Sephardi B.T.

As my hunger grew I was pretty much ordering anything mentioned in a shiur or that caught my attention, if I could find it in English. Long story short, I've come to understand halachically that you are not allowed to forsake your heritage. That's when I frowned at my beloved Artscroll Kitzur Shulchan Aruch (which from my understanding being more Ashkenaz as most Mesorah Publications are) to then crack open the more abbreviated Sephardic Kitzur Shulchan Aruch.

So along with any book that says "Sephardic" from cookbooks to poetry, including my apparently not so Sephardic Artscroll Siddur, I'm really curious what I should have in my personal library?

Seemed relevant to the question: Yalkut Yosef or Mishneh Torah for a Sephardic Jew?

More general answer, but not specialized to Sephardim What are the essential books which every religious Jew should own?

  • Indeed Artscroll is heavily ashkenazi-biased, at one point they started to publish more sefardic publications (e.g., Daily Halacha, Sephardic Hagada) but then stopped.
    – mbloch
    Commented Dec 15, 2015 at 7:03
  • Can you help us understand for what purpose you want to build a library? Is it for parashah study, looking up Halakhah LeMa'aseh, Mussar study...?
    – Lee
    Commented Dec 15, 2015 at 8:24
  • @Lee Touche'. My primary interest are halacha and mussar at this point. Second is parasha study. Third is Mysticism. Biographies are of interest as I do own a copy of R' Ovadia Yosef, ztl. In passing Ive picked up books related to women (in my family) for their learning.
    – Re'eh
    Commented Dec 15, 2015 at 13:11
  • @Re'eh Are you interested in Halakhah LeMa'aseh (e.g. "What does Rav X say in case Y?") or in digging deep into the works of Sepharadi poseqim for Limmud Be'Iyun? There are two predominant shittot in the Sepharadi world today: Hakham 'Ovadiah A"H and Hakham Mordekha'i Eliyahu A"H. That's why I ask.
    – Lee
    Commented Dec 15, 2015 at 13:13
  • 1
    Re'eh, I would advise a Hebrew dictionary and a Jastrow. While my Aramaic in particular is poor I typically learn Sha"s in the original and I also like to learn in Hebrew, as it reinforces my grasp of the language. Commented Dec 16, 2015 at 2:22

3 Answers 3


You've indicated interest in 1) limmud Halakhah be'iyun (i.e. in-depth Halakhah study), 2) mussar (i.e. character development), 3) parashah study, 4) mysticism and 5) biographies (in that order, unless I'm mistaken). As such, I personally recommend the following books 1, 2:

Halakhah (chronological):

  1. Mishneh Torah (HaRaMBa"M)
  2. Shulḥan 'Arukh (Maran HaRav Yosef Qaro)
  3. Ben Ish Ḥa'i (HaRav Yosef Ḥayim MiBaghdad)
  4. Kaf HaḤayim (HaRav Ya'aqov Ḥayim Sofer)
  5. Mishnah Berurah3 (HaRav Yisra'el Me'ir HaKohen MiRadin)
  6. Qiẓur Shulḥan 'Arukh 'im pisqe'i HaRav Mordekha'i Eliyahu
  7. Ḥazon 'Ovadiah (HaRav 'Ovadiah Yosef)
  8. Yalqut Yosef (HaRav Yizhaq Yosef)
  9. Qiẓur Shulḥan 'Arukh - Yalqut Yosef (HaRav Yizhaq Yosef)


  1. Sha'are'i Teshuvah (Rabbe'inu Yonah MiGerondi)
  2. Mesillat Yesharim (HaRaMḤa"L)
  3. Ḥovot HaLevavot (Rabbe'inu Baḥya Ibn Paquda)
  4. Derekh HaShem (HaRaMḤa"L)

Parashah Study:

  1. Miqra'ot Gedolot (including at least RaSh"I, Siftei Ḥakhamim, Ba'al HaTurim, HaRaMBa"N, Ibn 'Ezra, Or HaḤayim and Seforno)


  1. For starters, I think Ben Ish Ha'i and Derekh HaShem will get you a long way.


  1. Maran; The Life & Scholarship of Hacham Ovadia Yosef (Yehuda Azoulay)
  2. All For The Boss (Ruchoma Shain)

1. I highly recommend for you to talk to your personal Rav first to see what reading material he suggests at your individual level of teshuvah.

2. Also being a Ba'al Teshuvah adhering to the Sepharadi tradition, I've underlined the books I own or hope to acquire in the near future.

