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Why do english-speaking Orthodox Jews in the UK wish someone “long life” on the occasion of the anniversary of the death of relative?

I can understand this wish directly after the death when I have heard that a person should consider himself as being judged but I find it difficult to understand say 20 years later. I also understand the wish that the soul of the departed should be elevated in the world-to-come.

  • The Yekkes have the custom of wishing the person who has Yahrzeit עד ביאת גואל צדק to which he answers במהרה בימנו. The Swiss Yekkes seem to have the custom of wishing the person who has Yahrzeit עד ביאת גואל צדק to which he answers בא יבוא and gets the response of במהרה בימינו and then he answers אמן. – Danny Schoemann Dec 20 '12 at 12:53
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    In the American communities that I have observed, the traditional "blessing" for a yahrtzeit is "the neshama should have an aliyah" (in English or Yiddish). – LazerA Dec 20 '12 at 13:27
  • @AvrohomYitzchok My experience is along the lines of LazerA. It could be people do wish each other long lives, but I never noticed it as a Yahrtzeit thing. Your question is still valid, but I think indicating what communities it's found in (Sephardim as well?) might help someone find a source. – Double AA Dec 20 '12 at 17:06
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    There's a good discussion of this at website.thejc.com/… – user12092 Mar 1 '16 at 21:33
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    @DannySchoemann and AvrohomYitzchok, you may wish to post answers to judaism.stackexchange.com/q/73518 – msh210 Jul 6 '16 at 21:33
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According to Rabbi Harvey Belovski

The Hebrew original of this greeting is richat yamim, "length of days" or chayim aruchim, "long life." [cut]

Although it may seem incongruous, this greeting is even offered to an elderly person. Judaism attaches such a high premium to every moment of life that we wish everyone, young or old, length of days to carry out their sacred purpose in this world. The greatest blessing we can receive is the promise of long life, one especially dear in the face of a recent bereavement or when recalling a family tragedy on its anniversary.

Based on interactions that I have had with Jews from various parts of the world, this custom is practiced in the UK, South Africa, and Australia.

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South African Jews also use the expression "I wish you a long life" as a response to mourners. I have been told by some that should only be said after a funeral, not after the news of the death, but I don't know if there is a legitimate reason for this claim. In my experience, American Jews do not use and are mostly not familiar with the expression "I wish you a long life."

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    In general one doesn't console mourners until after the funeral. It's too fresh. – Double AA Aug 5 '16 at 16:16

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