Readings make for a holier day

Just in time for the High Holy Days, Jewish Lights, the well-established Jewish publishing house, has brought out “Yom Kippur Readings,” a timely collection designed to give added meaning to the traditional prayerbook. The material has been edited by Dov Peretz Elkins, rabbi emeritus of the Jewish Center in Princeton, N.J. and author of 35 books for Jewish group leaders.

Even Jews who rarely attend services usually find their way to a synagogue on Yom Kippur, perceiving it to be the holiest day of the year. Reading the book will greatly augment limited knowledge of the rituals and liturgy of the holiday, even more so if brought along to consult with during the service. For regular worshippers, the book will add to their appreciation of familiar prayers.

The selections have been arranged into 15 sections, generally coinciding with a part of the service. Each section is prefaced by an appropriate quotation from Arthur Green’s book “These Are the Words.” The initial section, “First Reflections,” is an introduction to the holiday and its significance. Included are quotations from Debbie Friedman, Abraham Joshua Heschel and several rabbis.

The book then follows the order of prayer, beginning with Kol Nidre and ending with N’eilah, the closing of the gates. There is also a section on Yom Kippur customs such as what to wear, the laws of fasting and commentary on other prayers.

Passages from the Bible, Midrash, Talmud and Chassidic stories appear throughout. While most of the accompanying quotes are from rabbis (the editor appears to attribute himself most frequently of all,) others come from a variety of Jewish personages including Albert Einstein, Sholem Aleichem, Leo Tolstoy and Maimonides.

Use of this anthology can deepen one’s observance of this crucial day, regardless of whether one is confused by the rituals and prayers or knows them well.

“Yom Kippur Readings” edited by Rabbi Dov Peretz Elkins (368 pages, Jewish Lights, $24.99).