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Recommended Reading

Discussion in 'Judaism DIR' started by Tarheeler, Jun 22, 2012.

  1. Tarheeler

    Tarheeler Argumentative Curmudgeon
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    Over the last couple of years, we've had several threads with book recommendations, and I thought it would be nice to a single thread to put them in. It seems that most of us are fairly active readers, and I know that I've bought several books based on recommendations made here. I figured that we have a variety of people who have a similarly wide rage of beliefs and traditions. I think we can put together a great list of works that we like or have found useful.

    I'm thinking of just a simple listing with author, title, subject, and a brief statement about why you recommend it.
     
  2. Tarheeler

    Tarheeler Argumentative Curmudgeon
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    Some that have been repeatedly recommended:

    Rabbi Joseph Telushkin. Jewish Literacy: The Most Important Things to Know about the Jewish Religion, Its People, and Its History. General Jewish knowledge.

    Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz. The Essential Talmud. Talmud.

    Abraham Heschel. The Sabbath. Shabbat.

    Moshe Luzzatto. Way of God: Derech Hashem.

    Abraham Heschel. God in Search of Man: A Philosophy of Judaism.

     
  3. Tarheeler

    Tarheeler Argumentative Curmudgeon
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    Guys, feel free to add to the list.

    Please? :help:
     
  4. Levite

    Levite Higher and Higher

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    I'll add more, no question. But while I get together a list, let me put in a quick plug for the new Koren Steinsaltz Talmud.

    They just recently released the first volume of it (tractate Berachot), and it is just terrific!

    When you open the book from the Hebrew direction, what you see is a page of Talmud laid out in the style of the classic Vilna editions, with the classic marginalia, Rashi and Tosafot: the big difference is that both the text of the Gemara and the text of Rashi are vowelled and punctuated.

    When you open the book from the English direction, what you get is a side-by-side of the text of the Gemara and the English of R. Steinsaltz's translation of it, with many explanatory notes by R. Steinsaltz in the margins, including notes about halachah, about ancient Jewish culture and Rabbis, about the cultures of the ancient world and their resources, about Talmud manuscripts and parallel texts, and many other useful subjects.

    This is, far and away, the best bilingual tool for learning Talmud that I have encountered.

    My big problem with Artscroll's Schottenstein Talmud is that they interpolate into the text of the Gemara a considerable amount of understandings and glosses made by much later authorities. What is excellent about Steinsaltz's Talmud (both this version and the all-Hebrew version that has been around for some time) is that he will only interpolate enough to make the text of the Gemara hang together. And though clearly he sometimes leans on Rashi or on some other commentator to make obscure sentences clearer, he does his best to stay close to what the original idea and shape of the sugiya (pericope) in question seems to be saying in the Aramaic.

    This is of vital importance, because though it is necessary and laudable to study many commentaries and glosses on the Talmud, to better refine one's opinions of how to shape halachic practice and theology, ultimately, one must be able to read and understand the Talmud as it actually is, in the absence of later interpretations and glosses.

    Anyhow, I'm definitely going to use this edition to teach out of, and I highly recommend it for anyone beginning to study Talmud, who hasn't yet got advanced Hebrew skills. And I'm looking forward to the next tractates to be released! They say that they are releasing them in Daf Yomi order, and that tractate Shabbat ought to be released by the time everyone is done with Berachot.
     
  5. Rakhel

    Rakhel Well-Known Member

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    One of the other things that I heard about the Koren, is that it will be easier on the pocket.
     
  6. punkdbass

    punkdbass I will be what I will be

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    1. Abraham Heschel. God in Search of Man: A Philosophy of Judaism -- knowing God

    2. Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz. The Essential Talmud. -- basic overview and summary of Talmud

    3. Amy-Jill Levine and Marc Brettler. The Jewish Annotated New Testament -- for those interested in reading the NT

    4. Daniel Matt. Zohar: Annotated and Explained. -- basic overview and introduction to Kabbalah and Zohar

    5. Rabbi Joseph Telushkin. Jewish Literacy: The Most Important Things to Know about the Jewish Religion, Its People, and Its History -- Jewish encyclopedia

    6. Rabbi Joseph Telushkin. A Code of Jewish Ethics: You shall be Holy -- A guide to Jewish ethics and morality

    7. Rabbi Hayim Halevy Donin To Be A Jew: A guide to Jewish observance in Contemporary life -- Guide on how to be Jewish
     
    #6 punkdbass, Jun 28, 2012
    Last edited: Jun 28, 2012
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  7. Yonlinda Young

    Yonlinda Young New Member

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    I have just read Max Dimonts's "JEWS, GOD AND HISTORY" and have learned much that I never knew.
     
