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RECOMMENDED READING
LAST UPDATE: July 25, 2009

The following is my personal list of recommend books. Most of these are from traditional / Orthodox sources, with a few exceptions. If you are not sure about what to select in any of these sections, please don't hesitate to for assistance or recommendations.


MY TOP 10 BOOKS

Among the many books I've been privileged to read, these stand out as contributing greatly to my understanding of Torah.

In alphabetical order they are:

1. Along the Path - Elliot R. Wolfson
Studies in kabbalistic myth, symbolism and hermeneutics. This book includes important reflections concerning the image of Jacob upon the Throne.

 
2. The Bahir - Translation and commentary by Aryeh Kaplan
The Bahir is one of the three main texts of Torat ha-Sod along with the Zohar and Sefer Yetzirah (see below). Kaplan's commentary is invaluable as this is a very cryptic text.
 
3. Derech Hashem (The Way of God) - Moshe Chaim Luzzatto - translation and commentary by Aryeh Kaplan
The latest version of this book contains updated text and anlysis and is available through Feldheim Publishers at http://www.feldheim.com. Luzatto's insightful analysis of the principles of Torah. (English with Hebrew on opposite pages.) This book is a masterpiece.
 
4.  Gates of Light" (Sha'are Orah) - Rabbi Joseph Gikatilla, translation by Avi Weinstein
Written in 13th century Spain, this book may be considered the lesser-known companion to the Zohar. "Gates of Light provides a systematic and comprehensive explanation of the Names of God and their mystical applications," as they relate to the ten Sefirot.
 
5. Messiah - Who? What? Why? How? Where? When? - Chaim Kramer
Based on the teaching of Rabbi Nachman of Breslov, along with insights from the Bible, Talmud and the Kabbalah, we not only find out more about Mashiach; we also learn how we can participate in this crowning divine revelation - by cultivating Mashiach - qualities in our daily lives and personalities. An excellent resource for understanding the mysterie of Messiah in Judaism.
 
6. Mesillat Yesharim (The Path of the Just) - Moshe Chaim Luzzatto
A guide to rectification of the soul that "weaves the truth of the Torah into the fabric of our minds and souls.
7. The Messiah Texts - Raphael Patai
A extensive collection of Jewish works concerning all subjects related to the Messiah.
 
8. Opening the Tanya Learning From the Tanya, Understanding the Tanya - Adin Steinsaltz
Three book series. Rabbi Steinzaltz's easy to understand exposition of the Tanya, the pre-eminent text is Jewish tikkun of the soul.
9. 7th Heaven - Celebrating Shabbat With Rebbe Nachman of Breslov - Moshe Mykoff
Based on the teachings of Hasidic master Rebbe Nachman of Breslov (1772-1810) and his disciple Reb Noson, the book is divided into five sections: "On the Way In" (preparing for Shabbat and letting go of the week) ; Shabbat Night (ascent into holiness); Shabbat morning (expanding awareness); Shabbat afternoon (wholeness and harmony) and "On the Way Out" (carrying Shabbat holiness into the everyday).
10. The Thirteen Petalled Rose - Adin Steinsaltz
Subtitled, "A discourse on the essence of Jewish existence and belief." Considering the deep topics this book addresses, it is a fairly "easy read" for anyone with minimal understanding of kabblistic terminology. The author is the head of the Israel Institute for Talmudic Publications in Jerusalem. The "Thirteen Petalled Rose" ("shoshana"), is a metaphor for the community of Israel, based on the first paragraph of the Zohar, and Song of Songs 2:2.

OTHER RECOMMENDED TEXTS

I - Torah: Chumash

Ariel Chumash - United Israel Institutes
The first two volumes of this new series is now available. (Consisting of all of Bereshith/Genesis) Commentary includes Rashi and Targum Onkelos (both in English) with analysis of the commentators and their sources. Available through Feldheim Publishers at http://www.feldheim.com.
 
