I'm looking for a list of some of the Seforim written by Rishonim that are in the category of either Mussar, Machshava, or Avodah (or anything else that fit into these categories.) For this question please leave out philosophical works (ones that are "entirely" philosophical in nature. If however they contain in it philosophical ideas but still fit into the above mentioned categories that would also be okay.)

Two examples that came to mind, Sharei Teshuva and Chovos HaLavavos. However I'm sure there are many more and therefore whatever partial or complete list could be given as an answer to this would be appreciated.

  • What do you mean by "or anything else that fit into these categories"? Do you mean anything else (i.e. things not by rishonim) that fit into the categories of musar, machashava, and avoda (like M'silas Y'sharim)?
    – msh210
    Commented Nov 28, 2012 at 2:07
  • @msh210 I meant "sub-categories" or things that maybe speak about other subjects as well not just these. I'll try and update the question. I'm looking only from Rishonim.
    – Yehoshua
    Commented Nov 28, 2012 at 6:27

5 Answers 5


The following is from an old project of mine. It is in rough chronological order, so I cut it off by the 15th century, but some Acharonim still managed to squeeze in. :)

Classic Mussar Seforim

The following is a select list of major works of mussar:

Mishlei (Proverbs) – Shelomo HaMelech (King Solomon). The book of Mishlei is probably the first work devoted entirely to mussar. As such, it provides much of the material that is utilized in all later works of mussar. Because the book of Mishlei is a mussar work, all the commentaries on it are also effectively works of mussar as well. In addition to the standard Biblical commentaries, there are several commentaries written specifically on Mishlei. Many of these are studied as mussar works in their right. Among these are:

  • Pirush Rabbeinu Yonah – Rabbeinu Yonah of Gerona (c.1180-1263)
  • Pirush HaGra – Rav Eliyahu of Vilna (the Vilna Gaon) (1720-1797)

Pirkei Avos – Talmud. Probably the most widely studied tractate of the Talmud. In addition to all the standard commentaries on the Mishna (such as the Rambam, Bartenura, and Tosefos Yom Tov), Pirkei Avos has been the subject of innumerable special commentaries. Many of these are considered classics in their own right. Among these are:

  • Pirush Rabbeinu Yonah – Rabbeinu Yonah of Gerona (c.1180-1263)

  • HaChasid Ya’avetz – Rav Yosef Ya’avetz (d. 1507). Rav Yosef Yaavetz also wrote a commentary on book of Tehillim (Psalms), and several books on Jewish belief.

  • Nachalas Avos – Rav Don Yitzchak Abarbanel (1437-1508)

  • Medrash Shmuel – Rav Shmuel di Uzeda (1538-1602). One of the most comprehensive commentaries on Pirkei Avos, the Medrash Shmuel is both a collection of earlier commentaries and an original commentary. Rav Shmuel di Uzeda was a disciple of the Arizal and Rav Chaim Vital. He also wrote commentaries on Megillas Rus and Megillas Eicha.

  • Ruach Chaim – Rav Chaim of Volozhin (1749-1821).

Avos D’Rebbi Noson, a Talmudic work which expands upon the themes of Pirkei Avos.

Chovos HaLevovos – Rabbeinu Bachya ibn Paquda (Early 11th Century). Arguably the most important mussar work of all time, the Chovos HaLevovos is divided into ten Shearim (“Gates”). In each section, Rabbeinu Bachya precisely defines each concept and the principles related to it. These ten sections are:

  1. Shaar HaYichud (“Gate of Unity”) – a philosophical discourse on the importance of proving to oneself that God exists, and the proper means by which to achieve this.

  2. Shaar HaBechina (“Gate of Discernment”) – on perceiving God’s wisdom and control in the world around us.

  3. Shaar Avodas HaElokim (“Gate of the Service of God”) – on our obligation to serve God.

  4. Shaar HaBitachon (“Gate of Trust”) – on our obligation to trust God.

  5. Shaar Yichud HaMaaseh (“Gate of Unity of Action”) – on the principle of devoting all one’s actions only to the service of God, and how to achieve this.

  6. Shaar HaKeniah (“Gate of Humility”) – on the principle of humility.

  7. Shaar HaTeshuva (“Gate of Repentance”) – on repentance.

  8. Shaar Cheshbon HaNefesh (“Gate of Self-Accounting”) – on the importance of introspection and self-examination and the proper ways to do this.

  9. Shaar HaPrishus (“Gate of Abstinence”) – on the value of separating oneself from physical and worldly pleasures, and the proper way to do so.

  10. Shaar Ahavas HaShem (“Gate of Love of God”) – on loving God.

Sefer HaYashar – Ascribed to Rabbeinu Tam – Rav Yaakov ben Meir (1100-1171). A philosophical mussar work.

