Torah books which we recommend.
Not listed in order of preference.
Rabbi Jill Hammer
The Jewish Book of Days
The Jewish Publication Society 2006
I love this book and refer to it often. There is a commentary by Rabbi Jill for every day of the Jewish year. Also included are quotes from Tanach, Talmud, Midrash, Zohar, and modern sources. This book really is a ” companion for all seasons”, and the days are organized in chapters titled by the year cycle of a tree such as seed, root, branch, sap,
bud, leaf, flower and fruit.
Sisters at Sinai
The Jewish Publication Society 2004
This book contains some of the most creative modern midrashim I have read about women in the Tanach. The commentaries that Rabbi Jill provides as a background to these stories are fascinating to me as well.
Rabbi Shefa Gold
Torah Journeys:The Inner Path to the Promised Land
Ben Yehuda Press 2006
You may not believe it, but I prefer to read Torah commentary by sitting down with a book. This book follows a similar format to Reb Shefa’s website (see the Website resource list). I know that I can always find deeply meaningful commentaries on the Torah as
an inner path to spiritual growth. The blessings, challenges, and guidelines for practice are given as ways to develop a stronger connection to God.
In the Fever of Love
Ben Yehuda Press 2009
We can also recommend Rabbi Shefa’s innovative rendering of the Song of Songs
as a “Path of Love”.
Rabbi Lawrence Kushner and David Mamet
Five Cities of Refuge: Weekly Reflections of Genesis, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy
Schocken Books 2003
I especially appreciate Rabbi Lawrence Kushner’s brief but incompassing reflections on each parsha. I often feel carried along to the final “a ha ” where it all comes together.
Rabbi Alan Lew z”l
This is Real and You are Completely Unprepared: The Days of Awe as a Journey of Transformation
Little, Brown,and Company 2003
This book is a wonderful guide to the time from Tisha B’Av through Sukkot. Rabbi Alan Lew reflects about the soul’s journey of “self discovery”, spiritual disapline, self-forgiveness, and spiritual evolution”. There is commentary on the parshiot of the season as well as the spiritual work of each holiday. This book really does feel like a journey and is highly recommended.
The Women’s Torah Commentary: New insights from Women Rabbis on the 54 Weekly Torah Portions, edited by Rabbi Elyse Goldstein
Jewish Lights Publishing 2004
The Women’s Haftarah Commentary: New Insights from Women Rabbis on the 54 Weekly Haftarah Portions, the 5 Megillot & Special Shabbatot, edited by Rabbi Elyse Goldstein
Jewish Lights Publications 2004
These books have an assortment of commentaries on the Parshiot and the Haftarah by women rabbis from the Conservative, Reform, and Reconstruction movements. Many are written from a feminist perspective. As a bonus, the Women’s Haftarah commentary contains the Haftarah read for specific holidays, the 5 Megillot such as Esther and Ruth, and commentaries about biblical women from the Tanach. Included are heroines such
Huldah, the prophetess and the Woman of Valor, and also the more notorious women such as Delilah and the Witch of Endor.
The Jewish Holidays
Harper Collins Books 1985
I often consult this book as a resource to look up traditional practices of each holiday and season. It seems very complete and accessible. Along with Rabbi Strassfield’s descriptions, there are commentaries on the borders of the page by Reb Zalman and Rabbis Arthur Green, Arnold Eisen, Everett Gendler, and Edward L Greenstein. I appreciate that the traditional rituals are given, and there is also an openness for individual interpretation.
There is a nice statement in the introduction, ” Even more fundamentally, the festival cycle causes us to focus on how our human life cyle parallels that of the natural and historical cycles of the world. the festivals fring us into contact with the great human themes of food, shelter, and security; birth, growth, and death; freedom and reponsibility; the earthly and the transcendent.”
Seasons of Our Joy: A Modern Guide to the Jewish Holidays
This book is both a classic and visionary. I very much like Rabbi Arthur Waskow’s descriptions of the origins of the holidays, preparation for the holidays, present practices and customs including the synagogue service, and also new approaches. As a bonus there are family recipies for holiday foods. We are encouraged to dance in the ” circles of
seasons, the round of the year…”.
