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 essential 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 native English speaker who also understands quite a bit of Hebrew, since that's what I am. 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.
- Siddur (prayer book) with translation. If you're Ashkenazic but not Chassidic, buy an ArtScroll or Metsudah siddur in "nusach ashkenaz". If you're Chabad Chassidic, buy the Siddur Tehillat Hashem. If you're another type of Chassidic, buy an ArtScroll or Metsudah siddur in "nusach sefard". If you're Sephardic, avoid buying a "nusach sefard" siddur; instead, buy the Orot Sephardic Siddur. If all this confuses you, visit your local Judaica store for help.
- 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. I'm partial to the translation and commentary of R' Samson Raphael Hirsch. If you're fluent in Hebrew, Mikraot Gedolot or Torat Chaim provide a nice collection of commentaries.
- 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
- One of each 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.
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):
- ArtScroll Chumash
- ArtScroll (Nusach Ashkenaz) or Koren Sacks (N. Ashkenaz) if you're Ashkenazi non-Chassidic
- ArtScroll (N. Sefard) or Koren Sacks (N. Sepharad) if you are (non-Chabad) Chassidic
- Orot Sephardic Siddur if you're Sepharadic (What ArtScroll and others call "Nusach Sephard" is not what you want.)
- Tehillat Hashem if you're Chabad
- To Be a Jew by R' Hayyim HaLevy Donin
- Kitzur Shulchan Aruch (any one of several translations)
- Ben Ish Chai instead if you're Sepharadi -- it's been translated
- The Way of God by Rabbi Moshe Chayim Luzzato
- ArtScroll or Metsudah Chumash with Rashi
- A modern book on the laws of Kashrut (e.g. Artscroll's books)
- A modern book on the laws of Shabbat (e.g. 39 Melachos by R' Dovid Ribiat)
I have yet to find a better list than that of the "Crazy Jewish Convert":
Essential Jewish Library
- Siddur, published by ArtScroll
- Siddur, published by Koren
- Chumash, published by ArtScroll
- Tanach (Both JPS and ArtScroll versions)
- Machzor, published by ArtScroll)
- Kitzur Shulchan Aruch, published by ArtScroll
- Rashi on the Chumash, published by ArtScroll
- Book of Our Heritage by Rabbi Eliyahu Kitov
- The Laws of Berachos by Rabbi Binyomin Forst
- The Kosher Kitchen by Rabbi Binyomin Forst
- The 39 Melachos by Rabbi Dovid Ribiat
- The 39 Avoth Melacha of Shabbath by Rabbi Baruch Chait
- The Laws of Yom Tov by Rabbi Simcha B. Cohen
- Halichos Bas Yisroel by Rabbi Yitzchak Yaakov Fuchs
- A Woman's Guide to the Laws of Niddah by Rabbi Binyomin Forst
- Days of Awe: A Treasury of Jewish Wisdom for Reflection, Repentance, and Renewal on the High Holy Days by Rabbi Shmuel Yosef Agnon
- Shemirath Shabbath by Rabbi Yehoshua Neuwirth
- Love Your Neighbor by Rabbi Zelig Pliskin
- Sefer haHinnuch, published by Feldheim
- Sefer Chofetz Chaim, published by Mazal Press
- Everyday Holiness by Alan Morinis
- What Do You Mean, You Can't Eat in My Home? by Azriella Jaffe
- Exodus by Leon Uris
Obviously, this is for someone who is not Hasidic. A Hasidic Jewish library looks a little different, although it includes everything in the above list.
Essential Jewish Library (Chabad)
The essential Jewish library for Chabad Hasidim consists of basically everything from the above list, with some slight changes and additions.
- Siddur, published by Kehot
- Machzor, published by Kehot (Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur)
- Likkutei Amarim Tanya
- Rebbe: The Life and Teachings of Menachem M. Schneerson, the Most Influential Rabbi in Modern History by Joseph Telushkin
- Chumash (Gutnick and Kehot versions)
- Shulchan Aruch HaRav (Vol. 1, Vol. 2, Vol. 3, Vol. 4, Vol. 5, Vol. 10, Vol. 12)
- Sefer HaMinhagim
- Daily Wisdom - Inspiring Insights on the Torah Portion from the Lubavitcher Rebbe by Rabbi Moshe Wisnefsky
- Hayom Yom
My Own Additions to Both Lists
I was listening to a Yeshivah University lecture in which the speaker said that according to Abarbanel the only two books that a religious Jew needs to own is a Tanakh, and Chovoth haLevavoth
One of Chabad's ten mitzvah campaigns is Bayis Molei Seforim (relating to the mitzvah to have a collection of Jewish holy books at home). Their official recommendation for the "basic" books to have is as follows:
- a Chumash
- a Tehillim
- a Siddur (I would add: weekday and Shabbos siddurim, plus mahzorim if possible)
- a Tanach
- a Talmud
- a Zohar
- a Mishneh Torah
- a Kitzur Shulchan Aruch
- a Tanya
...The Wikipedia article suggests that the most important of these are a Chumash, a Tehillim, and a siddur.
Of these recommendations, I question only the inclusion of the Zohar and the Tanya. As for the Zohar--I'm not really sure if you are supposed to own it, but most people are not supposed to study it, and possibly not read it either. Tanya is a book that is highly valued by Chabad (and a few others), but I would not consider it an absolutely central text in Judaism.