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Essential Jewish Library

Essential Jewish Library

Ten books that are essential to any Jewish home.


Certain books are an essential part of any Jewish home: a siddur (prayer book), a Chumash (Five Books of Moses) and books of philosophy. These are the foundations for a Jewish life which pulsates with the rhythms of Torah study and practice.

Here's my list of top-10 favorites. A more extensive reading list is online at:

1) STONE CHUMASH (order from Arscroll)
Rabbi Nosson Scherman (ArtScroll-Mesorah 1993)
Modern translation of the Five Books of Moses. Features a thorough, user-friendly commentary, culled from Talmudic, medieval and contemporary sources.

2) ARTSCROLL SIDDUR (order from Artscroll)
Mesorah Publications 1984
The most complete and accurate prayer book on the market today. More than just a text of the prayers, it includes full explanations of all the prayers, laws and customs. Features a masterful essay on the essence of prayer. Includes special prayers for the holidays and life-cycle events. Beautifully organized and designed. A must for every Jewish home.

3) THE BOOK OF OUR HERITAGE (order from Amazon)
Rabbi Eliyahu Kitov (Feldheim 1978)
A thorough review of the Jewish calendar. Includes month-by-month explanation of all the holidays, laws and customs throughout the Jewish year. A classic.

4) TO BE A JEWISH WOMAN (Order from Amazon)
Lisa Aiken (Jason Aronson 1992)
The long-awaited compendium for the modern Jewish woman. Includes issues of the synagogue, child-raising, modesty, the mikveh, and spirituality. Plus a historical overview of the Matriarchs.

5) HEAVEN ON EARTH (order from Amazon) Edited by Nechemia Coopersmith and Shraga Simmons ( 2002)
An anthology of the best essays from, showing how to bring spirituality into everyday life. Captivating true stories take you to a hospital in Ethiopia to the nightclubs of Moscow; from an ashram in India to a cancer ward in London; from Ground Zero in Manhattan to the Golden Gate Bridge, and to Jerusalem, standing before to the Western Wall. A perfect gift for beginners and veterans alike.

6) TRIUMPH OF SURVIVAL (order from Artscroll)
Rabbi Berel Wein (Shaar Press 1990)
The complete story of the Jews in the modern era, from 1650-1990. Filled with facts and anecdotes. Includes: Enlightenment, anti-Semitism, American Jewry, the Holocaust, and the State of Israel. Drawn from Rabbi Wein's masterful cassette lecture series.

7) THE ARYEH KAPLAN ANTHOLOGY (order from Artscroll)
Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan (NCSY-Mesorah 1988)
Listed in "Who's Who" as an accomplished physicist, Aryeh Kaplan applied his brilliant mind first and foremost to Torah study -- mastering all the works of Jewish philosophy, law and kabbalah. He shared his encyclopedic knowledge in a series of masterful essays that blend the mystical and the practical. Topics include: God, Jerusalem, Shabbat, Mikveh, Soul and Afterlife.

8) THE SCIENCE OF GOD (order from Amazon)
Gerald Schroeder (Bantam 1990)
A ground-breaking work that confronts head-on the cosmological debate and explains how Torah and science need not conflict. The author, a former M.I.T. professor of nuclear physics and member of the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission, is now a Discovery lecturer in Jerusalem.

Rabbi Zelig Pliskin (Aish HaTorah 1980)
Your attitude controls your mood. Learn the Torah's techniques for ridding anxiety, fear and stress -- while increasing joy, appreciation and energy. A noted psychologist and Talmudic scholar, Rabbi Pliskin heads the counseling center at Aish HaTorah in Jerusalem.

10) ON JUDAISM (order from Artscroll)
Rabbi Emanuel Feldman (Shaar Press 1994)
In the form of conversations between a rabbi and a seeker, this book delightfully weaves through the fabric of Jewish life including faith, covenant, ethics, sin, holiness, prayer and more. The author, besides being a law school professor and magazine editor, is the rabbi who built Torah Judaism in Atlanta from the ground up.

Additionally, a wealth of excellent cassette lectures -- on spirituality, relationships, holidays, history and more -- are available through Voices From Jerusalem. Order online at:, or by calling 1-800-VOICES-3.

October 26, 2002

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Visitor Comments: 25

(24) Anonymous, July 20, 2014 1:41 PM

Super helpful!

This is super helpful! Thank you so much for posting this!

(23) michael, June 6, 2011 4:18 PM

may i recommend...

Adin Steinsaltz "Teshuvah: a guide for the newly observant Jew"...its title is misleading however. it IS for the newly observant however it's also for those that are mature and advanced in their journey. Rabbi Adin explains very well with great insight what all Jews must remember: HaShem demands a life of "teshuvah" (repentance) as a part of torah conscious lifestyle. This work is well worth the read regardless of how many years one is righteous. Rabbi Steinsaltz is very underrated and is one of the more brilliant minds out there. So Enjoy! Shalom v' hachmah!

(22) Anonymous, May 21, 2011 10:06 PM

Great idea!

What a good idea to compile a starter list of Jewish reading! And all the eideas in the commentst just add to it!

(21) levi, May 15, 2011 5:30 PM

tehilim tanya

2 more: the 'tehilim' (psalms) of King David, and the 'Tanya' by Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi

(20) Sarah Dinah, May 15, 2011 2:59 AM

Something else helpful

I think it's a good idea to have a book about Moshiach and why "that other guy" wasn't Moshiach. A lot of Jews can find themselves misled by missionaries who sometimes know how to twist verses to "prove" their case. I think that Kaplan's "The Real Messiah" (at least I think that's the title), You Take Jesus, I'll Take G-d (can't remember the author), and The Mythmaker: Paul and the Invention of Christianity (again, not sure of the author) are all excellent books that help Jews see why "the other guy" wasn't Moshiach. (I've read all three, so I can attest to their helpfulness.)

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