Ashkenazi Jews mark the anniversary of a death, known in Yiddish as “yarzheit,” on the day that someone has passed away.
The custom of Sephardi Jews is to begin observing the death from the Shabbat before the anniversary.
In Israel, there is a unique custom.
The yarzheit of assassinated Prime Minister Yitzchak Rabin is marked for two weeks or even more, depending on the calendar. He was murdered on the 12th of the Hebrew month of Chesvan, or November 4 on the Gregorian calendar.
This year, the Hebrew date was this past Sunday, but as usual, rallies and speeches, supposedly in memory of Rabin, began days before to take advantage of Saturday night, when most people do not work.
November 4 is next Wednesday, but mid-week is not very convenient to attract thousands of people to ostensibly mourn Rabin but exploit the murder to rant against Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, against a Jewish presence in Judea and Samaria and for “democracy” which means one must agree with the agenda of a decreasing minority that shivers at the growing influence of national religious Jews in society.
Yigal Amir, the man convicted and jailed for life for shooting and killing Rabin, was a national religious Jew. Now, 20 years since the assassination, leftist leaders and Israel’s largest media outlets still blame rabbis and the entire national religious community for the tragedy.
Saturday night, President Reuven Rivlin will deliver a speech at Tel Aviv’s Rabin Square, where he was murdered. The address is entitled “Remembering the murder, fighting for democracy” and will include an address from former President of the United States Bill Clinton.
Next year, November 4 falls on Friday, and Cheshvan 12 is on a Saturday, which means it will be a lot easier to draw large crowds. On the other hand, there are only eight days between the two dates, but the organizers will find a way to stretch it out.
Jews have observed Yarzheits for centuries on the day of a death and with prayers and introspection by remembering the righteous character and good deeds of the deceased. Marking the Yarzheit on a different date, because it is more convenient for political purposes, insults the soul of the deceased and loses the entire significance of Yarzheit.
This religious commemoration is recorded not as a fiat, but as a description of an instinctive sentiment of sadness, an annual rehearsing of tragedy, which impels one to avoid eating meat and drinking wine–symbols of festivity and joy, the very stuff of life.
It was a day set aside to contemplate the quality and life-style of the deceased, and to dwell earnestly upon its lessons.
Yahrzeit is a day when one relives the moment of doom, perhaps even fasts to symbolize the unforgettable despair. It is a day conditioned by the need to honor…death as in life, through study and charity and other deeds of kindness….
One slows one’s activities and spends a good part of the day safely in the synagogue.
The sad part of the yearly commemorations is that whether or not one did not like his acceptance of the Oslo Accords, Rabin’s contributions to the country as IDF Chief of Staff are lost in the rumble of politics.
He deserves better.Tzvi Ben-Gedalyahu