The Jewish Book of Why

  • by Alfred J. Kolatch
  • Narrated by Eli Wallach
  • 7 hrs and 56 mins
  • Abridged Audiobook

Publisher's Summary

Find answers to your most frequently asked questions about Jewish faith, worship, culture, and customs in this fascinating best seller. Why does the groom break a glass in a Jewish wedding ceremony? Why isn't pork kosher? Why can't a person be half-Jewish? Rabbi Alfred J. Kolatch reveals the reasons behind specific laws, practices, and ceremonies, shedding light on one of the world's oldest and most influential religions.


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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

Book of Why?

If you're a considering conversion, or questioning the reasons for certain traditions, this is a wonderful book. It's broken down into very thoroughly discussed sections such as marriage, kosher diet, and Jewish holidays.
Some topics are covered multiple times in different sections, which is a bit repetitive, but overall it's a very informative listen.
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- Jenine

Not An Auditory Experience

As you can tell from my rating, you have to WANT to read this book. It certainly doesn't make it easy on you. To start, the title of the book is PERFECT. This is a book that examines why certain customs are employed, both historically and philosophically. This is the entire structure of the book, no narration, no ironic touches, no chapters or arguments on the modernity of Judaism. The chapters delineate the subject matter (e.g. marriage, death, high holy days) and then ask a question about a custom and provide an answer. This book assumes you know of the custom beforehand and merely provides an answer to the same question, "Why?"

So, the bad first. Then I'll get to the good. That structure, Q&A is NOT good for an audio book. It's dry and pedantic and the pace is almost deadening. The reader is also not very good at keeping the interest level up. It's not his fault, too much, this book was written for print and without any paragraphs or narration or discussion there is little for him to grab ahold of and make his own. That said, his reading forces you to focus more than you would with other books.

Second, this book would be better if it was also an examination of custom, if there was a thread or a through-line that connected things, if the author would give us any sense of his history or his research or the strange history of customs in a religion this old. We get no personality, however. This printed book was meant to be purchased and referenced by Jewish households from time to time. Not read. So an audio book is a bad way of looking at this particular material. I can't say that enough. Referenced, not read.

But the good part. The actual information is solid and informative. This book does not discriminate for or against those who perform these customs and those who don't. It relates, then to the Conservatives just as it does to the Reform. Most of these customs are performed without any knowledge of where they originated (just like most customs in most religions) and this book provides that insight in a way I haven't found anywhere else.

I would buy this book as a paperback copy and keep it on my bookshelf. But if I had it to do over again, I would not buy the audio book.
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- Joe

Book Details

  • Release Date: 03-07-2000
  • Publisher: HighBridge, a division of Recorded Books