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on May 10, 2002
This book, by the late Rabbi Isaac Klein, of blessed memory, is the only fairly comprehensive guide to Jewish religious practice issued by the Conservative movement. As such, it is an indispensable reference to the practicing Jew. Readers will find that their is, in fact, very little difference between the modern Orthodox Halachah and that set forth by the Conservative movement's Rabbinical Assembly. The difference is, of course, in the theological approach.
Rabbi Klein's book,which has been updated and supplemented a number of times to reflect changes since its publication in 1979, is a good source for the torah, talmudic and traditional approaches to all areas of Jewish practice. The book includes one of the most comprehensive approaches to the Kosher laws I have ever seen. It also covers synagogue practice in great detail, differentiating between laws (halachah) and customs which have taken on the effect of laws. (minhag) I myself pick up the book for review whenever necessary, for example, reviewing the section on brit milah (the circumcision) after my son's birth. This is not a book for beginners who have no familiarity with Jewish practice. It is a good stepping stone for the beginner who would like to have more comprehensive knowledge and understanding of Jewish practice. I learned more in this book than in six years of Hebrew School. For the beginner or for someone looking for a much easier book of this nature I recommend Rabbi Kotlach's "Jewish Home Advisor". For someone looking for a more comprehensive work and not ready to tackle the Shulchan Aroch, this is a wonderful resource.
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on December 30, 1997
No matter what one's level of observance, every Jew should have a book of Jewish law and practice in their home. Having such a guide is essential for all Conservative and Orthodox Jews. Even though Reform Judaism teaches that halakha (Jewish law) is not binding, it also teaches that it is incumbent upon Reform Jews to make themselves very familiar with the laws, customs and traditions, in order to make an informed choice. Most Orthodox guides to Jewish law are written in Hebrew; the complete guides in English are usually multi-volume sets that would cost many hundreds of dollars to complete. Fortunately, most people have no need of such complete guides to law. Published by the Conservative movement, "A Guide to Jewish Religious Practice" is the answer for most American Jews. It is based firmly upon previous works, including the Mishneh Torah, Shulkhan Arukh, and later rulings by Conservative and Orthodox authorities. It is more than a list of do's and don'ts: Each chapter discusses the philosophy, history and the reasons why these laws and customs came to be. This guide covers daily prayer, tallit & tzitzit, tefillin, weddings, births, adoption, divorce, bar and bat miztvahs, death and mourning, the High Holy Days, the Jewish festivals and fast days, Shabbat, keeping kosher, the laws of family purity, the role of women in Judaism, abortion and other topics. A great job, and highly readable. [Note that some of the sections on keeping kosher have ultra-detailed sections, which many people might just want to skip.]
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on November 23, 2000
This is an extremely useful reference, which should be on every Jew's bookshelf. It is a remarkably comprehensive guide for its size, and is written in a clear and concise manner.
My one criticism is it has a relatively poor index. This book is not meant to be read straight through, and it can be very frustrating to spend half an hour searching the book for the answer to a specific question.
Despite this annoyance, I have found no better book on this topic.
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on February 27, 2001
I have been delving into my Jewishness for the past six years, and have read a lot of books about Jewish holidays, ritual observance, and life cycle events. I had come to the point where a lot of books I picked up were repetitive. I just wasn't getting anything new out of them. This book was recommended to my by a rabbi and has definitely taken my learning to a new level. As a teacher of several Introduction to Judaism classes, this is also a GREAT reference for answering new questions posed by my students. Two notes: This is dense, and is not suited to a cover-to-cover reading. It's a reference. Second, Klein uses Hebrew extensively. I would not recommend it to someone who does not read Hebrew. You don't need to be fluent, but an ability to read and a vocabulary of 250 words or more would be a base requirement, I would say.
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VINE VOICEon April 6, 2007
This well-written work succinctly provides a plethora of Jewish religious practices, addressing differences among: American/Israeli, Ashkenazi/Sephardi, & (at least to a degree) Conservative-Masorti/Orthodox Jews. It includes an Appendix/Supplement by R. Joel Roth explaining the practices for modification of Conservative Jewish normative laws (e.g. the Committee on Jewish Law and Standards) and providing updates to the main text since its publication. The text follows the tradition of Maimonides' Mishneh Torah & Joseph Caro's Shulkhan Arukh in its contents & the Rama [R. Moses Isserles, 1510-72] in its presentation--p. xxv: "Isserles added the practices that obtained in the Eastern Europe of his era, & I have added the practices that obtain in the present-day Conservative synagogue." Klein gives differing interpretations from major sources as well as past & present common practices--including superstitions.

