minhagim of the Ashkenazic Synagogue". Yerushaseinu (in Hebrew). Vol. 12. 2018–2019. p. 59.
  5. ^ Scherman, Nosson; Zlotowitz, Meir, eds. (1989). Yom Kippur – Its Significance, Laws, and Prayers. ArtScroll Mesorah Series. Brooklyn, NY: Mesorah Publications. p. 159. ISBN 978-0-89906-216-7.
  6. ^ a b Glatt, Ephraim (September 23, 2020). "Leaving Shul During Yizkor". Queens Jewish Link. Archived from the original on May 10, 2023.
  7. ^ a b Wolfson, Ron. "Yizkor: The Jewish Memorial Service". My Jewish Learning. Retrieved 9 July 2022.
  8. ^ a b Abramowitz, Jack (24 April 2019). "Yizkor: The Memorial Prayer Service". Orthodox Union. Retrieved 23 October 2022.
  9. ^ Lamm, Maurice (2000). The Jewish Way in Death and Mourning, Revised and Expanded. Middle Village, NY: Jonathan David Publishers. p. 198. ISBN 0-8246-0422-9.
  10. ^ "Jewish Prayers: Yizkor". Jewish Virtual Library. Retrieved 9 July 2022.
  11. ^ Ydit, Meir (2007). "Hazkarat Neshamot". In Berenbaum, Michael; Skolnik, Fred (eds.). Encyclopaedia Judaica (2nd ed.). Detroit: Macmillan Reference. ISBN 978-0-02-866097-4.
  12. ^ Cutter, William, ed. (1992). The Jewish Mourner's Handbook. Springfield, NJ: Behrman House. p. 61. ISBN 978-0-87441-528-5.

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