The solemn prayer of Yizkor is recited four times a year. It is said on Pesach, Shavuot, Yom Kippur, and Shemini Atzeret. Unlike our brethren who live in Israel, we in Diaspora celebrate two days at the conclusion of Pesach, we celebrateShavuot for two days, and Shemini Atzeret consists of two days, the first known as Shemini Atzeret and the second, Simchat Torah. Usually Yizkor is recited on the final and last day of the festival. Therefore in Diaspora we recite it on the eighth day of Pesach, and on the second day of Shavuot. When it comes to Shemini Atzeret the pattern is changed. It is recited on the first day — Shemini Atzeret — instead of the final day — Simchat Torah.

There are various reasons given for this deviation, but today I would like to share with you an interpretation which is somewhat novel. Tomorrow on the joyous day of Simchat Torah we rejoice for Hashem’s giving us the Torah. We will read the portion of Berachah, which is the concluding portion of the Torah. In it is the popular passage “Torah tzivah lanu Moshe morashah kehilat Yaakov — “The Torah that Moshe commanded us is the heritage of the congregation of Yaakov” which according to Gemara (Sukkah 42a) is traditionally taught to a Jewish child as soon as he begins to speak.

The Gemara (Pesachim 49b) expounds homiletically that the word “morashah” (מורשה) — “heritage” — can be read as if it were spelled “me’orasah” (מאורשה) — “married” — meaning that the Jewish people and the Torah are considered like bride and groom. Thus, in a sense, tomorrow when we conclude the Torah and begin again reading from the beginning and joyously dance with the Torah, it is as though we are celebrating the wedding day of Klal Yisrael. Just as a chatan takes upon himself obligations to his kallah, likewise we will renew and take upon ourselves vows to guard the Torah and keep it holy.

There is a custom of long standing that when either the bride or groom have, G‑d forbid, lost a parent, they go to the cemetery to symbolically invite the deceased parent to be at the wedding. Some even go to the extent of leaving a wedding invitation at the gravesite. In some communities it is customary to recite under the chuppah (before the ceremony begins) the traditional mourners prayer of keil maleih rachamim, which serves as a formal way to invite and recognize the presence of the deceased loved ones.

It, therefore, can be said that Shemini Atzeret is, so to speak, the day before our marriage to the Torah, and the reciting of Yizkor on this day is the extending of an invitation to our departed parents and loved ones to join us in the celebration.

A wedding is a major undertaking, and people spend enormous amounts of money to make sure that it all be spectacular. Themechutanim are extremely concerned that everybody who participates should be happy and leave with the impression that the kallah looked beautiful, the decor was breathtaking, and the affair in general was exquisite.

During the Yizkor, we will communicate with the beloved souls of those who are physically no longer with us and invite them to our wedding with the Torah. We must bear in mind that they should not leave the affair disappointed. The only way we can assure this is by promising them today that we love the Torah, we cherish the Torah, and we will do everything possible to remain married to it happily ever after.