3. Despite traditionally being considered an Ashkenazi poseq, IMHO all Jews today have much to glean as regards Halakhah LeMa'aseh (i.e. practical Halakhah) from his clarifications and explanations even if Sepharadim do not traditionally accept his pesaq as the final conclusion. For example, Yalqut Yosef often cites the Mishnah Berurah.

  • 1
    It should be noted that far fewer books of Sepharadi origin have been translated into English. Break your teeth on some Hebrew text. You'll thank me for it. Finally, GOOD LUCK!
    – Lee
    Commented Dec 15, 2015 at 14:38
  • 1
    How/why does "All For The Boss" fit into a Sephardic library?
    – Oliver
    Commented Oct 20, 2017 at 1:52
  • @Oliver I think you only truly meant to ask "why". It happened to be a book I was reading at the time, and one I think all Jews can learn from.
    – Lee
    Commented Oct 22, 2017 at 7:13
  • That's nice but books that "all Jews can learn from" can be said about an endless amount of titles; OP asked specifically for Sephardic.
    – Oliver
    Commented Oct 22, 2017 at 11:16
  • @Oliver Indeed, the question's title asks "what [...] a Sephardic library [consists] of". Within the question, the OP also asked "what [he] should have in [his] personal library". Did he explicitly/implicitly say anywhere that a correct answer should utterly exclude all non-Sepharadi literature? Unless the OP can clarify otherwise, I think we can infer that his acceptance of my answer proves otherwise (i.e. that he did not intend to utterly exclude all non-Sepharadi literature).
    – Lee
    Commented Oct 22, 2017 at 11:25

Lee's list is very comprehensive, and so i would consider my answer an addition to his.

Speaking as a Sephardi Ba'al Teshuva myself, i have found a few things out that are rather annoying.

  1. That most Sephardic things are not translated into English, and it doesn't look like that will be changing anytime soon. And even the things that are translated into English are often translated by Ashkenazim. The Guide to Serving God by Abraham ben haRaMbaM was most recently translated by an Ashkenazi scholar, so you will see things like "Shabbos." The same thing with the new translations of Chovoth haLevavoth

  2. That many of the talks about Sephardim come from an Ashkenazic perspective, or are given by Ashkenazified Sephardim. You ask an Ashkenazi Rabbi why Sephardim do things differently and a pretty common response will be "they didn't have modern technology where they came from, or they weren't trained in science, and so they mistakingly do what they do."

So for your library i would start with a few books that would get you familiar with the development of Sephardi halakha, so you can understand where a lot of the differences stem from.

A good English book on this is:

Rabbinic Creativity in the Modern Middle East by Zvi Zohar http://www.amazon.com/Rabbinic-Creativity-Modern-Middle-Library/dp/1441133291

This book is ideal since details the gamut of Sephardim in their native countries, how they made halakhic rulings, and their philosopical outlooks.

And since you are interested in Sephardi halakhic rulings, there is a new book series in development called

Mishnah Berurah Tiferet

You can read about it here: http://yeranenyaakov.blogspot.com/2014/02/mishnah-berurah-tiferet.html

My last recommendation is a book series called the Keter Shem Tob by dayyan Shemtob Gaguine, which is a compendium of all the Sephardic customs spanning the entire Middle East and the Western Sephardic communities of London and Amsterdam. This series doesn't get a lot of attention but is truly a great addition for any Sephardic Library. You can find more information about it here: http://www.ketershemtob.com/


One of the most important things that distinguishes a Sephardi Jew from his Ashkenazi brothers is the siddur from which he prays. There are many fine Nusach Edot HaMizrach siddurim out there, mainly in Hebrew but some in English as well.

It is important and crucial to note that siddurim marked "Sefard" (as in the case of ArtScroll) are not Sephardi at all but actually Hasidic. Early Ashkenazi printers labeled siddurim used by Hasidim as "Sefard", because the nusach blended the nusach of the Arizal with the traditional Nusach Ashkenaz, giving the siddurim a Sephardi-taste. Further reading: 1, 2.

So shop around and find a siddur you like; just make sure to look for "Nusach Edot HaMizrach" and not "Sefard." As I said before, there are many fine siddurim; so many in Hebrew but some in Hebrew-English like Orot siddurim.

I am not a Sephardi, but I think it's very important that Sephardim keep their nusach which is why I have added this answer among the other ones. I personally would recommend the Koren-Sacks siddur, or the Siddur Avodat HaShalem or the Siddur HaShalem Hodayah, all three favorites among Sephardim I have known.

I know I am a bit late as this question is two years old, but good luck in your journey. Our Sages of blessed memory teach us that a baal teshuvah is a very righteous and special person.


You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .