The Jewish Book of Why

Alfred J. Kolatch (Author)
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Product Description

If you have ever wondered why Jews celebrate a particular holiday or observe a specific ritual or custom, The Jewish Book of Whywill surely provide the answer. Since its initial publication in 1981, this best-selling volume has been an essential resource for Jews seeking to better understand their own heritage and for non-Jews desirous of understanding the lifestyle of their neighbors.

In this now-classic work, Rabbi Alfred J. Kolatch presents hundreds of questions frequently asked about Jewish belief and practice and provides answers that are concise, clear, and straightforward. Whether discussing the celebration of milestone events, the definition of Jewish identity, conversion from another faith, death and mourning practices and procedures, synagogue ritual, or the rationale behind the kosher dietary laws, he presents the range of views held by the major Jewish denominations: Orthodox, Conservative, Reform, and Reconstructionist. The information is presented simply and objectively, replacing confusion and misconception with knowledge and understanding.

Enhanced by an index that makes the information readily accessible, The Jewish Book of Why is authoritative, enlightening, and indispensable.

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Jonathan David Publishers; Revised Edition, 2007. edition (January 1, 1981)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0824602560
  • ISBN-13: 978-0824602567
  • Product Dimensions: 8.6 x 5.5 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds

Editorial Reviews Review

Why are there kosher dietary laws, why must the chapter of curses in the Tora be read quickly in a low voice, and what's the point of visiting a body of water to empty pockets of crumbs on Rosh Hashana? Kolatch writes lucidly and knowingly, explaining the biblical, traditional and superstitious sources of thousands of questions pertaining to Judaism; the comprehensive index is expertly organized.

From Publishers Weekly

This book is for Jews and Gentiles alike, offering an encyclopedic compendium of concise, cogent explanations of Jewish rituals and practices. Kolatch, a rabbi and author of Great Jewish Quotations, treats every facet of Jewish religious observance, including births, weddings and funerals, sabbath and synagogue, holidays from Passover to Purim and the intricacies of the Jewish calendar. He teases apart the variations that distinguish different Jewish communities and denominations, and carefully notes whether a practice derives from the Torah, the Talmudic law or custom. Kolatch's catechistic format fields queries about the grand imponderables ("Why is marriage such an important institution in Jewish life?") and the most exquisite niceties ("Why do some people remove their tefilin after concluding the Amida, and then immediately put on a second pair for the balance of the service?"). In answering such questions, he sticks to Jewish law and history; on the particularly vexed issue of Kosher dietary rules, he rejects speculation about nutritional or sanitary benefits and insists that their rationale lies in the Divine injunction of "holiness" and the Jews' destiny as a people apart. While there are alternatives to some of the explanations offered here, Kolatch writes in an erudite but straightforward style, providing an intelligent, loving introduction to Jewish tradition and culture. Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

Customer Reviews

Average Customer Review (51 customer reviews)

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Covers a lot of ground, December 18, 2000

By David E. Levine 5.0 out of 5 stars5.0 out of 5 stars5.0 out of 5 stars5.0 out of 5 stars5.0 out of 5 stars

This book was originally published nearly 20 years ago so the fact that it is still a popular seller is a testament to how good a volume this is. A lot of ground is covered in an easy to understand question and answer format. The first few chapters cover Jewish life cycle events such as birth and childhood, marriage and divorce, and finally the end of life itself .. death and mourning. Then the book covers other areas of Jewish life such as rituals, holidays, etc. Obviously a basic book on Judaism written in this format cannot be exhaustive (of course there is now a Second Jewish Book of Why). However, in a very understandable manner, this book explains a lot. This book is very informative but I recommend that it not be considered the last word, ie, it is not authorative. If there is an argument as to what Jewish law requires, this book is a valuable guide but the authority would be original sources.

An Excellent Reference, October 10, 2000

By G. J Wiener 5.0 out of 5 stars5.0 out of 5 stars5.0 out of 5 stars5.0 out of 5 stars5.0 out of 5 stars

This book makes an excellent reference because it answers many important questions about Jewish beliefs. Whether its customs related to holidays, marriage, death, clothing, food or otherwise each questions is answered in ane asy to read manner. The authortakes an open minded stance which further adds to the book's value. I frequently look back at this book and learn something new each time I pick it up. Just timeless!

A Great Jewish Guide, January 2, 2001

By rzaster 5.0 out of 5 stars5.0 out of 5 stars5.0 out of 5 stars5.0 out of 5 stars5.0 out of 5 stars

The Jewish Book of Why is among the best Jewish books ever published. The book gives insight to Jewish customs like marriage, birth, divorce, holidays, and a lot of Jewish history. Whether reading the book or just leaving it on the coffe table to peruse through, The Jewish Book of Why will be great for a jew, a person that is interested in Judaism, and yourself. I highly reccomend this book. For more jewish reading I reccomend the second Jewish Book Of Why. This is a great book that you will definitley enjoy.

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