Yom Kippur was known in ancient times as The Great Day or, simply,
as The Day. To the Jew it is the day of the year which is the holiest, the
richest in religious significance, the day when the Jew feels closest to his God
and his people. During Yom Kippur, the Jews pray virtually without
interruption, from morning until sunset. Since purity of conscience is the
greatest concern of the day, the curtain of the Ark and the Torah covering
are white. The rabbi and cantor wear white robes, and many men wear white
yarmulkahs instead of the traditional black. The keynote of the many
prayers of the day is that of repentance, self-scrutiny, confession of wrong-
doing, plea for divine forgiveness, and determination for self-improvement.
To cast off the burden of a guilty conscience (which estranges
one from his God and his fellowman), to dispel all hatred from his
heart, to feel free and reborn, to yearn to express the best within
himthat is the real purpose of the Day of Atonement.
The force of the Days of Awe comes to a peak on Yom Kippur. Every
adult fasts unless fasting would prove injurious to ones health. The 24-hour
fast is accompanied by almost continuous worship. Special rituals and
prayers heighten the impact of this-already potent occasion. Some Jews
believe it is on Yom Kippur that God decides who will live or die in the
coming year. At the conclusion of the fast and services the shofar is sounded
one final time with a loud, long blast. A break-the-fast is then celebrated
with great happiness and with a lot of special foods.
Jewish personnel, whether or not they customarily attend worship and
support the Jewish program, will usually be very aware of Rosh Hashanah
and Yom Kippur. They will usually want time to hold services and to refrain
from all normal activities when the holy days are celebrated.
ROSH HASHANAH AND YOM KIPPUR1.Together these constitute
the High Holy Days. From the point of view of attending religious services,
these occasions are of greater significance to Jewish personnel than any other
in the year. They require special prayer books, special melodies, Torah
Unless a layleader has had considerable experience in conducting
services, he should not conduct High Holy Days services if there is an alter-
native means of providing Jewish personnel with a worship experience.
Perhaps a Jewish chaplain or a civilian rabbi can be brought to the installa-
tion. It may be that military transportation and civilian hospitality could be
made available in a nearby Jewish community. If, however, no satisfactory
alternative can be found, a layman should conduct the service at the
Cantorial recordings may prove helpful. The Jewish Welfare Board
(JWB) will attempt to supply such recordings if they are requested suffi-
ciently in advance of the High Holy Days.
The break-the-fast meal, held after the holy day has ended, should be as
simple as possible. Light foods, plus fruit, cake, and coffee, are most suit-
SUKKOT.This is the Festival of Tabernacles, or the Feast of Booths.
Sukkot starts the 5th day after Yom Kippur and is celebrated for 8 days by