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To Be A Jew: A Guide To Jewish Observance In Contemporary Life Paperback – October 11, 1991


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To Be A Jew: A Guide To Jewish Observance In Contemporary Life + To Pray As A Jew: A Guide To The Prayer Book And The Synagogue Service + This Is My God
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Basic Books; New edition edition (October 11, 1991)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0465086322
  • ISBN-13: 978-0465086320
  • Product Dimensions: 7.8 x 5.4 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (64 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #36,663 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

To Be a Jew, Rabbi Hayim Halevy Donin's classic guide to Jewish life, philosophy, and law has guided generations of Americans, Europeans, and Israelis to discover the treasures of their own religious traditions. First published in 1972, the book still stands as a reliable, practical and versatile resource for everyone from young girls preparing for bat mitzvah to old men returning to their spiritual roots. The book begins with an overview of Judaism's basic credo (including chapters on Israel's people, land, God, and Torah), moves on to describe the laws governing Jews' daily lives, the Jewish calendar, and "The Special Occasions of Life" from birth to death and mourning. One great strength of To Be a Jew is its blending of folk wisdom and scholarly learning. Rabbi Donin not only describes what right belief and righteous action look like but provides a rationale for these observances that engages and embraces the basic conditions of modern life. --Michael Joseph Gross

Review

"Belongs in every Jewish home." -- Rabbi Israel Klavan, Rabbinical Council of America

"For a general discussion of Jewish living,To Be a Jew is unexcelled. It is comprehensive and clear." -- Ruth Frank & William Wollheim,Book of Jewish Books

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Customer Reviews

Verdict: This book is worth the time to read and worth the money-- but only as a starter.
Lemas Mitchell
I would certainly recommend this book to anyone who is a born again Jew or non Jew who wants to learn what Judaism is really all about.
Amama6
As a beginner in the study of Judaism I found Rabbi Donin's book simple and packed with information to answer my numerous questions.
"michelewith1l"

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

80 of 82 people found the following review helpful By Rivkah Maccaby on November 27, 2001
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Every detail of Jewish practice is in this book, along with some of R. Donin's own aggadot and midrash on why these practices are important. In the end though, R. Donin is a believing Jew, and aggadot aside, he would say that any practice we do, we do because it's a mitzvah.
Though Donin writes from an orthodox perspective, he is very gentle with the reader, never insisting that his way is the only way. He doesn't dictate, he encourages the reader to try what feels comfortable, and to explore, and provides material enough for a long, long exploration. I can't think of a single question about daily practice or synagogue etiquette that couldn't be answered by referencing this book.
This book is intended for Jews, and as he states, particularly for Jews who grew up in a household where Yiddishkheit was not present. R. Donin assumes a certain amount of prior knowledge (such as understanding the Hebrew and Yiddish words I've used so far), so this is not a book for non-Jews with a casual interest in Judaism. However, anyone who has read one or two basic books on Judaism, or anyone who grew up Jewish, even if just barely observant should have no trouble with this book.
Donin's writing is more than just engaging, it projects a kindness that really must be experienced. It was as though Zayde were reading aloud to me. The book has heart. Never once do I think that R. Donin has written this book because he is casting for people to turn back to orthodoxy. I really believe he was motivated out of a pure love for Judaism, and this comes out of the pages.
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69 of 70 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on October 7, 2000
Format: Paperback
As a French Catholic who has made the decision to convert to Orthodox Judaism, I found this book invaluable, both as a learning source and as a source of solace and joy. Rabbi Donin tells us, in lovely language, just what everyday life is like for the Orthodox Jew.
Unlike many other religions, Judaism is primarily a religion of action and not beliefs. Although certain basic beliefs do exist, much in Judaism remains open to personal interpretation. Judaism does not demand that other people convert; in fact rabbis are encouraged to make at least three vigorous attempts at discouraging the possible convert. Conversion is, nevertheless, possible, and it is important to remember that Abraham was a convert, as was Ruth, a descendant of King David.
In To Be a Jew, Rabbi Donin gives an overview of the history of Judaism and tells us that it was Maimonides who explained that any human being who faithfully observes the Seven Laws of Noah earns a proper place in heaven, no matter what religion he follows. Additionally, The Torah of Moses is a truth for all humanity, whether Jewish or not. Therefore, if one is not prepared to embrace the Jewish religion fully, it would be far better for him to remain outside this beautiful faith.
The Holy Temple, as well, did not benefit Jews only. When King Solomon built the Temple, he specifically asked the Creator to heed the prayers of the gentiles who came to the Temple to pray (Kings I 8:41-43). The Jewish prophet refers to the Temple as a "House for all nations," (Isaiah 56:7). The Temple was the universal center of spirituality, a concentrated point where the consciousness of our Maker filtered down into the world.
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84 of 91 people found the following review helpful By Mesfera Alqahtani on April 18, 2003
Format: Paperback
as a Muslim, I wanted to read a book about Judaism that can help me understand them without so much the effect of politics. this was it, and it has so many chapters of different Jewish Laws and guidance. I particularly liked the chapter of Sabbath.
one thing I noticed, it just clears to me we are much closer than we think we are, the Muslims too are devoted to religion in a practical way as well as spiritual way, it's more of a way of life.
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26 of 26 people found the following review helpful By Grass Tiger on October 14, 2004
Format: Paperback
When I was first interested in learning about Judaism I really didn't know much. This book was recommended to me, so I got it. I kind of liked the first part and found some good information, but I got very bogged down just over half way through when it started to get into the ritual a bit more. I didn't really understand what I was reading so I put it down.

After some years and learning from other sources I picked this up again. I was amazed at how my perspective had changed. It suddenly had meaning and I find myself going back to it again and again for guidance and understanding in many areas.

If you are new to Judaism, you might have a hard time with this book, like I did (I found "To Pray as a Jew" even harder), but if you know a bit from other sources and you are really interested in really understanding and remembering the details this is a very good source.

Here is an excerpt to demonstrate how difficult it can be to understand, but how there are gems therein:

"A Jewish definition of holiness may be put in these terms: Holiness does not lie in the ascetic, saintly withdrawal from life, or in excessive denial to oneself of all human pleasures, of in the repression of all human drives. It consists, rather, of full participation in the stream of human community life, sharing the joyous as well as the sorrowful experiences which life has to offer, denying to oneself no legitimate pleasures; but at the same time so developing one's sense of discernment as to be able to distinguish and choose the right from the wrong, the true from the false, the good from the bad, the sacred from the profane, the pure from the impure, and the clean from the unclean.
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