Marking an anniversary of a relative’s passing

The Anniversary of a Relative’s Passing Should Inspire a Person to Self-improvement

The following translated excerpt from a talk[1] by the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson, is reprinted here from the book To Perfect the World: The Lubavitcher Rebbe’s Call to Teach the Noahide Code to All Mankind with the permision of the publisher, Sichos In English.

Everyone is obligated to strive to civilize the world and bring it to be apparent in the world that “He [G-d] formed it to be settled.”[2]

Even children can comprehend this, and it can be explained to Gentiles of any nation. It can certainly be explained to [citizens of] nations that behave in a manner of goodness and kindness, such as our country, which even assisted in the freedom and redemption of my father-in-law, the [Previous] Rebbe, from “the vale of tears.”[3] This enabled him to spend the last ten years of his life disseminating Judaism, and striving to civilize the Gentile world as well, as is known and famous, and has been printed.

The commemoration of a yahrtzeit [the term in Yiddish for the anniversary of a person’s passing] is also a part of a civilized society, and is relevant and comprehensible to Gentiles as well:

The good aspect of a yahrtzeit

The good aspect of a yahrtzeit is that on this day, a person [who is a surviving relative] ought to become inspired to undertake good resolutions and increase in good deeds, and even influence his environment, and anywhere that he can reach. This will also intensify one’s joy, like all aspects of one’s Divine service, which ought to be performed with joy and gladness of heart.[4]

However, this command is not only applicable to Jews. As “the wisest of all men”[5] said, human nature is that such an event causes “the living to take to heart,”[6] i.e., one is inspired to repent.

Indeed, we observe among Gentiles who behave in a civilized manner (as society ought to behave) that when such an event occurs, the family members are moved to “take it to heart” by increasing in [proper] charity, and the like. (The mitzvah of charity was commanded to Gentiles as well, as explained by our sages.)[7]

If this is true of such unfortunate events, it is all the more true of joyous events. They inspire Gentiles as well to increase in joy and peace, and behave in a pleasant, peaceful manner.

This is the purpose of these events: to bring it to be recognizable to the entire world that “He formed it to be settled.”


[1] Hisvaaduyos 5747, Vol. 2, p. 407.

[2] Isaiah 45:18.

[3] An expression from the “Lecha Dodi” prayer in the traditional Jewish liturgy, referring to the sufferings and tragedies experienced by Jews during their exile, borrowed here to refer to the Holocaust.

[4] To fulfill the directive, “Serve G-d with joy,” in Psalms 100:2.

[5] King Solomon; see I Kings 5:11.

[6] Ecclesiastes 7:2.

[7] Chiddushei HaRan on Tractate Sanhedrin 56b.