I read it cover-to-cover & enjoyed it thoroughly. However, it does not address spiritual practices [see Buxbaum's "Jewish Spiritual Practices" ASIN: 0876688326], & has the normative extroverted bias, e.g. saying public prayer is "conducive to greater solemnity & exaltation." Mystics would heartily disagree IMHO. It also has some unusual spellings--e.g. Qaddish vs. Kaddish. There is a marking error on the top right of pp. 41-52: "Daily Prayer" should be "Blessings for Various Occasions." But, these are all minor annoyances considering the overall loveliness/value of the book. The only major criticism is that many words/phrases are given in Hebrew without good/consistent transliteration, & no glossary is provided.

Klein provides some valuable observations worth mentioning: p. 39: "The highest test of a person's faith is his ability to praise God at the moment of grief, p. 46: It is easier to reinterpret than to abolish, p. 127: Eating performed in the right spirit becomes an act of worship," & p. 293: Twelve months was also regarded as the maximum period of punishment for the wicked in the heavenly courts."

He also adds realism to tradition: p. 78: In the Talmud, a massive edifice--called by the sages `like mountains hanging by a hair' ...is built on the prohibition of work. Most interesting to me is his story of the bereaved woman & the saint (p. 287) who sends her to find wheat in houses without bereavement. This is virtually identical to a famous, standard story of the Buddha!
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HALL OF FAMEon January 11, 2005
Rabbi Klein of blessed memory was a devoted scholar. And this work of Halachah is a comprehensive guide which should be of great use to every Conservative Jew. I would take exception to one reviewer's mark suggesting that it is ' the Halachic guide'. Orthodox Jews care more in general about Halacha , think it and live it much more consistently than do the general rank and file of Conservative Jews. Rabbi Klein's book is not for the Orthodox although they too can learn much from it. I would also point out that there is a review on the Amazon site by Doughron which is outstanding, and outlines in detail the contents of this excellent volume.
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on September 12, 2011
A Guide to Jewish Religious Practice is 522 pages of text issuing guidance on the observance of Judaism from the Conservative perspective. Don't expect `spiritual' Judaism here or New Age incarnations of tikkun ha olam or the gathering the hidden lights, this is a nuts and bolts presentation of the correct practice of Judaism, on a day to day, year to year, birth to dead perspective. This is a source book, and should not be read as a guide to Judaism. It's overwhelming emphasis on halakah, on the doing and not-doing, gives the book a Betty Crocker feel to it: this is Judaism by the numbers.

Of course, there is no meaningful Judaism without halakah. So in a certain sense, this book can be an eye opener for many readers. The detailed anatomical explanations of what goes into (and comes out of) making an animal kosher are startling, and enough to make even the most ardent meat eater a vegetarian.

It has quaint holdovers from the era of the author's formative years. In discussions of the kitchen and kashrut, he discusses housewives with casual ease. When explaining the laws of Hanukkah, he explains that it has become more popular in recent years, especially in America, due to its proximity to a certain Christian holiday. Really? He can't write the word Christmas! Bravo for Rabbi Klein.

But it is all for the best. If you want a book that presents a Judaism between the gigantic freedoms Reform Judaism affords, and the constriction of Orthodox Judaism in its various stripes, this is not a bad big book at all.
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on March 30, 2009
Rabbi Klein's compendium of Jewish Law, a Shulchan Arukh for English readers, remains as valuable if not more so, as when produced 30 years ago. Nominally the product of a Conservative scholar, Rabbi Klein's definitive clarity with a comprehensive while consistent traditional approach is a gem for all seekers of halachah clearly and painstakingly explained.
The current Amazon.com offering includes an updated supplement added since the author's death, and an exhaustive index to this already expansive volume. It deserves, and has, a place on the shelf on many congregants and clergy of varied Jewish denominations.
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on April 30, 2012
This is more like an encyclopedia of Judaism than just a book on the subject. Most aspects of the religion are covered giving the reader a wonderful insight into what it means to be Jewish. I keep this around as a reference because it is packed full of good stuff.
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on October 15, 2009
If you're looking for an extensive reference for your bookshelf, this is great. If you need a handbook that you can give to your friend, coworker, or boss to explain your religious practices you should get The Outsider's Guide To Orthodox Judaism
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