Top 100 Jewish Books

How does one choose the hundred best Jewish books? How can one even begin to compare books like Exodus (the second book of the Torah), and Exodus (the novel about the creation of the State of Israel by Leon Uris)? To avoid these sorts of problems, I have divided Jewish books into 10 categories and offer 10 important Jewish books in each category. 


1. Tanakh. No need to justify this one.

2. Rashi‘s Commentary on the Bible. He deserves his own space, even though he is included in the following entry.

3. Mikraot Gedolot on the Humash. All the classical commentators in conversation on a single page; what else can you say?

4. Legends of the Jews, written by Louis Ginzberg and typed and edited by Henrietta Szold. Magnum opus of legend and midrash with extensive notes.

5. Jewish Publication Society Torah Commentary. A lot of conversation between the different editors of the different volumes.

6. The Five Books of Moses, translated by Everett Fox.

7. Studies in the Weekly Portion, Nehama Leibowitz.

8. The Beginning of Desire: Reflections on Genesis, Avivah Gottlieb Zornberg. Exciting, original essays on the stories of Genesis.

9. Midrash Tanhuma. Easier to read and more fun than Midrash Rabbah.

10. Pirkei d’Rabbi Eliezer. Edgy narrative midrash with unusual legendary material 

Jewish Law

1. Talmud. Discussion of Jewish law. Argument on the discussion of Jewish law. Commentaries on the arguments. Comments on the commentaries. You get the idea.

2. Mishneh Torah of the Rambam. Maimonides’ way of preventing people from “wasting time” studying Talmud by laying down the law.

3. Shulchan Arukh. A “world Jewry” perspective on Jewish law incorporating both the Sephardic approach of Rabbi Yosef Caro (Safed, 1560’s) and the Ashkenazic comments of Rabbi Moshe Isserles (Poland).

4. A Guide to Jewish Religious Practice, Isaac Klein. An easy to read, detailed, referenced, English language compendium of Jewish law and practice.

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Rabbi Miriam Spitzer is the Judaic Studies Curriculum Coordinator and School Rabbi at the South Area Solomon Schechter Day School in Stoughton, Mass.

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