The Jewish High Holy Day of the Yom Kippur observance begins at sundown tonight and continues through to sundown on Wednesday.

It is a somber day, said Rabbi Nina Mandel, of Congregation Beth El, in Sunbury. "A day filled with hours of prayer and worship services, and for many includes a 24-hour fast from food and water," she said. "The ancient rabbis of the first century, however, characterized Yom Kippur as one of the happiest days of the year because it is on this day that we are able to purify our souls and hearts and start the year with a clean slate."

Both Marvin Seebold and his wife Joanne, now of Selinsgrove, remember how they spent Yom Kippur in their youth.

"We weren't allowed to drive," Marvin said. "We had to walk to our local place of worship."

Joanne remembers that besides fasting, her parents didn't drink anything, including water, for 24 hours. It was definitely a solemn day in my neighborhood in Brooklyn."

Following Yom Kippur, Mandel said, "We continue the theme of awareness and thanks in the celebration of Sukkot. The holiday is a week long, starting at sundown the evening on October 13th. For this “Festival of Booths” the central tradition is to build a sukkah (booth) outside our homes and eat our meals in it—and if the weather cooperates, sleep in it. This is a reminder of the journey through the wilderness that the Biblical Israelites took, and helps us to remember that our material possessions are transient, unlike our relationships between people and God.

The holy day period culminates first with Shemini Atzeret, a Day of Assembly to mark the end of Sukkot, Mandel explained, "and then Simchat Torah on October 21st. This finale is a celebration of the Torah which we start anew on this day. All Jewish holidays begin and end at sunset, mirroring the opening passages of the bible: “there was evening, there was morning, a first day…”

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