Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “The Jewish Book of Why” as Want to Read:
The Jewish Book of Why
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

The Jewish Book of Why

3.96  ·  Rating Details ·  565 Ratings  ·  30 Reviews
Why do Jews eat gefilte fish?

Why is a glass broken at the end of a Jewish wedding ceremony?

Why must the chapter of curses in the Torah be read quickly in a low voice?

Why are shrimp and lobster not kosher?

Why do Jews fast on Yom Kippur?

Why are some Matzot square while others are round?

If you've ever asked or been asked any of these questions, The Jewish Book of Why has all
Paperback, 320 pages
Published March 4th 2003 by Penguin Books (first published January 1st 1981)
More Details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about The Jewish Book of Why, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about The Jewish Book of Why

This book is not yet featured on Listopia. Add this book to your favorite list »

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  Rating Details
Jun 01, 2016 Stacy rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I thought this book was very informative regarding Jewish holidays, traditions, and rituals. I keep it handy to refer to anytime a reference is made to something in another book, the media, or the calendar. I would recommend it to everyone who desires to know more of the Jewish culture. It was very thorough without being overly long.
Dov Zeller
Nov 01, 2015 Dov Zeller rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: jewish, non-fiction
This book has a lot of great information and I learned from it some interesting details about things I knew a just a little about. The organization can be a bit frustrating and because of the organization, the book becomes repetitive if you try to read it straight through. The conversational tone and relative brevity differentiates this book from other similar books, and makes it in some ways more accessible. Some other books that do similar things but go more in depth: Telushkin's Jewish Litera ...more
May 07, 2015 Ruth rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction, religion, jew
I learned a lot of new info. What stands out most is that they used to (or maybe still do) put knives in the crib with baby boys before their circumcision. That is what stood out most to me because as a general rule, you don't give knives to babies. Like my nephew is almost 4 and he was waiving a chopstick around the other day and that was terrifying enough to my eyeballs and those of everyone in the room.
Laura Gilfillan
A book explaining the background of many, many of the laws and traditions that Jewish people follow. Interesting, if somewhat overwhelming, to learn about. I also enjoyed finding out more about the ancient history that is the foundation of the Jewish faith.
Aug 04, 2014 Aryeh rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Read this one over the course of a few months off and on. It's a book of common questions and answers, so does not need to be read all at once. For recommending to folks with questions…I'd give it about a 3. There are much better books out there, but this also isn't the worst. Although it was published in the early 1980s, one might expect the answers to questions about a thousands-year-old faith to be somewhat timeless, but this is unfortunately not the case. I was disappointed by Kolatch's lack ...more
Lisa Ard
I didn't read every word of this book, but then the format doesn't lend itself to that. It's more of an encyclopedia on the Jewish traditions and religion with short excerpts explaining why Jews do what they do.

