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Don't go to shul without it!
on October 3, 2006
Whether you are a Jew-from-birth who wants to deepen your experience of the High Holy Days or a convert going through the Days of Awe for the first time, or a interested bystander who wants to know more of what the holiest days of the year are all about, Reuven Hammer's Entering the High Holy Days is an excellent resource.
The author covers the history and development of the rituals and services of Rosh Hashannah, Yom Kippur and the days between (known as the Days of Awe) as well as customs such as the foods eaten (or not eaten, in the case of Yom Kippur), taschlich, and kaporot. Particularly useful is the indepth guide to the services themselves. Although I was attending my first High Holy Day services at a Reform synagogue, whose siddur doesn't include everything that the Conservative, Orthodox and REconstructionist services do (and thus doesn't include everything mentioned in this book), I still learned a lot and could recognize the steps and overall sections and structures of the services. The background information on the various Torah readings and Haftorah readings added more depth to those portions of the services. Best of all, however, is the knowledge that allows one to act in preparation for the holiest holidays of the year and to enter them feeling more prepared and more knowledgeable than ever before. Whether your first experience or your 50th, you will get something from this book. Highly recommended.