Stone Edition Chumash - Stone Edition Publishers 
This is an excellent way to begin learning Jewish commentary on the Scriptures. The Chumash is made up of the first five books of the Bible, commentary on these books, and related portions from the rest of the Tenakh. This is a great way to follow the weekly Torah reading cycle. This edition generally goes for around $50.00, but is a beautiful book, and a lifetime investment. (Another great source for weekly Torah commentary is www.torah.org.)
 
The Living Torah: A New Translation Based on Traditional Jewish Sources - Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan
Kaplan's translation with notes, maps, illustrations, diagrams, charts and bibliography.

II - Torah/Tenakh: Book Commentaries

EXODUS
 
Kli Yakar: Exodus, Volume 1
In depth commentary on the first four parsha sections of Exodus by the Rabbi Shlomo Efraim ben Aharon (1550-1619) This is the first book in a new series by Targum/Feldheim publishers
DANIEL
Daniel: Shield of the Spirit
- Alshich Tanach Series
Comentaries of Rashi and Rabbi Moshe Alshich (16th century) on the book of Daniel. Available through Feldheim Publishers at http://www.feldheim.com.

ESTHER
The Book of Esther, A Glimpse Behind the Mask- TheCommentary of Rabbi Moshe Alschich on Megillath Esther
A 2-volume set written in the sixteenth century, analyzing the hidden concepts woven within the book of Esther.
 
EZEKIEL
The Book of Yechezkel
- Translation and Commentary by Rav. Dr. Joseph Breuer
English version of an original translation and commentary of the book of Ezekiel. Available through Feldheim Publishers at http://www.feldheim.com.

JOB
Iyov: The Book of Divine Providence
- Translated by L. Friedman
Targum Chaim, a living translation and commentary on the book of Job, with the text as explained by Nachmanides (Ramban). Available through Feldheim Publishers at http://www.feldheim.com.

III - New Testament

The Jewish Roots of Romans - Joseph Shulam
A recent work that goes verse by verse, comparing Paul's words and concepts throughout the text to other Jewish sources, including Talmud and the Qumran scrolls.
 
The Mystery of Romans - Mark D. Nanos
If you buy one book in this section, make it this one. Nanos' commentary "blows the lid off" all previous Romans commentaries. This is a book that made a huge impact on my life, and just about everyone else I know who has read it.
The Dead Sea Scrolls: A New Translation - Wise, Abegg & Cook
Review and commentary of critical texts among the Dead Sea Scrolls.
 
James the Brother of Jesus - Robert Eisenman
Historical insights into the Dead Sea Scrolls and original Messianic community, ("early Christianity" in Eisenman's view).
 
Jew and Gentile in the Ancient World - Louis H. Feldman
This book has good historical information on the relationship between Jews and gentiles, especially in the Roman Empire. A good companion to Nanos' book above.

IV - Topical Studies

ALEPH-BET / GEMMATRIA
The Hebrew Letters: Channels of Creative Consciousness - Rabbi Yitzchak Ginsburgh
Insight into the infinite dimensions hidden beneath the surface of the letters of the Hebrew Aleph-Beit. Order online from http://www.inner-store.org/
 
The Jewish Book of Numbers - Ronald H. Isaacs
Easy reading. Provides some good information on the use of numbers in Scripture.
 
HOLIDAYS / FEAST DAYS
Emanations: In-depth analysis of the Jewish holidays through the prism of rabbinic perspective
- Rabbi Ari Kahn
An awesome collection of topical essays derived from a study of both major and minor holidays.
 
MEDITATION / PRAYER
Living in Divine Space: Kabbalah and Meditation - Rabbi Yitzchak Ginsburgh
A guide to Torah-based meditation built upon the six constant commandments of; belief in the existence of God, negation of belief in other gods, belief that God is One, love of God, fear of God, shielding the mind from negative thoughts.
 
Meditation and the Bible - Aryeh Kaplan
This book is a discussion of the history of meditation and meditative technique in Judaism, including the prophets of the Bible.
 
Meditation and Kabbalah - Aryeh Kaplan
A study on the meditative aspects of Kabbalah and methods of ancient Kabbalists.
 
