“May Their Memory Be a Blessing”

And other statements intended to comfort mourners.

Andrea Toole



In Judaism, when someone dies, it’s customary to say the Hebrew, “Zichrono Livrocho” (for men) / “Zichrona Livrocho” (for women). In Hebrew, it’s written as זיכרונו לברכה or its abbreviation ז״ל‎ (ZL).

Of course, translations can be direct or formatted to suit the end language. Sentence structure has nouns, verbs, adjectives and adverbs in a specific order. Verbatim translations don’t make sense.

“Zichrono Livrocho” literally means, “memory-of-him to-blessing.” Standard translations are “[His/her] memory is a blessing”, “Of blessed memory”, or “May [his/her] memory be a blessing”.

The last one — “May their memory be a blessing” — seems the most common. It’s the one I’ve heard most often and read most often.

I don’t like that phrase.

Blessing the memory

My problem with this one: Of course their memory will be a blessing. There is no may.

Isn’t it always?

For a person grieving, the memory of the person they’re mourning is a blessing, especially if the person was a loving person, a kind person, a mensch, as we say. Extraordinary and ordinary people alike, memories of them are blessings for someone.

On Facebook, an acquaintance posted a beautiful tribute to an 89-year-old man who died on the second day of Passover. “while not a direct victim of the Corona Virus, it is not unreasonable to consider COVID-19 to be his eternal nemesis,” he wrote.

The deceased “was a man of unmistakable presence, both in physical stature and magnanimous personality who could draw an audience in any social gathering.”

According to a Google search, the man was an influential member of Montreal’s Jewish community.

Of course, the memory of this man will be a blessing. He left behind a legacy.

Most people leave behind some sort of legacy (memory). Lives are blessings. Memories are blessings. We don’t need to revere a person to bestow mercy on them.



Andrea Toole

Digital Marketing Manager | Freelance Writer | ADHD Mentor | Available for hire. http://andreawrites.ca.