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I'd like to start learning nevi'im acharonim, I.e. y'shaya onwards, properly. However, I don't have a particularly large amount of time to dedicate to this and I am wary of becoming bogged down.

Does anyone have any advice for which navi to learn? Please consider importance and ease amongst other considerations in your answer.

I am also open to learning specific parts that are particularly important or relevant. (From what I remember there are significant parts that are complicated metaphoric rebukes and prophecies about other ancient middle eastern societies - I have to admit that I'm not too interested in those.)

UPDATE: Properly means that I will not just read the text itself and metzudos to give me a bit of explanation. I plan on trying to think about it myself as well as looking at some rishonim, most probably radak. Again, I am willing to receive advice as to what it will take to get a decent understanding of what is going on.

  • I suggest you define what you mean by "properly". It sounds like you want to learn - only some of the nevi'im (which navi to learn), and -only some parts of the novi (learning specific parts). Do you want to learn with one or more commentaries? in Hebrew or English? A useful resource is Chabad's Tanach with English translation and Rashi translated into English. See for example here. – Avrohom Yitzchok Jul 31 '17 at 11:14
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    The Malbim is really good and helpful! Rashi on nach is not as crucial as for Chumash or Gemara, he doesn't really give you the big picture – Heshy Jul 31 '17 at 11:18
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    Having a good handle on the chronology in Melakhim can be helpful for context. – Double AA Jul 31 '17 at 14:39
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Your question is a good one although in terms of site guidelines, it may get a recommendation for closure because the answer will be mostly opinion.

Resist the idea that you don't have enough time. Like with all types of Torah study, regular, fixed study, no matter how small or large, is the more important goal. Adding Navi to your seder should not diminish from whatever your current studies are.

In terms of order, follow what Chazal have set up for you, meaning the order as the books appear in Tanach. The oldest authoritative Tanachs which we have access to are the Leningrad Codex which was written in the 11th century CE and the Keter Aram Tzovah, also known as the Aleppo Codex which was written in the 10th century CE. Rambam, along with many others, acknowledged the accuracy of the Aleppo Codex. They both list the order of the later prophets as Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and the twelve minor prophets. This is also the order followed by Rabbi Don Yitzchok Abarbanel in his commentary to the later prophets.

There may be some question about this because the Tur in Yoreh Deah 283:5, and Shulchan Aruch 283:7 citing the beraita in Bava Bathra 14b place Isaiah after Jeremiah and Ezekiel. But Aruch HaShulchan 283:14 acknowledges that the order cited in Bava Bathra was not followed after their day. The order was set with Isaiah first.

It is possible that the order from Bava Bathra is only relevant when the Tanach is bound in a scroll, like a Sefer Torah. This would relate to the view of the Rema cited in Aruch HaShulchan 283:6.

But this doesn't answer the reasoning for the order found in these two early, authoritative sources from expert Soferim. To this one can look to the Tur, Yoreh Deah 275:11 which quotes Rambam saying there are many things that are required for sifrei kodesh which are not recorded in the Talmud but are the minhag of the Soferim passed down among them only orally.

It is suggested that the reasoning of the Soferim is based upon how the content of each of the later prophets is described in Bava Bathra, that Jeremiah is about the destruction of the Temple, Ezekiel is a mixture of the destruction and the salvation, while Isaiah, the prophet of the redemption, is about salvation only, the geulah.

The order used by the Aleppo and Leningrad Codexes, which is how most printed Tanachs are ordered, is based upon the teaching of Raba and Reish Lakish found in Megillah 13b. That G-d does not smite Israel before first creating the remedy. The remedy, the prophecy of salvation, comes first. And this principle also follows the teaching of Rashi to Esther 3:1 and parshat V'Etchanan 6:25 as well as Rabbi Chaim bar Avraham HaKohen of Aram Tzovah in his commentary Torat Chacham 311b on Esther 2:23 and the teaching of the Lubavitcher Rebbe in Torat Menachem Hitva'adiyut, vol. 47, pg. 244.

In terms of commentaries, Rashi, Targum and Radak are a solid foundation. If you have them, Arbarbanel and Malbim are worth including, but it is extra. Again, try to make it a fixed study with additions when you are so motivated and circumstances permit.

Try to keep in mind that the Navi'im chosen for the Tanach were selected from all those that were known because their prophecies applied to each and every generation. That means that there is a flexible/adaptive dimension to Navi in addition to the "correct" fixed intention.

Another very important thing to keep in mind is that the language of the Prophets is largely allegorical/allusion/hints. It is possible that some of the language can be taken litererally, but that is more the exception than the rule. And like with all Torah study, the primary idea for each individual is that it lead to action. המעשה הוא העיקר. So ones personal study of Navi is intended to refine and improve their performance of the mitzvot and their service to HaShem.

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    Chazal set up a different order from how they appear in an average Tanach, so I don't know what order you are recommending (or why). Please edit to clarify. – Double AA Jul 31 '17 at 14:26
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The book of Jeremiah ties in very closely to — even, I would say, is part of — the story of the destruction of the first Temple, with which you may already be familiar. Unlike Isaiah and some of the Twelve, it's written mostly without flowery language or difficult-to-comprehend turns of phrase. And, if I recall correctly, it uses less metaphor than Isaiah or Ezekiel, though it does have prophecies about non-Jewish nations.

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From personal experience I would recommend picking a book and going through it several times without any commentary just to know the basic content. The best way I have found to do this is to start with an audio shiur (I recommend yutorah and hatanakh.com) this way you can have a basic grasp of the material first and then go through the text with a single commentary so that you can grasp that commentator's approach. In terms of which commentary if you are looking for a conceptual understanding which generally tries to outline themes I would recommend Malbim.

Regarding which Navi to learn you mention Yeshaya - I think that's the best one to start with as there is a lot of very fundamental material there.

  • "going through it several times without any commentary just to know the basic content" - yes, I've found this to be very valuable too! To add a couple of data points: Tanach is called מקרא, and (don't remember the source) it counts as Talmud Torah even if you don't understand what you're reading. This indicates that part of the way we're supposed to interact with Tanach is just to read it. That's not the whole story, but I'm trying to make it the starting point for my learning. I just sit down with a Tanach and lein the whole sefer from start to finish. In one sitting if I can, ... – Heshy May 29 '18 at 14:41
  • ...which is not that practical. The only ones I've done so far are Yehoshua and Shoftim, which each take 2 hours and several glass of water. When I get to Shmuel I'll try to allot 5 hours, which is what it should take by the ratio of pesukim, but I'll probably have to divide it up. – Heshy May 29 '18 at 14:42

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