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The Book of Customs: A Complete Handbook for the Jewish Year Hardcover – September 28, 2004

4.6 out of 5 stars 12 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In Europe from the 16th to the 19th centuries, popular "books of customs" brought Judaism down to the level of "Every Jew." These books dealt with holidays, life-cycle rituals, weekly Sabbaths and daily prayers. Written in Yiddish, they were illustrated with woodcuts that showed how to observe the rituals and liturgies that composed day-to-day Judaism. Kosofsky, who stumbled upon one of these books while an undergraduate at Harvard, adapts several such guides for modern usage here, including all of the original woodcuts. (He also reproduces the title page from a 1593 edition that promises to teach readers "how to live like a good person" and boasts its superiority to all previous versions.) Kosofsky’s book is interesting both as a history lesson—12 of the woodcuts depict monthly farming activities, for example, showing how agricultural Jewish life was a few centuries ago—and a spiritual guide for modern readers. As Kosofsky demonstrates, a "book of customs" does as good a job today of "helping its readers feel comfortable and competent in the Jewish world" as it did hundreds of years ago.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

Beginning in the late fourteenth century, The Book of Customs, a compact guide to the Jewish year, was published in Yiddish, the Jews' vernacular at that time in Europe. For nearly four centuries, elaborate editions were created, and it was among the most popular Jewish books in the European Diaspora until it disappeared by the end of the nineteenth century. Using the 1593 Venice edition as a model, Kosofsky added a number of discursive elements, including introductions to the book's major divisions and concepts, descriptions of all of the prayers and many of the Bible readings, a general chapter on Jewish law and custom, and one on Jewish prayer to explain how the daily prayer rituals are performed. Also added are chapters on customs and holidays that weren't mentioned, or didn't exist, in 1593, such as bar mitzvahs and the Holocaust Remembrance Day. This first English translation, as important as it is delightful, includes reproductions of many of the original woodcut illustrations that are housed in the libraries at Oxford and Harvard universities. George Cohen
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 464 pages
  • Publisher: HarperOne; First Ed. Reprinted with Corrections edition (September 28, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0060524375
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060524371
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.5 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.9 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #862,955 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Howard M. Hyman on November 13, 2005
Format: Hardcover
This book is a marvelous find. I have been what I consider an observant conservative Jew for all of my 52 years. In that journey, I have heard many Rabbis, prayed many times, read many texts, magazines and newspapers. My knowledge was, however, a patchwork---with many holes in it.

This marvelous, well-researched and well-stated book pulls together many of the pieces that I had been missing---gives me the "WHY" for rituals and customs that, until now, have gone unexplained.

Hooray to Mr. Kosofsky for an excellent book. A wonderful choice for a Bar Mitzvah, wedding, or new home gift. A wonderful gift to yourself. It has given me further answer to the question, "HOW have we gotten to where we are today?"
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Format: Hardcover
We gave this book to dear friends - practicing Jews - for Hanukkah and they are delighted with it. They said it is accurate and well written and have already used it as a handy reference.

This book makes a wonderful gift for any occasion. I have already purchased a copy for a young man for his June high school graduation.
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Format: Hardcover
I THOUGHT this book would be a translation of the Minhogimbukh as described in the cover. BUT it is basically an introduction to Jewish rituals, holidays, and traditions with a few tantalizing tidbits from the actual Minhogimbukhs thrown in. Those are what I wanted more of -- not the basics Kosofsky describes (sing Eliyahu Hanavi at Havdalah, contents of a seder plate, etc.)

I would love to have a book just translating the Minhag books! This is NOT that! Save your shekels.

People who do want this same basic information in a better and more organized source should get the ISAAC KLEIN book, Guide to Jewish Religious Practice.
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Format: Hardcover
This is a decent overview of Jewish holidays and traditions for those looking for something very basic. I would have liked it to also offer more in-depth or hard-to-find information, so I wouldn't really recommend this to others because there are lots of other guides to Judaism out there that are more thorough and engaging. The woodcuts do look cool, though. :)
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Format: Hardcover
This book is educational, erudite, and accessible. As a non-Jew and a former editor for Brill Academic Publishers, I think this is a must-have for anyone interested in Jewish tradition and have recommended it to friends of many faiths. It's fascinating!
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Format: Hardcover
This book is a work of art. It precicely what I have been looking for im my Messianic faith. Every chapter is a treasure of information.
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