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Yahrzeit Wall

Yahrzeit Wall

yahrzeit-wallOn January 23, 2015 Rabbi Holin at the erev Shabbat service dedicated our beautiful Yahrzeit Wall is in recognition of the need to remember: to consciously recall moments and loved ones.

There are different ways to remember our loved ones: thinking about someone whose soul is in the olam ha’ba/”the world to come” and saying kaddish is a time honored way to do so; establishing a fund in his or her name is another; and one of the most tangible ways to do so is the dedication of a yahrzeit plaque. The sight of a yahrzeit plaque in memory of a loved one connects us to those we loved, and especially the knowledge that it is here, in the sanctuary, the house of God, that a plaque has been dedicated in their memory.

Yahrzeit is a Yiddish word that means “year time”: hence the acknowledgement of the “anniversary” of a death. Traditionally, a person observing the yahrzeit of a loved one is called to the Torah during a weekday service on which the yahrzeit is observed, or on the preceding Shabbat. A 24-hour memorial candle is lit on the eve of the day of the observance, symbolic of the phrase in the Book of Proverbs, “The soul is the lamp of God” {Proverbs 20:27}. Devotion to family has made yahrzeit one of the most widely held observances in Judaism. The yahrzeit plaque is tangible, heartfelt evidence of piety. On some memorial walls, electric bulbs – symbolic of the words, “The soul is the lamp of God” – are turned on next to the names of those whose yahrzeits are being observed: a practice, not a custom, that we veered away from in favor of placing plaques on the center column for the week of the Shabbat during which their yahrzeit falls. We feel that the beauty of our Yahrzeit Wall, and the central position of those plaques when their yahrzeit is observed, is eloquent testimony to the love that is felt in the hearts of those who remember them.

Memory is such an important part of our tradition, Biblical narratives, and ritual observance. Zachor u’shmore: “Remember and observe” we read in the Book of Deuteronomy {5:15}. However, our avote v’imahote – our ancestors – were wise enough to know that memory alone is not enough: it must be harnessed to deed.

The dedication of a yahrzeit plaque is personal and profound. It is meaningful and moving. The presence of memorial plaques dedicated to our loved ones inspires us to consider what they mean to us even as space and time from the dates of their deaths expand. This is one of the ways that they remain close.

Five Hebrew words from the Book of Psalms are on our Yahrzeit Wall: ושבתי בבית יהוה לארך ימים

“I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever” {Psalm 23:6}

The names of our loved ones, engraved on memorial plaques, dwell in our minds and hearts, and here in our sanctuary, in the makom/the place where God is most manifest.

Our Executive Director (Elaine Stevens, 215.635.3110, execdir@kolamielkinspark.org) will gladly answer all of your inquiries about purchasing a memorial plaque for your loved one.