Tough Questions Jews Ask: A Young Adult's Guide to Building a Jewish Life


What your rabbi probably has never told you, but could?if you'd only ask.

"Every day I wonder if God is real, if the Torah is true. Every day I wonder why I?m a Jew. But that?s part of being Jewish. In the Torah, we?re called Yisrael?the ones who wrestle with God. Wrestling, asking, wondering, searching is just what God wants us to do! God loves good questions. Now tell me, what are your questions?"
?from Chapter 1

In Judaism we?re allowed to ask questions. We are invited to ask...

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Tough Questions Jews Ask: A Young Adult's Guide to Building a Jewish Life

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What your rabbi probably has never told you, but could—if you'd only ask.

"Every day I wonder if God is real, if the Torah is true. Every day I wonder why I’m a Jew. But that’s part of being Jewish. In the Torah, we’re called Yisrael—the ones who wrestle with God. Wrestling, asking, wondering, searching is just what God wants us to do! God loves good questions. Now tell me, what are your questions?"
—from Chapter 1

In Judaism we’re allowed to ask questions. We are invited to ask them. But for young people, it often feels as if no one is willing to take tough questions about religion, ourselves, and the world seriously.

This updated and expanded new edition of Tough Questions Jews Ask turns that all around. With honesty, humor and respect, Rabbi Edward Feinstein tackles topics as diverse as:

  • Why Does God Let Terrible Things Happen?
  • What Is God Anyway?
  • If I Pray for Something, Will I get It?
  • What’s the meaning of life? Is that a dumb question?
  • Why Does Religion Need So Many Rules?
  • Why Be Jewish?

With insight and wisdom—and without pretending to have all the answers—Rabbi Feinstein encourages young people to make sense of the Jewish tradition by wrestling with what we don’t understand.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

"I wish I had this book when I was young. I'm grateful that the b’nei mitzvah and their parents in my congregation have it now. Rabbi Feinstein responds to the tough questions thoughtful Jewish teenagers ask with wisdom, humor, gentleness and insight. "
Rabbi Laura Geller, senior rabbi, Temple Emanuel of Beverly Hills, California

“In this remarkable book Rabbi Feinstein asks all the tough questions, and gives them thoughtful, important and often surprising answers. I will keep it by my desk; every Jewish parent seeking answers should do the same.”
Rabbi David Wolpe, Sinai Temple, Los Angeles, California; author,
Teaching Your Children About God

“A masterpiece in Jewish education by a master educator. A gift for teenagers and adults alike. ”
Rabbi Donniel Hartman, co-director, Shalom Hartman Institute, Jerusalem

“Takes us through those 'keep-you-up-at-night’ questions—and does so with wit and depth. This is the best theology book for young people that I have read in a long time. It will be must-reading for confirmation classes and Hebrew high school. What a treasure! ”
Rabbi Jeffrey K. Salkin, author, Putting God on the Guest List: How to Reclaim the Spiritual Meaning of Your Child’s Bar or Bat Mitzvah and For Kids—Putting God on Your Guest List: How to Claim the Spiritual Meaning of Your Bar or Bat Mitzvah

Publishers Weekly
Teenagers and questions go hand in hand, except perhaps when it comes to religion. Feinstein encourages young people to verbalize their doubts about God, faith and Jewish life, stating that he believes "God loves good questions." Structured as questions posed by different students in a classroom, the 18 chapters include discussions about God; Shabbat; intermarriage; prayer; bar mitzvah; Israel; Christianity; anti-Semitism; Jewish denominations; the meaning of life; good and evil; the concept of an afterlife; and the Messiah. While the format may be a bit contrived, it effectively expresses the questions young people have. Feinstein phrases his questions and answers in terms kids can readily understand: "Is Any of That Stuff in the Bible True?" or "No Cheeseburgers? No Going to the Mall on Saturday? Why Does Religion Need So Many Rules?" The rules, he suggests, are one way of requiring a commitment, like going to the gym on a continual basis: "If I really wanted results, I needed to be serious." He equates being religious with being aware of life's amazing gifts. "The opposite of being religious," he writes, "is being bored." Feeling close to God involves doing godly actions, he stresses. Theology comes alive through Feinstein's cogent analogies and non-dogmatic, down-to-earth style. This book should appeal to students and adults of all denominations who are wrestling with the age-old challenges of faith. (May) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781580234542
  • Publisher: Jewish Lights Publishing
  • Publication date: 1/6/2012
  • Edition number: 2
  • Pages: 160
  • Sales rank: 259,242
  • Age range: 11 - 15 Years
  • Product dimensions: 6.08 (w) x 8.91 (h) x 0.40 (d)

