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The Jewish Book of Why (Compass) [Paperback]

By Alfred J. Kolatch (Author)
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Item description for The Jewish Book of Why (Compass) by Alfred J. Kolatch...

Explains the reasons for Jewish customs concerning marriage, mourning, diet, prayer, worship, and the celebration of religious holidays.

Publishers Description
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 the answers. In this complete, concise, fascinating, and thoroughly informative guide to Jewish life and tradition, Rabbi Alfred J. Kolatch clearly explains both the significance and the origin of nearly every symbol, custom, and practice known to Jewish culture-from Afikomon to Yarmulkes, and from Passover to Purim. Kolatch also dispels many of the prevalent misconceptions and misunderstandings that surround Jewish observance and provides a full and unfettered look at the biblical, historical, and sometimes superstitious reasons and rituals that helped develop Jewish law and custom and make Judaism not just a religion, but a way of life. L'chaim

From Publishers Weekly
This book is for Jews and Gentiles alike, offering an encyclopedic compendium of concise, cogent explanations of Jewish rituals and practices. Kolatch, a rabbi and author of Great Jewish Quotations, treats every facet of Jewish religious observance, including births, weddings and funerals, sabbath and synagogue, holidays from Passover to Purim and the intricacies of the Jewish calendar. He teases apart the variations that distinguish different Jewish communities and denominations, and carefully notes whether a practice derives from the Torah, the Talmudic law or custom. Kolatch's catechistic format fields queries about the grand imponderables ("Why is marriage such an important institution in Jewish life?") and the most exquisite niceties ("Why do some people remove their tefilin after concluding the Amida, and then immediately put on a second pair for the balance of the service?"). In answering such questions, he sticks to Jewish law and history; on the particularly vexed issue of Kosher dietary rules, he rejects speculation about nutritional or sanitary benefits and insists that their rationale lies in the Divine injunction of "holiness" and the Jews' destiny as a people apart. While there are alternatives to some of the explanations offered here, Kolatch writes in an erudite but straightforward style, providing an intelligent, loving introduction to Jewish tradition and culture. (Mar.) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.

Citations And Professional Reviews
The Jewish Book of Why (Compass) by Alfred J. Kolatch has been reviewed by professional book reviewers and journalists at the following establishments -

  • Library Journal - 02/15/2003

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Item Specifications...

Studio: Penguin (Non-Classics)
Pages   336
Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 7.99" Width: 5.41" Height: 0.76"
Weight:   0.6 lbs.
Binding  Softcover
Release Date   Mar 4, 2003
Publisher   Penguin (Non-Classics)
Age  18
Edition  Revised  
ISBN  0142196193  
ISBN13  9780142196199  
UPC  051488013006  

Availability  3 units.
Availability accurate as of Oct 23, 2017 03:20.
Usually ships within one to two business days from La Vergne, TN.
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More About Alfred J. Kolatch

Register your artisan biography and upload your photo! Alfred J. Kolatch, a graduate of the Teachers' Institute of Yeshiva University and its College of Liberal Arts, was ordained by the Jewish Theological Seminary of America, which subsequently awarded him the Doctor of Divinity degree, "honoris causa". From 1941 to 1948 he served as rabbi of congregations in Columbia, South Carolina, and Kew Gardens, New York, and as a chaplain in the United States Army.

Rabbi Kolatch authored more than fifty books, the most popular of which are "The Jewish Book of Why" and "The Second Jewish Book of Why", "The Jewish Book of Why: The Torah", "The Jewish Mourner's Book of Why", "Inside Judaism", "The New Name Dictionary", and "The Comprehensive Dictionary of English and Hebrew First Names".

Alfred J. Kolatch was born in 1916.

Alfred J. Kolatch has published or released items in the following series...

  1. Compass

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Product Categories

1Books > Subjects > History > Jewish > General
2Books > Subjects > History > Jewish
4Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Judaism > General
5Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Judaism > Jewish Life

Christian Product Categories
Books > General Interest > Other Religion > General

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Reviews - What do customers think about The Jewish Book of Why (Compass)?

The Jewish Book of Why  Mar 4, 2008
I am currently very interested in learning everything that I can learn about the Jewish Faith. This particular book was absolutely wonderful!!! It explained everything in perfect detail. I learned so much! I couldn't put the book down. Once I started really getting into the book, I found the Jewish Faith to be very interesting. I can guarantee anyone that buys this book will enjoy it. Gina
Great Gift  Jan 26, 2006
Give a copy of this book to every kid whose Bar or Bat-Mitzvah you attend. It's a terrific reference for all those nagging little questions. A true classic and a great companion to your monetary gift. I'd also suggest it as a good gift for any non-Jew who'd just like to understand their Jewish friends a little better.
Sensible, Readable & Informative  Dec 3, 2005
This book's question-and-answer format makes for easy reading, and should be of equal interest to both Jews and non-Jews alike. Want to know about Jewish marriage, divorce and family life? How about holidays, rituals, differences between orthodox and reform branches, or after affects of the Nazi holocaust? The answers are found here in this slightly dated book, one that was soon followed by a sequel (the Second Book of Jewish Why). This is an informative and nicely readable reference - one can only hope that authors from other religions and traditions will write books with a similar format.
Basic answers   Sep 27, 2005
The book provides basic answers to the thousands of questions on Jewish relgious matters.
Its explanations are most often clear and insightful.
Good to have but leaves out important questions  Aug 8, 2004
I really like these books and the way they are written. The question and answer format make it easy to use it as a "reference" and also allows one to read a few pages at a time.

The question and answer format is also wonderful because alot of what Judiasm is about is questions. "Question Everything" must have been the eleventh commandment.

What is missing are important topics. I wrote to the author in 1996 and he was kind enough to repy to my question. I wrote:

"I enjoy reading your book . . . However, there is a major omission that I need to ask about. Why is the subject of War (and violence) not covered?

Your biography says you were/are active as a military chaplain. I imagine that your role as chaplain and advisor to chaplains would put you in a great position to speak to the question of war and Jewish Law.

Perhaps your wrote about this in another book? If so, could you direct me to that source or perhaps some other Jewish writer has expanded on the subject."

A week later I got this reply from Mr. Kolatch; "I wish I knew how to answer your letter of February 7th. The best I can say is that the subject of war did not fit the theme of The Jewish Book of Why. No, I haven't written anything on the subject, nor is there a book I can recommend."

So you can see, this very important subject was left out, even though Mr. Kolatch was surrounded by military people for most of his career. What a lost opportunity. How sad for us all. His revsions in 2000, didn't answer my questions either.

I hope Mr. Kolatch will write about this concern in his next book. AS I said in my letter to him: "What learning about violence is there to pass on to my 5 sons?"


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