Ask the Expert: Do We Light a Memorial Candle on Yom Kippur?

Question: Do We Light a Memorial Candle on Yom Kippur? I know they are lit on the anniversary (yahrtzeit) of a person’s death, but are they also lit on the Day of Atonement?

Answer: Yes. The custom is to light one yahrtzeit candle for all those who you are remembering on Yom Kippur. The kind that burns for 24 hours (like this one) is fine. The ones that burn for seven days are used for shiva, the week of mourning observed after a person dies.

The candle is lit because there’s an idea in Jewish tradition that a person’s soul and essence are like a candle in the world (Proverbs 20:27). It’s nice to take a moment when lighting the candle to think about the unique light the person being remembered brought into the world, and to bring that into the heart as an intention for the coming year.

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