Rabbi Goldie Milgram
Reclamiming Judaism as a Spiritual Pratice: Holy Days and Shabbat
Jewish Lights Publishing 2004
This is a very accessible and experiential book. It is good for families. Reb Goldie
describes the background of each holiday and then gives us “recipies” (practices and activities) to immerse ourselves more in each holiday so it becomes more alive for us today. I appreciate that she also includes Shabbat, Rosh Chodesh and Kiddush Levanah.
Rabbi David Wolfe-Blank z”l
There are four volumes of Meta-Parshiot based on a monthly magazine newsletter subscription for the years 5755(10/94) through 5758 (Aug/98). These volumes contain short commentaries ” based on Jewish mysticism, religious naturalism, feminism,and a variety of other viewpoints relevant to the renewal of Judaism”.
This is a very creative and innovative collection of short commentaries on the parshiot, Haftarah, and holidays. Most are based on Chassidic teachings, Kabbalistic teachings, and modern midrashim. There is much that is psychospiritual here. The layout and illustrations are quite creative.
There are sections on the synopsis of the Parshiot and the Haftarah, the Sefirot of the Parshiot,”Unknotting the Torah” and even “Bar Kodesh: Scannable Torah”.
Adin Steinsaltz and Josy Eisenberg
The Seven Lights
On the Major Jewish Festivals
From the book jacket: “This remarkable volume is a book-length dialogue between the renowned Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz and Rabbi Josy Eisenberg on the subject of the Jewish Holy Days” in light of the teachings of the Alter Rebbe. I agree that it is a remarkable dialogue. Reb Adin Steinsaltz, one of the greatest Hasidic teachers alive today, makes some of the deepest insights of Hasidic thought accessible to a wide range of Jewish spiritual seekers.
The dialogue between these two men opens up multi-layered insights into the holidays that are simply not available elsewhere. I have found their discussion of Rosh HaShanah in particular to be transformative in my understanding and experience of that holiday.
The Book of Our Heritage
When I want a resource to tell me about the customs, meaning and Halachot of the Jewish holidays, for several decades this book, in three volumes, is where I’ve gone. (In Hebrew it’s “Sefer Hatoda’ah” — “Book of Thanksgiving.”) The style of Kitov’s writing with Nathan Bluman’s translation is clean, simple, accessible, authoritative, and heartfelt.
Rabbi Rachel Barenblat
70 Faces: Torah Poems
Phoenicia Pubishing 2011
I have come to love poetry as a form of Torah commentary.I am so glad that Rabbi Rachel now has published her collection of Torah Poems. Some of her poetry is posted on the Torah Circle Blog. I look foward to sitting down with her book
Rabbi Yehuda Leib Alter of Ger
The Language of Truth: The Torah Commentary of the Sefat Emet
Translated and Interpreted by Arthur Green
Jewish Publication Society 1998
We highy recommend this book of commentary on the Torah and holidays by the Sefat Emet. Rabbi Arthur Green gives further commentary on these teachings and is a valuable guide into this book of wisdom. Excerpts from the original Hebrew are also offered in a separate section of the book.
The JPS Torah Commentary
Genesis Commentary by Nahum Sarna
Exodus Commentary by Nahum Sarna
Leviticus Commentary by Baruch Levine
Numbers Commentary by Jacob Milgrom
Deuteronomy Commentary by Jeffrey Tigay
Jewish Publication Society 1989 – 1996
A scholarly combination of the traditional and modern with archaeological research. This is the gold standard of modern Torah commentary.
Speaking Torah: Spiritual Teachings from
around the Maggid’s Table
Jewish Lights Publishing 2013
Arthur Green with Ebn Leader, Ariel Evan Mayse, Or N. Rose
Volume I Bereshit, Shemot, Ya-Yikra
Volume 11 Be-Midbar, Devarim, Holiday Cycle
These volumes include 4-6 teachings in English and Hebrew about the Parshiot and holidays from disciples of the Maggid of Mezritch. Following each teaching, Rabbi Arthur Green writes a brief explanation of the commentary. Then, following each parsha and holiday, there is a short round table discussion by the four editors about how they relate to contemporary seekers.
Also included in these books are a short history of the first three generations of Hasidism and a paragraph bio of the selected Hasidic masters.
Rabbi Jonathan Sacks
Not in God’s Name: Confronting Religious Violence
“Rabbi Sacks offers a radical rereading of many of the Bible’s seminal stories of sibling rivalry: Cain and Abel, Isaac and Ishmael, Jacob and Esau, Joseph and his brothers, Rachel and Leah.”
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