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:
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
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.
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.
The Messiah Texts - Raphael Patai
- A extensive collection of Jewish works concerning all subjects related to the Messiah.
Opening the Tanya Learning From the Tanya, Understanding the Tanya -
- Three book series. Rabbi Steinzaltz's easy to understand exposition of the Tanya, the
pre-eminent text is Jewish tikkun of the soul.
7th Heaven - Celebrating Shabbat With Rebbe Nachman of Breslov -
- 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).
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
- 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
- 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
- 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
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.
- 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.
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.
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
- 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
- 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
- MEDITATION / PRAYER
- Living in Divine Space: Kabbalah and Meditation - Rabbi Yitzchak
- 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.
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.
- 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.
- The Anatomy of the Soul - Rabbi
- A systematic, structural analysis of the various levels and subdivisions of the soul.
Order online from http://www.inner-store.org/
- Secrets of the Future Temple (Mishkney Elyon) - Rabbi Moshe Chaim
- An analysis of Ezekiel's Temple and its role between God and creation. Requires a
knowledge of kabbalistic terminology and theory.
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
- 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 -
- 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 -
- 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
- 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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