A yahrzeit (pronounced your * tzite) is the Yiddish word for “a year’s time” and most commonly refers to the anniversary of passing commemorated annually by loved ones of a deceased individual. Observed from nightfall to nightfall (like all Jewish dates), the yahrzeit is a special time to pray, remember the departed and do good deeds for the merit of the soul, which ascends higher in heaven on this date.

Although there are no specifically mandated yahrzeit prayers, there are common customs (and prayers) that directly impact the soul of the departed.

Reciting the Kaddish

Kaddish, a praise to G‑d that is part of the synagogue service and only said in the presence of a minyan (quorum of 10 men), is traditionally chanted by those in the first year of mourning for a close relative and then every year on the day of the yahrzeit. This Aramaic prayer proclaims G‑d’s greatness on behalf of the deceased, who can no longer do so in this world, and thus it helps the soul reach even greater heights.

There are several variations of this prayer. Here are the two that are traditionally reserved for the mourners.

Learn to say kaddish with our Online Kaddish Trainer

Also, read: What Is Kaddish?

Kel Maleh Rachamim

Some have the custom to have the Kel Maleh Rachamim (“L‑rd Full of Compassion”), a prayer for the soul of the departed, recited in the synagogue. This is traditionally (but not always) said in the presence of a Torah scroll, following the Torah reading service, often on the Shabbat afternoon preceding the yahrzeit.

Note that this prayer is not said during specifically joyful times of the year. If the yahrzeit of your loved one is during a Jewish holiday, or any day during the joyful months of Nisan and Tishrei, you may want to have it said several weeks in advance.

This prayer may also be said at home.

Read the text of Kel Maleh Rachamim

Yahrzeit Candle

Since Scripture compares the soul to a flame, there is a time-honored custom to light a candle on the eve of the yahrzeit and allow it to burn for 24 hours. There is no official prayer associated with this candle-lighting.

Read: Why Do We Light a Yahrzeit Memorial Candle?

Graveside Prayers

Many make the effort to visit the gravesites of their relatives on their yahrzeit. It is appropriate to recite Psalms and other prayers at the gravesite, as the site retains a connection to the soul. See our yahrzeit calculator and find out the exact date of your loved one’s yahrzeit.