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What can you tell me about Jewish books?

by Rabbi Mendy Hecht

  

Library » Torah » G-d's Wisdom | Subscribe | What is RSS?


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A. A Jewish book is not a book of Jewish jokes, a book about Judaism or any Jewish-related subject, although many Jewish books are just that. A Jewish book is a book that captures in print, in any language, any authentic concept of the Torah. Whether it’s an accurate English translation of the Torah, a volume of Talmud in the original Aramaic, a Jewish professor’s erudite analysis of medical ethics and Jewish philosophy, or a copy of the Torah itself in the original Hebrew, there are thousands of Jewish books.

B. A Jewish book is not just another book. Sure, it’s got pages and words and a front and back cover (unless baby got to it), but because it contains words or concepts of Torah, it must be treated with respect. Here’s the thing: it’s not the paper and glue you’re respecting—it’s the concepts and beliefs. You’re respecting the things Judaism represents. You respect the Jewish book almost the same way you would treat a person. Never let it fall to the floor. Don’t treat it frivolously by tossing it around or handling it haphazardly. And don’t sit on it. (Also see What's the proper way to dispose of holy objects?)

You’re respecting the things Judaism represents. You respect the Jewish book almost the same way you would treat a person. Never let it fall to the floor, don’t toss it around or sit on it
C. Jews live in most civilized countries and even some uncivilized ones, so Jewish books today come in dozens of languages, from Arabic to Yiddish, and of course, Hungarian. They don’t call Jews the “People of the Book” for nothing. So when you get those books, study them. Learn them. Live what they say.

Here’s some suggestions for your first Jewish bookshelf:

1. The Living Torah by Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan: the best English translation of the Torah you’ll find anywhere. 2. Tehillim by King David: The second Jewish monarch’s epic comes to life in the 150 sacred Psalms, or praises to G-d, he authored over a lifetime of trial and triumph. 3. Lessons in Tanya: Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi’s mighty magnum opus Tanya, translated, annotated, and elucidated by Rabbi Shalom B. Wineberg.  4. Last but not least, a Jewish home is not complete without the trusty prayer-book (called a "Siddur").

Where do I get Jewish books?

1. Offline Get thee to your local bookstore, Jewish or not. Barnes and Noble and other biggies have some good Torah material on their religion/spirituality/self-help/inspirational shelves.

2. On-line Don’t bother getting out of your chair—go to Kehotonline.com. Judaism.com. Amazon.com. Bn.com. Eichlers.com. AOL Keyword: Jewish books. Or go straight to the publishing source: Feldheim.com. Targum.com. Judaicapress.com. You can spend yourself silly without even touching your wallet! Imagine that. And with delivery, you don’t even have to leave your house. Don't forget to check out our very own Moses Bookshelf for our latest recommendation in Jewish literature.

3. House of Books Just having the books in the home brings the home up a few notches on the spirituality level. Also, if the books are there, there's a good chance some studying is going to take place. So build your own respectable library, one book at a time. Then read ‘em all.

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Torah
Torah is G–d’s teaching to man. In general terms, we refer to the Five Books of Moses as “The Torah.” But in truth, all Jewish beliefs and laws are part of the Torah.
Talmud
Usually referring to the Babylonian edition, it is a compilation of Rabbinic law, commentary and analysis compiled over a 600 year period (200 BCE - 427 CE). Talmudic verse serves as the bedrock of all classic and modern-day Torah-Jewish literature.
Tanya
Foundation text of Chabad chassidism. Authored by Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi, founder of the Chabad movement, and first published in 1796. Considered to be the "Bible" of Chassidism.
David
King of Israel who succeeded Saul, becoming king of Israel in 876 BCE. Originally a shepherd, he became popular after he killed the Philistine strongman, Goliath. He is the progenitor of the Davidic royal dynasty -- which will return to the throne with the arrival of King Messiah.
Psalms
The Book of Psalms. One of the 24 books of the Bible. Compiled by King David; mostly comprised of poetic praise for G-d. A large part of our prayers are culled from this book.
Tehillim
The Book of Psalms. One of the 24 books of the Bible. Compiled by King David; mostly comprised of poetic praise for G-d. A large part of our prayers are culled from this book.
Siddur
Prayer book.
Yiddish
Language closely related to German commonly spoken by European Jews.
G-d
It is forbidden to erase or deface the name of G-d. It is therefore customary to insert a dash in middle of G-d's name, allowing us to erase or discard the paper it is written on if necessary.