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The Jewish Book of Why

3.94 of 5 stars 3.94  ·  rating details  ·  426 ratings  ·  26 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)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 813)
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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.
David Harrison
This book would probably have proved itself more informative if I had picked it up with no previous knowledge of Judaism. It answers many basic questions regarding important and visible aspects of Jewish life and customs in an easy to read manner.

Several questions and answers on the same topic are repeated throughout the book - this is probably due to some holidays and religious observances sharing similar rituals. Granted that this book was probably not intended to be read from cover to cover a
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
Answers a lot of questions.
Patricia Joynton
This is mostly a reference book. Read much of it and holding it for futher questions. Very appreciative that this book was written.
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.
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
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
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.
Joshua Sierk
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
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
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
All the things you wanted to ask a Jewish person but were afraid to ask. It's especially helpful as a cultural perspective.
Interesting book, but definitely written for someone more aware of Jewish tradition than myself.
I am still reading this book but i really has great facts about judisum
Sharon Callaway
I am reading this now. Just to find out why they do and believe as they do.
Jul 18, 2007 Brianna rated it 4 of 5 stars
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.
Endlessly fascinating tidbits for the perpetually fascinated.
Jan 30, 2009 Amanda rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  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.
Answers just about any question about Judaism. Love it.
Ahmad marked it as to-read
Aug 22, 2015
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