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What Jewish Religious books should one consider when starting a Jewish Library in their home? A set of Shas (Talmud)and the Shulchan Orech (Code of Jewish Law) are the obvious ones, What else should be considered essentail for the jewish home?

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I'm sure I'll miss some important things, but here's a list of what I'd consider essential (or at least very useful). I'm going to write for the English speaker, since that's what I'm used to. I'm community-wikifying this answer, so anyone with 100 reputation points can edit it. I'm going to type this out without links at first and come back in and linkify it later. Others are welcome to help with the linkifying.


  • Torah (Five books of Moses) with Rashi's commentary and translation of both the text and commentary. Torah is our central text. Rashi is the universally-acknowledged dean of commentators. We're required to study the weekly portion with commentary, and this would facilitate that.
  • Other commentaries on the Torah for added variety or depth of study. Mikraot Gedolot or Torat Chaim provide a nice collection of commentaries. I'm partial to the translation and commentary of R' S. R. Hirsch.
  • Tanach with translation for reference.
  • Tanach with commentary (either collection of primary commentaries, such as Mikraot Gedolot or an English commentary) for study.
  • Mishnah with standard commentaries or Kehati
  • Talmud
  • All of these dictionaries:
    • Modern Hebrew - Helpful with Tanach, Mishna, Hebrew commentaries, and Rabbinic literature
    • Jastrow on Aramaic - Comprehensive coverage of pretty much any word you'll see in the Talmud and in Aramaic commentaries
    • "Practical Talmud Dictionary" - Very helpful with understanding Talmud phrases in context
    • Dictionary of acronyms / "Otzar Rashei Teivot" - Talmud commentaries, and Rabbinic literature are full of acronyms that can be frustrating if you don't have a reference handy. There are many brands; in my experience, any is fine.
  • Distillation of Halacha to look up what the issues are (but not necessarily to tell you what to do in every case). At least one of the following, some or all of which can be had with English translation:
    • Mishna Berura (for Orach Chayim) and Chochmas Adam (for Yore Dea)
    • Kitzur Shulchan Aruch
    • Aruch Hashulchan
    • Shulchan Aruch Harav (if you're Chabad)
    • Yalkut Yosef (if you're Sepharadi)
    • Ben Ish Chai (if you're Sepharadi)
  • Rambam's Yad Hachazaka - Whichever edition[s] suit your learning style and level, e.g.:
    • With traditional commentaries
    • "Rambam La'am"
    • With English translation
  • At least one thing not on this list, chosen based on your interests or desire for expansion on something in this list. I think it's essential to have books in your library that you chose, to increase your personal connection to the library and to learning, and to make learning more enjoyable and therefore more likely to be frequent.


  • Some Hashkafah Sefarim

    • Chovot Halevavot
    • Likutei Amarim (Tanya)
    • Mesilat Yesharim
    • Nineteen Letters (or Chorev by R' Hirsch)
  • Add stuff here.

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I would add one of my favorites, Shemirat Shabbat Kehilchotoh –  Ken Mar 5 '10 at 21:18
Chanoch, welcome to mi.yodeya, and thanks very much for the additions! I look forward to seeing you around the site. –  Isaac Moses Mar 16 '10 at 4:42
I would add Sefer haChinuch, Pirkei Avot with commentary (Reb Bunim highly recommended), and for those particularly interested in Tanakh, a Concordance. –  Jeremy Mar 16 '10 at 14:28
Mussar/Machshava/Hashkafa- Orhot Saddiqim, Shaare Teshuba, Messilat Yesharim, Derech Hashem, Reshit Hochma, Ali Shur, Michtab MeEliyahu, Nefesh HaHaim, Shaare Qeudasha. –  Hacham Gabriel Nov 27 '11 at 1:12
Is Tanya really for a starter? –  Hacham Gabriel Jun 21 '12 at 2:08

If you're just starting a Jewish library, and don't have a good idea already about what you need, then you probably weren't raised with enough Jewish background to fully sort out the list above. (And may not have such a good command of Hebrew.) In that case, a reasonable list would include (in approximate order):

  1. ArtScroll Chumash
  2. Siddur
  3. To Be a Jew by R' Hayyim HaLevy Donin
  4. Kitzur Shulchan Aruch (any one of several translations)
    • Ben Ish Chai instead if you're Sepharadi -- it's been translated
  5. The Way of God by Rabbi Moshe Chayim Luzzato
  6. ArtScroll or Metsudah Chumash with Rashi
  7. A modern book on the laws of Kashrut (e.g. Artscroll's books)
  8. A modern book on the laws of Shabbat (e.g. 39 Melachos by R' Dovid Ribiat)
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