Sefer Chasidim – Rabbeinu Yehuda HaChasid (c.1150-1217). A very influential mussar work with substantial kabalistic input.

Shaarei Teshuva – Rabbeinu Yonah of Gerona (c.1180-1263). One of the most important and influential mussar works, the Shaarei Teshuva is considered the basic work on teshuva (repentance).

Igeres HaRamban – Rav Moshe ben Nachman (Ramban) (1195-1270). An extremely brief letter – only two or three pages long – the Igeres HaRamban was written by the Ramban to his son. Despite its brevity, this letter is considered a major mussar classic.

Orchos Tzadikkim – Anonymous (c.13th Century). An extremely popular work, the Orchos Tzadikkim is divided into twenty-eight Shearim.

Orchos Chaim L’Ha’Rosh - Rabbeinu Asher ben Yechiel (Rosh) (c.1250-1327). A very brief work consisting of admonishments to proper behavior and observance. Traditionally divided into seven sections for daily study.

Maalos HaMiddos – Rabbeinu Yechiel (13th Century) – A classic work of mussar that discusses in depth twenty-four middos and their opposites:

• Knowing God

• Loving God & One’s Fellow

• Fear of God & Parents

• Torah Study & the Fulfilment of the Mitzvos

• Kindness

• Charity

• Prayer

• Humility vs. Pride

• Modesty vs. Immorality

• Shame vs. Arrogance

• Faithfulness vs. Theft

• Honesty vs. Deceitfulness

• Compassion vs. Cruelty

• Amicability vs. Anger

• “A Good Name”

• Yetzer Tov vs. Yetzer Hara

• Teshuva (Repentance)

• Wisdom vs. Foolishness

• Wealth

• Diligence vs. Laziness

• Easily Satisfied vs. Gluttony

• Generosity vs. Stinginess

• Derech Eretz

• Peace vs. Contention & Gossip

Menoras HaMe’or – Rav Yitzchak Aboav (c.14th Century). An extremely popular work, the Menoras HaMe’or was translated into numerous languages including Spanish/Ladino, Yiddish, German, and, most recently, English. Much of the Menoras HaMe’or is made up of extensive selections from the Talmud and Midrashim with commentary by the author.

  • Best answer yet! Thank you! I'm choosing this as the correct answer. If you ever have any updates or additions please still add.
    – Yehoshua
    Commented Dec 12, 2012 at 6:28
  • @Yehoshua Sure thing!
    – LazerA
    Commented Dec 12, 2012 at 6:38
  • BTW, this is exactly the answer I was looking for. Not simply one recommendation of a Sefer per post.
    – Yehoshua
    Commented Dec 12, 2012 at 11:58
  • What about Bet Elohim (HaMabit)? Kad HaKemach (Rabenu Bahyha)? Commented Dec 13, 2012 at 18:59
  • The Mabit is after the 15th century cut-off date I used for this post. Plus, I think the Beis Elokim is more of a hashkafa/philosophy book than a mussar sefer, so, in the larger document from which the material in this post was taken, I have it in the section of philosophical works. Kad HaKemach probably should be included (though it could also be considered more haskafic than mussar). However, the OP's request was broader than just mussar anyways. When I have time I will add it.
    – LazerA
    Commented Dec 13, 2012 at 19:05

You can try Orchot Chayim (link) written by Rosh.

  • That might as well have been added to my list of examples since I really couldn't think of anything else (which is exactly why I was asking. This did come to mind as well just couldn't remember the name of the Sefer itself.)
    – Yehoshua
    Commented Nov 27, 2012 at 23:02
  • 1
    @Yehoshua Isn't something that could've been added to your examples an ideal answer? It makes it a perfect match for what you sought.
    – Double AA
    Commented Nov 28, 2012 at 5:16
  • There's also "Sefer Hamaspik L'Ovdei Hashem" by R' Avraham ben HaRambam. (Didn't want to edit your answer, but feel free to add it in or make a CW or something.)
    – jake
    Commented Nov 28, 2012 at 17:06
  • Oh, and some of the Ramban's writings may fit the bill, particularly Shaar HaGmul and Iggeres HaMussar.
    – jake
    Commented Nov 28, 2012 at 17:12

Sefer Chasidim, by Rabbi Yehudah HaChasid.


You might include the commentary of Rabeinu Yona to Pirkei Avos.


This list from Hebrew Wiki includes many choices.

  • Link needs to be fixed (it seems...)
    – Yehoshua
    Commented Nov 27, 2012 at 20:23
  • @Yehoshua fixed
    – Isaac Moses
    Commented Nov 27, 2012 at 20:25
  • Thanks. I could not figure out how to do it. Commented Nov 27, 2012 at 20:31
  • Not exactly the type of list I'm looking for
    – Yehoshua
    Commented Nov 27, 2012 at 20:41

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