Jewish Literacy: The Most Important Things to Know About the Jewish Religion, Its People, and Its History

Front Cover
HarperCollins, Apr 26, 1991 - Religion - 688 pages
50 Reviews
How much do you know about Judaism?
  • How did the Ten Lost Tribes become lost ?
  • Are circumcisions performed on the Sabbath ?
  • Which country first granted Jews equal rights ?
  • When was polygamy outlawed for Jews ?
  • Why does Jewish law compare gossiping to murder ?

You'll find the answers to these questions -- and much more -- in this insightful and comprehensive guide. Written by esteemed rabbi and bestselling author Joseph Telushkin, Jewish Literacy has become one of the most respected and widely used reference books on Jewish life, culture, religion, and tradition. Now revised and updated, this fascinating volume distills a vast body of scholarship into 348 short, readable chapters, making the rich and complex history of Judaism accessible to any reader.

Organized by subject, the book's fifteen sections include:

History and Contemporary Life
From the biblical and Talmudic periods through the Spanish Inquisition to modern times, with special sections on the Holocaust, Israel, and American-Jewish life.

Beliefs, Ethics, and Rituals
From monotheism to Judaism's views on the afterlife, "chosenness," and human relations with God; ethical concerns ranging from the proper treatment of animals to the real meaning of "an eye for an eye"; along with explanations of the major prayers and synagogue practices.

Jewish Holidays and Life Cycle
The origins and distinctive customs of each holiday, and the rites sanctifying every major life event from circumcision and baby naming to burial and mourning.

Answers to the questions from the front flap:
  • They were dispersed when the Kingdom of Israel was destroyed by the Assyrians in 722 B.C.E. (see Chapter 45).
  • The United States (see Chapter 203).
  • Around 1000 C.E., when it was proscribed by Rabbi Gershom; however, most Sephardic Jews did not accept the ban (see Chapter 95).
  • Because gossip, like murder, can do irrevocable damage (see Chapter 271).

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Well-written and a tremendous reference. - Goodreads
This is such an enjoyable and educational book! - Goodreads
This was not a bad overview of Judaism. - Goodreads
Really fun and easy to read. - Goodreads
Great insight to the Jewish people. - Goodreads
Not a novel, but still relatively easy to read. - Goodreads

Review: Jewish Literacy Revised Ed: The Most Important Things to Know About the Jewish Religion, Its People, and Its History

User Review  - Kate - Goodreads

It's a long book (750pp), but I learned a lot! I also have a great reference for the future... Read full review

Review: Jewish Literacy: The Most Important Things to Know about the Jewish Religion, Its People, and Its History

User Review  - Gordon - Goodreads

Well-written and a tremendous reference. A book I go back to periodically. Read full review

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About the author (1991)

Rabbi Joseph Telushkin is author of several books that have made Jewish philosophy, theology, and history accessible to the broad public, including Jewish Literacy and Jewish Wisdom.

Bibliographic information