Outline of Judaism’s Religious Books
Judaism’s religious books documents embody not only Judaism‘s religious precepts, but also the historical, cultural and social heritage of the Jewish people. In Israel, where attitudes towards tradition range from the ultra-orthodox to the secular, sacred texts carry a variety of meanings – from a spiritual, moral and practical guide to everyday life, to a historical and cultural wealth which is critically examined and studied.
The stories, ideas and philosophies of the sacred texts, encompassing millennia of Jewish study and thought, are evident in much of Israel’s modern culture, which draws on the legacies of the past even as it gives voice to the issues and concerns of the present.
Articles on Judaism’s Religious Books
- Judaism’s Religious Books
- Jewish Religious Texts
- Dead Sea Scrolls
- Hebrew Bible
- Biblical apocrypha
- Jewish Apocrypha
- Book of Jubilees also called Lesser Genesis (Leptogenesis)
- Jewish Commentaries on The Bible
- Jewish English Bible Translations
- Sirach (Wisdom of Sirach)
- Book of Wisdom: The Wisdom of Solomon or Book of Wisdom
- The Wisdom of Jesus the Son of Sirach, or Ecclesiasticus
- Torah in Islam
- Torah Reading
- Torah Database
- Composition of the Torah
- Fear of God According To The Torah
- Love of God According To The Torah
- Moral Virtues Recommended In The Torah
- Passages From The Torah Encouraging Examination Of The Signs Leading To Faith
- Practices In The Torah Compatible With The Sunnah Of The Prophet Muhammad
- Sefer Torah (handwritten copy of the Torah)
- Similar Passages From The Quran And The Torah
- Statements From The Torah Regarding The Transient Nature of This World
- The Importance Of Remembering God And Saying In the Torah
- The Obligations Of Faith According To The Torah
- Weekly Torah Portion
- Weekly Torah Readings
Judaism’s Sacred texts
- Oral Torah
- Talmud (as encompassing the main Oral Law)
- Jerusalem Talmud
- Babylonian Talmud
- Mishnah, the first major written redaction of the Jewish oral traditions known as the “Oral Torah“.
- Tosefta, a compilation of the Jewish oral law from the late 2nd century, the period of the Mishnah
- Midrash, the genre of rabbinic literature which contains early interpretations and commentaries on the Written Torah and Oral Torah (spoken law and sermons), as well as non-legalistic rabbinic literature (aggadah) and occasionally the Jewish religious laws (Halakha), which usually form a running commentary on specific passages in the Hebrew Scripture (Tanakh).
- Talmud (as encompassing the main Oral Law)
- Midrash Halakha
- Geonim, presidents of the two great Babylonian, Talmudic Academies of Sura and Pumbedita, in the Abbasid Caliphate, and generally accepted spiritual leaders of the Jewish community worldwide in the early medieval era
- Rishonim, the leading rabbis and poskim who lived approximately during the 11th to 15th centuries, in the era before the writing of the Shulchan Aruch (Hebrew: שׁוּלחָן עָרוּך, “Set Table”, a common printed code of Jewish law, 1563 CE) and following the Geonim (589-1038 CE)
- Acharonim, the leading rabbis and poskim (Jewish legal decisors) living from roughly the 16th century to the present, and more specifically since the writing of the Shulchan Aruch (Hebrew: שׁוּלחָן עָרוּך, “Set Table”, a code of Jewish law) in 1563 CE.
Rabbinic literature, in its broadest sense, can mean the entire spectrum of rabbinic writings throughout Jewish history. But the term often refers specifically to literature from the Talmudic era, as opposed to medieval and modern rabbinic writing, and thus corresponds with the Hebrew term Sifrut Hazal (ספרות חז”ל; “Literature [of our] sages [of] blessed memory,” where Hazal normally refers only to the sages of the Talmudic era). This more specific sense of “Rabbinic literature“—referring to the Talmudim, Midrash, and related writings, but hardly ever to later texts—is how the term is generally intended when used in contemporary academic writing. On the other hand, the terms meforshim and parshanim (commentaries/commentators) almost always refer to later, post-Talmudic writers of Rabbinic glosses on Biblical and Talmudic texts.