  8. Jayhawker Soule

    Jayhawker Soule <yawn> ignore </yawn>
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  9. Zardoz

    Zardoz Wonderful Wizard
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    An essential Sephardic reading.

    After that, for a complete Sephrdic library, I'd recommend the multi-volume work of Me'am Lo'ez, most recent publication I know of from Aryeh Kaplan.

    Me'am Lo'ez - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
     
  10. Tarheeler

    Tarheeler Argumentative Curmudgeon
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    Since we've had some new members join the ranks, I figured I'd solicit more entries for our "recommended reading" list (and I notice that some of the old hands here who promised to add to it have failed to do so... :tsk: ).

    Feel free to add to the list guys. Title, author, and either a general category or short synopsis would be great.
     
  11. Tumah

    Tumah Veteran Member

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    The Aryeh Kaplan Anthology I & II by Aryeh Kaplan. These two books deal with a variety of topics in Judaism including G-d, Tzitzis, Tefillin and even anti-missionary.

    Worldmask by Akiva Tatz. This book discusses how the spiritual is reflected in the physical.

    Living Inspired by Akiva Tatz. This book present inspiration for daily life based Torah sources.

    The Magic Touch by Gila Manolson. A book about the Jewish approach to male-female relationships.

    The Garden of Emunah by Shlalomw Arush. A book about belief in G-d.
     
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  12. Levite

    Levite Higher and Higher

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    Since Kabbalah is one of my fields of interest, let me recommend some beginning/intro works on that subject first:

    By Gershom Scholem:

    Major Trends In Jewish Mysticism
    On The Kabbalah And Its Symbolism
    Kabbalah
    On The Mystical Shape Of The Godhead: Basic Concepts In Kabbalah
    Zohar: Readings From The Book Of Splendor

    By Lawrence Kushner:

    Honey From The Rock
    God Was In This Place And I, I Did Not Know
    The Book Of Letters: A Mystical Hebrew Alphabet
    The River Of Light: Jewish Mystical Awareness

    The Way Into: Jewish Mystical Tradition
    Sparks Beneath The Surface: A Spiritual Commentary On The Torah


    The Thirteen Petalled Rose, by Adin Steinsaltz
    Jewish Mystical Testimonies, by Louis Jacobs
    The Essential Kabbalah: The Heart of Jewish Mysticism, by Daniel C. Matt
    Meditation and Kabbalah, by Aryeh Kaplan
    The Origins of Jewish Mysticism, by Peter Schafer
    Keter: The Crown Of God In Early Jewish Mysticism, by Arthur Green
    The Sabbath Soul: Mystical Reflections On Holy Time, by Eitan Fishbane
    Jewish Mysticism And The Spiritual Life: Classical Texts, Contemporary Reflections, by Lawrence Fine, Eitan Fishbane, and Or N. Rose

    And of course, Aryeh Kaplan's translations of Sefer Yetzirah and Sefer ha-Bahir, along with Daniel Matt's multi-volume translation of the Zohar.

    On Tanach and other sacred text:

    The Jewish Study Bible, by Adele Berlin, Marc Zvi Brettler, Michael Fishbane
    The Five Books of Moses, by Everett Fox (not only the best translation so far of the Torah, but excellent footnotes)
    The Five Books of Moses, by Robert Alter (the next best translation, with excellent commentary)
    Rashi's Torah Commentary: Religious, Philosophical, Ethical, and Educational Insights, by Pinchas Doron
    Ramban: Commentary on the Torah, by Charles Chavel (tr.)
    Sforno: Commentary on the Torah, by Raphael Pelcovitz (tr.)
    The Language of Truth: The Torah Commentary of the Sefat Emet, by Arthur Green
    Back to the Sources: Reading the Classic Jewish Texts, by Barry Holtz
    Finding Our Way: Jewish Texts and the Lives We Lead Today, by Barry Holtz
    How to Read the Bible: A Guide to Scripture, Then and Now, by James Kugel
    The Midrashic Imagination: Jewish Exegesis, Thought, and History, by Michael Fishbane

    On Jewish History:

    A History of the Jewish People, by H.H. Ben-Sasson
    A History of the Jews in the Modern World, by Howard Sachar
    The Jew In The Modern World: A Documentary History, Paul Mendes-Flohr (ed.)
    Zakhor: Jewish History and Jewish Memory, by Yosef Hayim Yerushalmi

    On Jewish theology and philosophy:

    Contemporary Jewish Theology
    Contemporary Jewish Ethics and Morality, both edited by Elliot Dorff and Louis Newman
    Choices In Modern Jewish Thought, by Eugene Borowitz
    The Jewish Philosophical Reader, edited by Dan Frank, Oliver Leaman, and Charles Manekin
    Not In Heaven: The Nature and Function of Jewish Law, God Man and History, and Essential Essays on Judaism, by Eliezer Berkovits;
    Halachic Man
    The Lonely Man of Faith, both by Joseph Soloveitchik;
    A Heart of Many Rooms: Celebrating the Many Voices Within Judaism
    A Living Covenant: The Innovative Spirit in Traditional Judaism, both by David Hartman;
    Horeb: A Philosophy of Jewish Laws and Observances, by Shimshon Refael Hirsch
    A Tree of Life: Diversity, Flexibility, and Creativity in Jewish Law, by Louis Jacobs
    A Living Tree: The Roots and Growth of Jewish Law, by Elliot Dorff and Arthur Rosett
    The Unfolding Tradition: Jewish Law After Sinai, by Elliot Dorff
    For The Love of God and People: A Philosophy of Jewish Law, by Elliot Dorff
    The Exegetical Imagination: On Jewish Thought And Theology, by Michael Fishbane

    Heschel gets his own category:

    God In Search Of Man
    Man Is Not Alone
    Heavenly Torah As Refracted Through The Generations
    Man's Quest For God
    The Sabbath
    Moral Grandeur and Spiritual Audacity

    Commentary and Chassidut

    The Language of Truth: The Torah Commentary of the Sfat Emet
    Upright Practices, The Light of the Eyes: The Commentaries of Rabbi Menahem Nahum of Chernobyl, both translated and elucidated by Arthur Green
    Your Word Is Fire: The Hasidic Masters On Contemplative Prayer, Arthur Green and Barry Holtz, eds.
    The Seven Beggars & Other Kabbalistic Tales of Rebbe Nachman of Breslov
    The Lost Princess
    & Other Kabbalistic Tales of Rebbe Nachman of Breslov, both translated and elucidated by Aryeh Kaplan
    A Heart Afire: Stories and Teachings of the Early Hasidic Masters
    Wrapped In A Holy Flame: Teachings and Tales of the Hasidic Masters, both by Zalman Schachter-Shalomi
    God In All Moments: Mystical and Practical Spiritual Wisdom from Hasidic Masters, Or N. Rose and Ebn Leder, eds.
    Four Chassidic Masters, R. Abraham Twerski
    Living Waters: From the Commentary of the Mei ha-Shiloach, Betsalel Edwards (tr.)
    Mipninei Noam Elimelech, by R. Tal Moshe Zwecker
    Kedushat Levi, Eliyahu Munk (tr.)
    The Holy Fire: The Teachings of Rabbi Kalonymus Kalman Shapira, the Rebbe of the Warsaw Ghetto, by Nechemiah Polen
    Sacred Fire: Torah from the Years of Fury (1939-1942), by J. Hershy Worch
    Opening the Tanya
    Learning from the Tanya
    Understanding the Tanya, all by Adin Steinsaltz

    Prayer and Holidays:

    Jewish Holidays, by Michael Strassfeld
    Days of Awe, by S.Y. Agnon
    The Celebrating the Jewish Year series, by Paul Steinberg
    Repentance: The Meaning and Practice of Teshuvah, by Louis E. Newman and Karyn D. Kedar
    A Guide To Jewish Prayer, by Adin Steinsaltz
    Davening: A Guide to Meaningful Jewish Prayer, by Zalman Schachter-Shalomi
    Entering Jewish Prayer
    Entering the High Holidays,
    both by Reuven Hammer
    To Pray As A Jew, by Hayim Halevi Donin
    The Way Into Jewish Prayer, by Lawrence Hoffman
    The Jewish Way: Living the Holidays, by Irving (Yitz) Greenberg
    This Is Real and You Are Completely Unprepared: The Days of Awe as a Journey of Transformation, by Alan Lew
     
  13. Tumah

    Tumah Veteran Member

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    WOW! I haven't even heard of a quarter of those books let alone the authors. You certainly are well read.
     
  14. Levite

    Levite Higher and Higher

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    Thanks!

    Of course, those are modern scholarship or introductory works, not mamash sifrei Kabbalah, most of which haven't been translated-- and I'm not even sure how translatable they are.
     
  15. Tumah

    Tumah Veteran Member

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    You misunderstand me. I was only trying not to make a wall of post. I was referring to the whole entire list! I've maybe heard of four of those authors and probably read only two of the books. It's huge!
     
