CARR 189-190


Contemporary American Reform Responsa

126. Two Yahrzeit Candles


Two individuals have died in an accident. Should they be honored by two commemorative

candles, which will burn for the shivah week and subsequently by two yahrzeit

candles, or will a single candle suffice? What does tradition recommend? (R. R., Pittsburgh,

PA)ANSWER: It is difficult to trace the origin of both customs. Baer, in Totzaot

Hayim, felt that the custom of lighting candles during the shivah was Talmudic. He

recalled that Judah Hanasi wanted a light to continue to burn in his home, and everything else in

his household to go on as before his death (Ket. 103a), yet that is hardly likely to be the origin of

this custom. Its source must still be discovered. As far as a yahrzeit candle is

concerned, this old custom may have spread from the lighting of a candle in the synagogue on

Yom Kippur (Isserles, Darkhei Mosheh to Tur Orah Hayim 610). In each

of these instances, the light commemorates a single individual. We should in this tragic case

utilize two lights, one for each of the individuals who is mourned, both during the shivah

period and in future years for their yahrzeit.December 1985

If needed, please consult Abbreviations used in CCAR Responsa.