The Mishnah and the Tosefta (compiled from materials pre-dating the year 200) are the earliest extant works of rabbinic literature, expounding and developing Judaism’s Oral Law, as well as ethical teachings. Following these came the two Talmuds:
- The Jerusalem Talmud, c. 450
- The Babylonian Talmud, c. 600
- The minor tractates (part of the Babylonian Talmud)
The midrash is the genre of rabbinic literature which contains early interpretations and commentaries on the Written Torah and Oral Torah, as well as non-legalistic rabbinic literature (Aggadah) and occasionally the Jewish religious laws (halakha), which usually form a running commentary on specific passages in the Tanakh. The term midrash also can refer to a compilation of Midrashic teachings, in the form of legal, exegetical, homiletical, or narrative writing, often configured as a commentary on the Bible or Mishnah.
Later works by category
Major codes of Jewish law
Jewish thought, mysticism and ethics
- Jewish philosophy:
- Jewish mysticism and Kabbalah:
Foundational texts of various Hasidic sects:
- Musar literature:
Later rabbinic works by historical period
Works of the Geonim
- She’iltoth of Achai Gaon
- Halachoth Gedoloth
- Emunoth ve-Deoth (Saadia Gaon)
- The Siddur by Amram Gaon
Works of the Rishonim (the “early” rabbinical commentators)
The Rishonim are the rabbis of the early medieval period (1000 – 1550), such as the following main examples:
- The commentaries on The Torah, such as those by Rashi, Abraham ibn Ezra and Nahmanides.
- Commentaries on the Talmud, principally by Rashi, his grandson Samuel ben Meir and Nissim of Gerona.
- Talmudic novellae (chiddushim) by Tosafists, Nahmanides, Nissim of Gerona, Solomon ben Aderet (RaShBA), Yomtov ben Ashbili (Ritva)
- Works of halakha (Asher ben Yechiel, Mordechai ben Hillel)
- Codices by Maimonides and Jacob ben Asher, and finally Shulkhan Arukh
- Legal responsa, e.g. by Solomon ben Aderet (RaShBA)
- Jewish philosophical rationalist works (Maimonides, Gersonides etc.)
- Kabbalistic mystical works (such as the Zohar)
- Mussar literature ethical works (Bahya ibn Paquda, Jonah of Gerona)
Works of the Acharonim (the “later” rabbinical commentators)
The Acharonim are the rabbis from 1550 to the present day, such as the following main examples:
- Important Torah commentaries include Keli Yakar (Shlomo Ephraim Luntschitz), Ohr ha-Chayim by Chayim ben-Attar, the commentary of Samson Raphael Hirsch, and the commentary of Naftali Zvi Yehuda Berlin
- Important works of Talmudic novellae include: Pnei Yehoshua, Hafla’ah, Sha’agath Aryei
- Codices of halakha e.g. Mishnah Berurah by Yisrael Meir Kagan and the Aruch ha-Shulchan by Yechiel Michel Epstein
- Legal responsa, e.g. by Moses Sofer, Moshe Feinstein
- Kabbalistic mystical commentaries
- Philosophical/metaphysical works (the works of the Maharal of Prague, Moshe Chaim Luzzatto and Nefesh ha-Chayim by Chaim of Volozhin)
- Hasidic works (Kedushath Levi, Sefath Emmeth, Shem mi-Shemuel)
- Mussar literature ethical works: Moshe Chaim Luzzatto, Yisrael Meir Kagan and the Mussar Movement
- Historical works, e.g. Shem ha-Gedolim by Chaim Joseph David Azulai.
- Meforshim is a Hebrew word meaning “(classical rabbinical) commentators” (or roughly meaning “exegetes“), and is used as a substitute for the correct word perushim which means “commentaries”. In Judaism this term refers to commentaries on The Torah (five books of Moses), Tanakh, the Mishnah, the Talmud, responsa, even the siddur (Jewish prayerbook), and more.
