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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.
Original Material ©1981, 1985 Alfred J. Kolatch. Issued by Arrangement with Jonathan David Publishers, Inc.; ©1995 HighBridge Company

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  • Overall
  • Jenine
  • columbus, OH, USA
  • 02-08-08

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.

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Performance
  • Story
  • Joe
  • Kansas City, MO, United States
  • 06-03-12

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.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Performance
  • Story

Terrible production ruins good book

The book was much better read than heard, at least in this recording. I read the book many years ago and was looking forward to hearing it. Eli Wallach is a terrific actor and I thought this would be the perfect audiobook. I was way wrong. The producers of this audiobook chose to create a gimmicky, kitschy " recording. It was well intended I am sure but it came out like a parody. I could have dealt with the tongue in cheek reading. It was the music that killed it for me. This is the first of hundreds of audiobooks that I literally could not listen to anymore. Relaxing and listening to the book, I am jolted every random once in a while by some mockery of Yiddish folk music or klezmer. It is high, piercing notes stuck in between every section. Because a section might be just a few paragraphs, it is way too often. I highly recommend you read this book but I would pass on this audiobook production. I sincerely hope this book is re-produced for audio by someone who has a better track record. A good reader without gimmicks would dignify this book instead of demean it.