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Many people regard Yahrtzeit customs and observances with much reverence and importance. The psychological reasons for this are self-evident, as such observances provide people with a feeling of connection to their deceased relatives and loved ones.

Is there any halachic basis for the importance accorded to Yahrtzeit observances, other than the psychological aspect of it? For example, if one derives no psychological satisfaction from Yahrtzeit observances, is there any halachic reason for him to perform them anyway?

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    Surely you could apply this question to any of the dearth of minhagim we have and not just Yahrzeit customs?
    – Dov
    Oct 23 '20 at 7:33
  • If I don't find Kitniyot meaningful, is there any reason to abide by it?
    – Double AA
    Oct 23 '20 at 16:45
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    @Double AA - the practice of avoiding kitniyot is/was based on clear halachic factors, which have nothing to do with one's personal feelings. Are there any such factors for Yahrtzeyt observances?
    – Tesvov
    Oct 23 '20 at 19:50
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    I think your ending answers the question. The reason for the Halachah is to observe it. You could find it easily in the Talmud where it describes different behaviors of single Rabbis (R' X did that and R' Y did that) and all of sudden it is codified by Rambam as an obligating Halacha. Same here, some Rabbis start keeping different traditions of Yahrtzeit, and slowly it became a Halachah.
    – Al Berko
    Oct 25 '20 at 20:35
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    @Tesvov- I am not sure how you are reacting to the comments but typically, on this list, there seems to be a tradition to downcast a perfectly normal question that was asked in earnest and respect. I tried to give an answer below and my point here is that there is nothing wrong with what you're asking.
    – Geltman
    Oct 29 '20 at 10:45
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Yes, there is a reason behind the halachah which is not connected to one's personal feelings. If you look in the sefer Gesher Hachaim chapter 32:1 he states that based on the writings of the Ari, davening on the yartzeit for the deceased "helps them ascend in gan eden to a higher level". Also a son has "weakened mazel" on the yartzeit [and apparently he helps himself by doing whatever is done on the yartzeit]. It is worthwhile to read that first chapter to get the whole idea in context but at least it shows that things are done without focusing on the psychological aspect behind it and are required to be done despite one may not relate to it or wish to do it.

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  • Things being done doesn't imply things must be done. But your general point that there have been reasons given which aren't purely psychological is true. Whether those are enough to force someone to do things or to attach any high level of importance to the actions is still debatable. Some things have reasons and still are optional or still are not so important.
    – Double AA
    Oct 29 '20 at 12:22
  • @DoubleAA - it's easier to evaluate the level of a custom''s importance when we know the underlying reason for it. Without a given reason, how can we properly prioritize any conflict between one custom and another?
    – Tesvov
    Dec 25 '20 at 20:04

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