I currently own the Artscroll books The Rishonim and The Early Acharonim by Rabbi Goldwurm. They have a few features on Rabbonim of the ages that I really appreciate:

  1. Anecdotal information about each Rav
  2. Works and kavanos behind their works
  3. How this Rav relates to other Rabbonim

However, there were no published sefarim on any of:

  • Chazal
  • Geonim
  • Later Acharonim
  • Contemporary (i.e. last 20 years) Acharonim

Does anyone know of any sefarim (print/out-of-print, Hebrew/English) that fill in those gaps I'm looking for?

  • 2
    Check out שם הגדולים by הרחיד״א
    – msh210
    Dec 26, 2018 at 6:08
  • Those “gaps” you inquire about extend for aprox. a millennium and therefore makes for an extremely broad question. Dozens of books have been written both on the eras you refer to and on contemporaneous individuals. I’d suggest asking separate questions for specific individuals or at least narrower time frames.
    – Oliver
    Dec 26, 2018 at 8:08

4 Answers 4


On Chazal there is a series of books by R Binyamin Lau on Jewish sages (from Koren), vol 1 on the Second Temple period, vol 2 on Yavne to Bar Kochba, vol 3 on the Galilean period, vol 4 on the period from the Mishna to the Talmud, vol 5 on the Yeshivot of Babylonia and Israel.

On later and contemporary acharonim, there have been 3 compilations of the biographical sketches originally published in the Jewish Observer: The Torah profile, Torah leaders, Torah luminaries

There are also compilations of biographies of many rabbanim in the same book, more closely related to the two books you cite, but more focused on anecdotes from their lives, e.g., 5 great leaders, 5 great lives, Noble lives, noble deeds (there are 3 volumes).

And there are many individual biographies from artscroll of course, e.g.,

There is also a book more focused on the ideas of great sages called Books of the People: Revisiting Classic Works of Jewish Thought which summarizes the ideas and contributions of great Sages such as Rav Saadia Gaon, R Judah Halevi, the Rambam, the Maharal, R Shneur Zalman of Liadi, R Samson Raphael Hirsch, R Abraham Isaac Kook, R Joseph B. Soloveitchik and many others.

  • R. Lau's fifth volume came out last year, but at the moment is only available in Hebrew ybook.co.il/book/6929/…
    – Joel K
    Dec 26, 2018 at 7:13
  • It is now available in English and I edited the answer to reflect this
    – mbloch
    Dec 5, 2022 at 7:16

I have read a fascinating set of books extremely well researched by artscroll The history of the Jews:

  1. The second temple era
    This goes through from Shimon Hatzadik through the Hasmonean Kings all the way through the Zugos down to Rabbi Yochanan Ben Zakai with lots of historical backround from the Talmud and Josefus.

  2. From Yavneh to Pumpedisa
    This goes through from the exile after the destruction of the second Temple through the Tanaim, Amoraim, Rabbanan Savorai,the Geonim from Bustenai till Rav Hai Gaon with information about the Yeshivas of Sura and Pumpedisa.


If you are looking for English, Legacy of Sinai by Rabbi Zechariah Fendel will address prior to Rishonim. It is published by Hashkafa Publications.

If you can handle the Hebrew, the choices are much broader.

Seder HaDorot HaShalem by Rabbi Yechiel Bar Shlomo Halperin is excellent. It is very comprehensive and its primary focus is Mediterranean including Spain and Europe. Its last year of entry is 5456.

Another excellent reference is Shem HaGadolim by the Chida.

If you are interested in the Baalei Tosafot, an excellent contemporary book is Baalei HaTosafot by Efraim Auerbach.

Ibn Daud’s Sefer HaKabbalah and Rabbi Avraham Zacuto’s Sefer HaYuchasin are also excellent sources.

If your interests are more toward the Jews of the near East, an excellent choice is Comprehensive History of The Jews of Iran by Habib Levy. This is available in either English or Farsi.


Rabbi Aaron Hyman zl. תולדות תנאימ ואמוראים. translit- Toldoth Tannaim veAmoraim

Only available in Hebrew, Public Domain.


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