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In the diaspora, we say Yizkor on:

  • The last day of Passover
  • The second day of Shavuot
  • Yom Kippur
  • The first day of Shemini Atzeret

Why do we always say Yizkor on these days in particular? If it's because they are the last days (understanding Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur as one holiday, and Sukkot-Shemini Atzeret as another), why not Simchat Torah?

My cynical assumption is that it is a combination of length of service and to fill seats in shul, but I have no sources.

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2 Answers 2

Yom Kippur is a different question, but the others (as heard from my rosh yeshiva) all have the Torah reading that discusses what we're expected to give as sacrifices, "in accordance with what G-d grants you." (Deut. 16:17). Thus a good time to think about charity pledges. And part of Yizkor is about being in the merit of the charity we give.

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But in Israel we never do that reading on Yom Tov, yet there is still Yizkor (unless it's a transplanted custom?). –  Double AA Aug 27 '13 at 17:47
    
@DoubleAA, I bet Yizkor was invented in the Diaspora and subsequently imported into Israel. According to WP, it's not said by sefaradim. –  Isaac Moses Aug 27 '13 at 17:49
    
So why not say Yizkor on the shabbos we read that leyning, too? Or if you say not Shabbas, then Monday or Thursday? –  Charles Koppelman Aug 27 '13 at 20:57
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The reason how it came about is because the aliyot sold when this part of 're'eh' was leined which talks about how hashem will bless you went for very high prices. To 'contain' the cost people made a mi she'berach for their departed ones.

Seeing what a good money spinner this was, they instituted that every one should say prayers for their departed ones and called it yizkor and of course pay for the privilege.

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Can you provide a source for any of these assertions of history or practice? –  Isaac Moses Aug 27 '13 at 19:35
    
My source is the book by Hamburger. moreshesashkenaz.org/he/shorshei –  5730 Aug 27 '13 at 19:39
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The part of this answer that directly addresses the question is the history given in the third and fourth paragraphs. If Hamburger is the source for that, please edit a clear reference into the answer. The first, second, and fifth paragraphs don't address the question and should therefore probably be deleted. –  Isaac Moses Aug 27 '13 at 20:01
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