Chapter 7: What Books And Materials Are Available For Me?

It's impossible to tell what will spark a person's interest, therefore, it would be wrong to give a "don't read" list of books, You obviously have had your interest sparked already and are probably seriously motivated to really learn about Judaism.

          Our advice to you is: read some serious books about Judaism, and not for example: Portnoy's Complaint or Shakespeare's Merchant of Venice. These books may be written by Jews or about Jews but they have nothing whatsoever to do with Judaism.

Please take note that as a beginner you probably think of only one book associated with the religion: the Bible, consisting of the Five Books of Moses, Prophets, and Writings.

          What you will soon learn is, scholarly Judaism centers around learning from a vast and awesome body of Torah literature.

We recommend you divide your reading list into two groupings: 


First group:  The Basics


·       To Be A Jew - Hayman Donin – a basic overview of traditional Judaism’s laws and customs

·       This is My God - Herman Wouk – a personal odyssey of discovery by one of America’s greatest author’s

·       Think Jewish - Zalman Posner – what a 35 century old tradition can tell the 21st century

·       The Real Messiah? - Aryeh Kaplan – A Jewish response to missionaries

·       Permission to Believe – Lawrence Kelemen – four rational approaches to God’s existence

·       Nine Questions People Ask About Judaism – Dennis Prager and Joseph Telushkin – an introduction to Judaism by examining its relevance and meaning

·       The Road Back – Mayer Schiller – a personal discovery of Judaism with a history of Jewry for the past 300 years


Second group:  Source Texts


·       An Alef Bet Reader - i.e. a Hebrew primer teaching the Hebrew alphabet and simple pronunciation

·       The Living Torah - Aryeh Kaplan – an annotated modern English translation of the first five books of the Bible

·       The Holy Scriptures – Koren Publishers – a popular translation of all 24 books of the bible

·       The Stone Edition TANACH – Mesorah  Publications – an annotated modern English translation of all 24 books of the bible

·       Maimonides Principles – Aryeh Kaplan – the fundamentals of Jewish faith

·       Artscroll Siddur – Mesorah Publications – traditional prayer book with new translation and anthologized commentary

·       The Concise Book of Mitzvoth – Chofetz Chaim – a listing, with commentary, of Biblical commandments

·        Handbook of Jewish Thought – Aryeh Kaplan – a two volume overview of Jewish thought and belief

·       The Way of God – Moshe Chaim Luzzatto – God’s plan for the world and man’s place in it


          These two groupings represent two levels of learning about Judaism.

          The first level is learning what Judaism is all about.  The second level is actual Torah learning. Stated another way, the first grouping is “about it”, the second grouping is “it”.

It is important to mention at this point, that the single most important commandment amongst all the commandments, is the study of Torah.

Don't make the mistake of never advancing beyond the first level.  You must set some sort of time limit for yourself and make sure that you start actual Torah learning.  Not only should you have an appreciation of Judaism, you must be an active participant in it.



Mark has been going to an "Exploring Judaism" class for 3 years.  In all that time, he has never picked up a Bible to read part of it, nor does he know how to pray or read Hebrew. He avoids the synagogue because he does not have the tools to participate in the service.  Even if he would go he would not have the slightest idea what the Torah portion of the week is all about.

Jessica, however, began studying the same time as Mark but within a few months decided to go to both a Hebrew and Bible class.  After a year she feels extremely comfortable with going to the synagogue and all its rituals.  She is currently attending classes in Jewish law and the Bible.  Jessica has gone from being an observer to a participant.


Last updated on: 06/16/2019
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