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The Jewish Book of Why Hardcover – January 1, 1981

4.4 out of 5 stars 94 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From AudioFile

Using a simple question-and-answer format, Alfred Kolatch explains Jewish customs, including rites of passage, daily living, prayer and holidays. Reader Eli Wallach presents Kolatch's sensible explanations in rapid succession. His gravelly voice conveys kindness and wisdom, making him a perfect reader for a volume on Jewish tradition. Nevertheless, this audio misses the mark. Answers to many questions involve Hebrew or Yiddish terms. Words that sound alike or have multiple meanings have complicated scholars' interpretations of Hebrew scripture throughout history. Therefore, it's not surprising that these terms confuse a listener unfamiliar with either language. While the vocabulary builds, with each term being defined at some point, rewinding or going back to a previous tape is too cumbersome. Kolatch's information makes a good reference book. It does not translate well to audio. D.W.K. (c)AudioFile, Portland, Maine --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Amazon.com 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.
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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: 8.8 x 5.8 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (94 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #27,174 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Seth J. Frantzman HALL OF FAME on September 23, 2003
Format: Hardcover
These wonderful books deal with tradtional judaism and more controversial issues like conversion and marriage. The first volume is essentially detailed with accounts of 'who is a Jew' 'What is a Jew' 'What are Jewish holidays' 'What is the Jewish service and its structure' 'What are essential Jewish rituals' 'How do Jews interpret the Torah'. These chapters detail almost any question one might have about what it means to be a Jew, how to live a Jewish life and how to interpret the essential Torah. This volume is wonderful for non-Jews, return Jews, Secualt Jews and normal Jews intreested in exploring their religion deeper. Wonderful excerts explain the origins of such simple items like the Kipa(Yarmluke) and essential questions about Jewish dietary laws.
The second volume tackles more modern and controversial topics. it explores the major streams of Judaism in America(Reform, Conservative, Orthodox) and it looks at the Hasidic community. This book explores the essential topic of conversion to Judaism and how that relates to the various Jewish streams. It also tackels intermarriage questions.
This wonderful boxed set is perfect as a present and for information regarding the wonderful jewish heritage and its 5000 years of development.
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Format: Hardcover
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.
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Format: Hardcover
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!
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By A Customer on September 7, 1999
Format: Hardcover
A well written and easily searchable reference source of the "whys" of Judaism. Explains traditions connected with holidays and major life events (weddings, births, funerals) clearly and concisely. The book has a serious tone, and the reader can expect a serious treatment of the subjects covered.
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Format: Hardcover
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.
HAPPY READING!
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Format: Hardcover
This is a wonderful book to own or give as a gift. It contains a thoughtful array of Jewish traditions, some significant and some trivial, but all heart-warming and colorful. It's an easy book to read from cover to cover, but it is written in a way that encourages the reader to flip it open to any page and enjoy for a few minutes. An ideal book for elderly relatives who may not have the interest in reading for long periods. Learn why Jewish holidays are celebrated differently when in Israel. Understand the differences between Sephardic and Ashkenazic practices. Learn about Jewish customs in Africa, the Orient, Western and Eastern Europe, Germany, Turkey, Kurdish regions, the US, Israel, and other Middle Eastern countries. Incredibly well researched and a pleasure to explore.
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Format: Audio CD
Rabbi Alfred J. Kolatch, author of The Second Jewish Book of Why, has such a winning way with the written word that he has managed to turn out one appealing book after another 34 times! The Second Jewish Book of Why is his 26th, and five years after its publication, still available. My college student nephew recommended Kolatch's `books of why,' and I picked The Second because the questions and answers in The First were more familiar. The Rabbi's second book left me feeling as if I had had a very good appetizer, satisfying enough, but ready for more, much more.
While many answers struck me as complete, others did not. I was glad to learn why the philosopher Baruch Spinoza was excommunicated: because he "argued that God and Nature are one..." which, the Rabbi asserts, "ruled out belief ... in God's transcendence...[and] any interplay between God and man." I would have liked to learn how the Rabbi managed to conclude that "Spinoza was not terribly upset" in 1656, when his Sephardic community excommunicated him. Also, I would like to order Rabbi K's 6th book (now out of print), "Who's who in the Talmud." It followed his first Jewish Book of Why, published in 1981.
Fortunately, the indexing is excellent, as many fascinating tidbits are hidden. For example, I was thrilled to learn the origin of "Sephardim," the root of which is the Hebrew name for Spain, and Ashkenaz "being the Hebrew name for Germany." But this is buried in his answer to the question, Why is the term "Oriental Jew" sometimes confused with "Sephardic Jew"? The index in The Second Jewish Book of Why also includes its predecessor, which as of this writing, occupies the 8,370th place in popularity of purchases at Amazon.
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