Meet the Author

Rabbi Edward Feinstein is senior rabbi of Valley Beth Shalom in Encino, California. He is an instructor in the Ziegler Rabbinical School of American Jewish University and the Wexner Heritage Program. He is the author of Tough Questions Jews Ask: A Young Adult's Guide to Building a Jewish Life (Jewish Lights) and Capturing the Moon; and the editor of Jews and Judaism in the 21st Century: Human Responsibilities, the Presence of God, and the Future of the Covenant (Jewish Lights). He contributed to May God Remember: Memory and Memorializing in Judaism—Yizkor; Who by Fire, Who by Water—Un'taneh Tokef and We Have Sinned: Sin and Confession in Judaism—Ashamnu and Al Chet (all Jewish Lights).

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Table of Contents

Preface to the Second Edition vii

How to Read This Book ix

Acknowledgments xi

1 Am I Allowed to Ask? 1

Does It Make God Mad If We Ask Questions? 1

2 Who Believes in God Anymore? 6

Why Should I Believe in God? Why Should Anyone? 6

3 Do I Have to Go to Services? What Good Is Praying? 12

God Listen? Does God Answer? 12

If I Pray for Something, Will I Get It? 16

Do I Have to Go to a Synagogue to Pray? 19

4 Talking Snakes and Splitting Seas ... Is Any of That Stuff in the Bible True? 22

If God Talked to Everyone in the Bible, Why Doesn't God Talk to Anyone Today? 26

5 Why Does God Let Terrible Things Happen? 30

How Can Anyone Believe in God after the Holocaust? 34

6 What Is God Anyway? 39

What's That about God Being a Shepherd ... Are We Supposed to Be Sheep? 44

7 What's the Meaning of Life? Is That a Dumb Question? 49

8 No Cheeseburgers? No Going to the Mall on Saturday? Why Does Religion Need So Many Rules? 55

9 2 T*Xt Or Not 2 T*Xt? 64

What's Wrong with Texting? What Harm Can It Do? 64

10 What Do You See When You Look at Me? 71

Can I Get a Tattoo or a Piercing and Still Be Jewish? 75

11 Why Are There So Many Different Religions? Aren't They All the Same? 79

What Is Christian Religion About? Is It Really That Different from Our Religion? 82

Can a Person Be Half-Jewish, Half-Christian? 87

Why Won't Mom Let Us Have a Christmas Tree? 88

What about Islam? Can I Be Friends with Muslims? 90

12 Why Do People Hate Jews? 94

13 If We Live Here, Why Is Israel So Important? 99

14 Orthodox, Conservative, Reconstructionist, Reform—Why Can't I Just Be Jewish? 104

15 What Happens to Us After We Die? 111

Do jews Believe in Heaven and Hell? 111

16 What's the Messiah? 117

17 What's a Bar Mitzvah? What's a Bat Mitzvah?

Can't I Just Have a Birthday Party? 121

Why Do We Have to Keep Going to Hebrew School Even After We're Bar Mitzvah? 124

18 Why Is It So Important to Marry Someone Jewish? 128

Why Can't I Just Marry Someone I Love? 128

What If 1 Fall in Love with a Person Who Isn't Jewish but Wants to Be? Can Someone Join Up? 132

19 Why Be Jewish? 134

One More Thing 137

Suggestions for Further Reading 138

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 19, 2003

    Why I read this book twice

    It is not a bad thing that our most accessible source of wisdom is from late night TV comics. Our country celebrates newness and individual innovation, and the cleverness of the late night comic and his guests is a welcome antidote to the tawdry news that precedes it. But we have thousands of years of insight to draw on, also created as a counterpoint to distracting times, the cumulative ideas of a great religion. In this book, Rabbi Edward Feinstein brings us both kinds of wisdom. A colorful and brisk survey of Jewish thought, the book conveys Jewish teachings through the lens of a very modern mind, to the sensibilities of a skeptical adolescent, through the humor and pathos that makes a great comic. I loved the book for myself, and giving out two to each Bar Mitzvah- one to the kid, and one to the parents!

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