A Jewish friend recommended it to me when I asked for a book that would explain some of the key concepts of Judaism. This conversation arose after she told of setting up the sukka for Sukkot. (What?!) The book covers marriage and divorce, death and morning, dietary laws, clothing, the hi
Avery Miller
Oct 11, 2015 Avery Miller rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book was very informational... For the most unnecessary things you need to know about judaism. I was actually pleasantly surprised though. This book was pretty fun to read. I thought this book was going to be a boring informational reading... It was half of that. I really enjoyed the reasoning behind all of the different cultural things that they do. I wouldn't read this again, but I did like it.
Nov 15, 2009 Tamara rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A friend loaned me this book and I am so glad she did. I learned so much about the Jewish religion from this book. If anyone wants to find out why we do the things we do in the Jewish religion, this is the book for you. If you are someone who is interested in understanding the Jewish religion than this book is for you as well. I highly recommend this book as it is extremely informative.
Patricia Ferreira
Interesting book! I've read it to learn more about jews, since I knew what everybody knows: that they don't believe the Messiah has come yet, and they don't eat pork; it was pretty much it, actually, so with this book I learned that their relationship with their religion is much more complex, with many festivities and holy days; and they have to follow millions of rules. Very interesting.
Aug 15, 2013 SmarterLilac rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Amazing. This helped me understand more about the nuts and bolts of this rich, complex faith and its long history. The best thing about this book is that it breaks down what can seem the Herculean task of gaining insight into Judaism into manageable increments. Rabbi Kolatch's language is clear and accessible. Makes me want to get the sequel.
Karyn Wynne
May 31, 2011 Karyn Wynne rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Very good. My only complaint is that I do not speak hebrew, and I have the impression that would help. I am reading the second book now tho. It was not that much of a deterrent to no know the language. I am Jewish and I like having the historical reference to WHY
Jun 27, 2009 Kim rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
More than I probably ever needed to know about things like the blue thread in a talit (which I thought was a tallis, but whatever). Judaism is so interesting. This book is a Q & A--a little repetitive if you actually read it straight through, but not a bad resource.
Nov 23, 2013 Chris rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
couldn't finish
Jun 06, 2009 Michelle rated it really liked it
I pick this up whenever I have a question. I've read the whole chapter on death and burial customs. It's very interesting!
Marianne Ogden
Nov 11, 2007 Marianne Ogden rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
All the things you wanted to ask a Jewish person but were afraid to ask. It's especially helpful as a cultural perspective.
Jada Randall
Oct 24, 2012 Jada Randall rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Jun 17, 2013 Laura rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Interesting book, but definitely written for someone more aware of Jewish tradition than myself.
Sharon Callaway
Feb 27, 2009 Sharon Callaway rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I am reading this now. Just to find out why they do and believe as they do.
Jan 11, 2009 Amanda rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Amanda by: friends in undergrad
I've read this four times now...every time I do, I learn something.
Jun 12, 2009 Zmira rated it did not like it
I am still reading this book but i really has great facts about judisum
Jul 18, 2007 Brianna rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Other Jews or those puzzled by the Jewish religion
Most any questions you have about Judaism can be answered in this book.
Excellent book to understand Jewish customs, especially holy days.
Joshua Sierk
May 04, 2012 Joshua Sierk rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
still reading, sort of, on & off, whenever i get inspired. it's great to pick up & put down & that's what i've done for several years.

my brotherinlaw has all of the series & i recommend them all
Amy Sjoquist
read a lot of it, good answers
Patricia Joynton
May 17, 2015 Patricia Joynton rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is mostly a reference book. Read much of it and holding it for futher questions. Very appreciative that this book was written.
Jan 09, 2008 Bari rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
the book my rabbi gave me on bat mitzvah, the book he gave to my brother on his bar mitzvah.... both copies yet to be read all the way through
Oct 03, 2008 Jewcygirl rated it it was amazing
Answers just about any question about Judaism. Love it.
Barrett rated it it was amazing
Aug 10, 2016
Matt rated it liked it
Aug 13, 2013
Daniel rated it liked it
Dec 11, 2011
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »
  • Essential Judaism: A Complete Guide to Beliefs, Customs & Rituals
  • To Pray As A Jew: A Guide To The Prayer Book And The Synagogue Service
  • Choosing a Jewish Life: A Handbook for People Converting to Judaism and for Their Family and Friends
  • Jewish Literacy: The Most Important Things to Know About the Jewish Religion, Its People and Its History
  • How to Run a Traditional Jewish Household
  • The Jewish Study Bible
  • Nine Questions People Ask About Judaism
  • Everyman's Talmud: The Major Teachings of the Rabbinic Sages
  • This is My God: A Guidebook to Judaism
  • God in Search of Man: A Philosophy of Judaism
  • Standing Again at Sinai: Judaism from a Feminist Perspective
  • To Life: A Celebration of Jewish Being and Thinking
  • Jewish Meditation: A Practical Guide
  • Yentl's Revenge: The Next Wave of Jewish Feminism
  • The Essential Talmud
  • Boychiks in the Hood: Travels in the Hasidic Underground
  • What is a Jew
  • Back to the Sources

Share This Book