I've just shared a post about Yizkor on my congregational blog. It's sparked by the fact that we'll recite the prayers of Yizkor, our memorial service, twice in the span of two weeks: once at Yom Kippur, and again at Shemini Atzeret. But what is Yizkor, and why do we say it twice in such rapid succession?
Here's a taste:
The word Yizkor means “Remember!” — and the service with that name is when we remember our beloved dead. We say the prayers of Yizkor four times a year. I follow the tradition which maps these four Yizkor services to the four seasons: Pesach – springtime. Shavuot – summertime. Autumn – Yom Kippur. Winter – Shemini Atzeret. (Even though mid-October won’t be winter yet, thank God. Some sources hold that the fourth yizkor of the year was once held in midwinter, but was moved to Shemini Atzeret for practical reasons of seasonally difficult travel.)
Shemini Atzeret means “the pause of the 8th day.” Sukkot (in Israel and in the Reform tradition of which we are a part) lasts for seven days. On the 8th day, our tradition teaches, God says to us: wait! don’t go! Linger with Me a little longer? We call that day “the pause,” or “the lingering,” of the 8th day. And it’s on that extra day after Sukkot, when Sukkot is over but we haven’t yet pulled away from God’s presence, that we recite Yizkor for the second time during this fall holiday season.
The experience of Yizkor is different at each of these holidays...
Read the whole thing here: The Yizkor of Yom Kippur, the Yizkor of Shemini Atzeret -- What is Yizkor, anyway?