  16. Levite

    Levite Higher and Higher

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    Oh! Well, thanks.
     
  17. stillwood

    stillwood Member

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    Hello - I am new to Judaism. Ive read the Torah and have done a lot of research. Im interesting in studying the Talmud. Is it best to start with the Mishna, or some place else? I ask because from what Ive read that studying the Talmud is a lifetimes work, so I wasnt sure where to start. Thanks.
     
  18. Levite

    Levite Higher and Higher

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    So, honestly, the best advice I can give you is to try and find a teacher, if you're serious. I can and will recommend books for you, but the truth is that no one can truly learn Talmud on their own.

    Even if one has a tractate of Talmud with a translation containing extensive notes and maximal interpolation, such as the Artscroll Schottenstein edition, it is still an art unto itself to try and follow and become accustomed to the way that the Rabbis think and the way the text flows (or, often, doesn't flow so well). This is all the truer if one has not lived a traditional observant life for a while, and thus one is coming to the text without a sense of how some of the ideas and concepts being talked about have evolved and play out in modern Judaism. You need a teacher. Most Conservative and Orthodox synagogues will offer opportunities to learn Talmud. Most Reform synagogues won't, but it's possible that if you only have a Reform synagogue near you, the rabbi may be willing to teach you. Of course, if you live in a large city with a major Jewish population, you may have other options as well: Jewish colleges or universities that offer Talmud courses, or other kinds of adult education programs at Jewish institutions of one sort or another.

    If, however, you have no synagogues or Jewish institutions near you, you'll just have to do what you can.

    Actually, before beginning to study either Mishnah or Gemara, I'd recommend a couple of introductory books.

    Back to the Sources, by Barry Holtz, is a very good introduction to how Jews read text, and gives many fine examples of source text-- both Biblical and Rabbinic-- to show the process.

    Likewise, The Written and Oral Torah: A Comprehensive Introduction, by Nathan Lopes-Cardozo, is a somewhat more traditional version of the same sort of thing, bringing examples of text from both Biblical and Rabbinic sources, analyzing them and how they are read, and here also trying to create a basic understanding and context of Torah, in the widest sense of the term.

    If you begin by studying Mishnah, read first The Mishnah: An Introduction, by Jacob Neusner, who is arguably the premier academic Mishnah scholar of his generation (though his work is not without its points of contention), and an all-around genius concerning early Rabbinic literature and history.

    It isn't a bad a idea to begin with Mishnah before moving on to Gemara. Your best bet (I am presuming that you have no Hebrew) is the translation of the Mishnah done by Jacob Neusner. It should be easy to find a copy-- it's on Amazon if nothing else-- and it not only is a very readable and accurate translation, but Neusner's notes and accompanying analyses are very good.

    If you start on Talmud by yourself, without a teacher, unfortunately, your best bet is the Artscroll Schottenstein Talmud. Ordinarily, I am not a big fan of this, because their translations have some problematic biases, and they interpolate a great deal into the text based on the way it is understood by various later authorities. Personally, I prefer a "clean" translation, with as little interpolation as possible, so that the reader can see the original text for what it is, consult their own secondary sources, and draw their own conclusions about what the original meaning of the text might have been. A translation that's good for that is the Koren Steinsaltz Talmud; but the problem is that the simpler and closer to the original the translation is, the more difficult it is to understand without a teacher and/or experience. For better or worse, the Schottenstein edition is, if nothing else, about as linear and cohesive as Talmud is ever going to get, and if you're trying to learn solo, that will be indispensible.

    In any case, before starting to learn Talmud, I would look at the following:
    Talmud with Training Wheels: An Absolute Beginner's Guide to Talmud, by Joel Lurie Grishaver
    The Essential Talmud, by Adin Steinsaltz
    The Talmud: What It Is and What It Says, by Jacob Neusner

    Of course, needless to say, if you're really, truly serious about Talmud (and about Judaism in general) you're going to have to learn Hebrew at some point; and again, if you're truly intent on learning Talmud, then you'll have to learn some Aramaic. But you can certainly start with translations, and go far with them-- especially if you have a good teacher.
     
  19. dantech

    dantech Well-Known Member

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    When you say you're new yo Judaism, do you mean you've recently converted? Or is it simply new for you that you are looking into it?
     
  20. RabbiO

    RabbiO הרב יונה בן זכריה

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    Not to speak for another member, but based on his/her other posts on other subforums where he/she has been asking about reading material related to several different spiritual paths, the poster is not Jewish and is simply in exploration mode.
     
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