MESSIAH / MESSIANISM
Messianic Mystics -
Moshe Idel
A unique and thorough analysis of the relationship between messianism and mysticism throughout Jewish history.
MIKVAH
Waters of Eden:
The Mystery of the Mikvah - Aryeh Kaplan
A short book, (yet deep study), on the concept of the Mikvah (ritual immersion) and its connection to the Garden of Eden and other mysteries of Scripture.
SHEMA
The Shema: Spirituality and Law in Judaism - Norman Lamm
The Shema is the central verse of faith in Judaism and holds deep mystical meanings. This book is very helpful in understanding the foundation of Paul's teachings as well as serving as a good primer for deeper mystical studies.
SOUL
The Anatomy of the Soul - Rabbi Yitzchak Ginsburgh
A systematic, structural analysis of the various levels and subdivisions of the soul. Order online from http://www.inner-store.org/
TEMPLE
Secrets of the Future Temple (Mishkney Elyon) - Rabbi Moshe Chaim Luzzatto
An analysis of Ezekiel's Temple and its role between God and creation. Requires a knowledge of kabbalistic terminology and theory.
TZITZITH
Tzitzith: A Thread of Light
- Aryeh Kaplan
A deeper look into the mystery of the commandment of Tzitzith, focusing on mans ability to overcome sin and reach towards God.

V - General Studies / Life Studies

Ahavot Chesed - Chafetz Chaim
A beautiful teaching on "the love of kindness as required by God" as found in Micah 6:8.
Da'ath Tevunoth (The Knowing Heart) - Moshe Chaim Luzzatto
Presented as a "discussion" between the soul and the intellect regarding the 13 Principles of Faith.
The Guide of the Perplexed - Moses Maimonides
The classic work by one of Judaism's most famous teachers. If you want to understand how the "Talmudic mind" works, this is a prime example. (2-volume set)
Shaarei Teshuvah (The Gates of Repentance) - Rabbi Yonah of Gerona
Another classic guide to rectification of the soul
Orshos Tzaddikim (The Ways of the Tzaddikim)
A guide through "28 gates" toward righteous living, first published in 1581.

VI - Kabbalah

The Mystic Quest: An Introduction to Jewish Mysticism - David S. Ariel
An excellent overview of Kabbalah. Recommended as a starting point among the books in this section.
Ramban: Philosopher and Kabbalist - Chayim J. Henoch
One of the few texts concerning the insights of Rabbi Moses ben Nachman (Nachmanides), one of the greatest Jewish minds of all time.
Studies in the Zohar - Yehuda Liebes
The cover notes say it well: "This book offers a new interpretation of the Zohar; analyzing both its theoretical content and its historical context. The author delves into the issues of the messianic elements of the Zohar, the way it was written, and its relationships to Christianity, Gnosticism, and Talmudic literature." If you can find this book, it is a gem.
Zohar - Selections translated and annotated by Mosher Miller
The first volume of this new series of Zohar translation and commentary is now available. Volume I includes commentary on Genesis, from Parshat Bereishit through Parshat Vayera. Order online from http://www.inner-store.org/

VII - Kabbalah: Texts

Sefer Yetzirah: The Book of Creation in Theory and Practice - Aryeh Kaplan
This is considered to be one of the most ancient texts (attributed by some to Abraham himself). It includes very helpful commentary by Aryeh Kaplan. Sefer Yetzirah focuses greatly on the mysteries of creation.
The Zohar - (Soncino Edition on CD-ROM)
The most extensive of the three main texts of Torat ha-Sod. It can be purchased individually, or combined with the Talmud and Midrash Rabbah. The text is presented in English and Hebrew with full search features. Available from www.davka.com]

VIII - Video

The Disputation (DVD or VHS)
This is available from Outreach Judaism, an anti-Missionary group headed by Rabbi Tovia Singer.  I recommend this video for its interesting presentation of the Jewish argument against Christian claims about Jesus. The Disputation is a play set to film that depicts the Barcelona Disputation (debate) that took place in the court of King James of Aragon in 1263, between Rabbi Moses ben Nachman (Nachmanides) and Pablo Christiani, a Jewish convert to Christianity.


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