Classic Torah and Talmud commentaries
Classic Torah and/or Talmud commentaries have been written by the following individuals:
- Saadia Gaon, 10th century Babylon
- Rashi (Shlomo Yitzchaki), 12th century France
- Abraham ibn Ezra
- Nachmanides (Moshe ben Nahman)
- Samuel ben Meir, the Rashbam, 12th century France
- Levi ben Gershom (known as Ralbag or Gersonides)
- David Kimhi, 13th century France
- Joseph ben Isaac Bekhor Shor, 12th century France
- Nissim of Gerona, the RaN, 14th century Spain
- Isaac Abarbanel (1437–1508)
- Obadiah ben Jacob Sforno, 16th century Italy
- The Tanakh
- Jewish Science: Divine Healing in Judaism
Classical Talmudic commentaries were written by Rashi. After Rashi the Tosafot were written, which was an omnibus commentary on the Talmud by the disciples and descendants of Rashi; this commentary was based on discussions done in the rabbinic academies of Germany and France.
Read Books from Sacred Texts Archive
Tanakh (Hebrew Bible)
The Tanakh is the Hebrew Bible, the quintessential sacred text. The first five books of this comprise the Torah (or Pentateuch), the core sacred writings of the ancient Jews, traditionally written by Moses under divine inspiration.
Talmud and Mishna
The Babylonian Talmud
Translated by M.L. Rodkinson 
A massive ten volume abridgement of the Talmud, the Jewish compendium of law and tradition, the only extensive public domain translation. Presented for the first time anywhere on the Internet at sacred-texts.com.
Eighteen Treatises from the Mishna
by D. A. Sola and M. J. Raphall 
One of the first English translations of a substantial portion of the Mishna, the treasure-house of Jewish law and tradition.
The Wisdom of the Talmud
by Ben Zion Bokser 
A great introduction to the Talmud for contemporary readers.
by Joseph Barclay 
Seventeen representative tracts from the Talmud.
The Talmud: Selections
by H. Polano 
A Talmud miscellany.
The Babylonian Talmud in Selection
by Leo Auerbach 
An original mid-20th century translation of selections from the Talmud.
Sayings of the Jewish Fathers (Pirqe Aboth)
tr. by Charles Taylor 
A beautiful extract from the Talmud, which has been used as liturgy. Devoted to ethics with some mystical touches, the Pirqe Aboth is distinguished for its transparency and simplicity. This was one of the first English translations in modern times of any portion of the Talmud.
Edited by Maurice Harris 
Extracts from the Talmud, Midrash and Kabbalah.
The Wisdom of Israel
by Edwin Collins 
A short look at Jewish wisdom literature from the Talmud and Midrash.
Tractate Sanhedrin, Mishnah and Tosefta
by Herbert Danby 
A key portion of the Mishna dealing with crime and punishment.
by A. Lukyn Williams 
The Mishna about prayer.
Legends of the Jews
by Louis Ginzberg .
A huge collection of traditional stories which have grown up around the Bible narrative.
The Kabbalah Unveiled
S.L. MacGregor Mathers, Translator. 
An extensive introduction to the Kabbalah. Includes translations of three texts from branch of the Kabbalah known as the Zohar: The Book of Concealed Mystery, The Greater Holy Assembly, and The Lesser Holy Assembly.
translated by Isidor Kalisch 
Includes English translation and pointed Hebrew for this key text of the Kabbalah.
Kabbalah – Sepher Yetzirah
W.W. Westcot tr.  26,374 bytes
The Zohar: Bereshith to Lekh Lekha
by Nurho de Manhar (pseud.) [1900-14]
The Zohar is a Kabbalistic commentary on the Hebrew Bible. This is the only extensive English translation of a portion of the Zohar currently in the public domain. Covers Adam to Abraham.
by J. Abelson 
The Kabbalah in the context of the history of Jewish Mysticism.
The Kabbalah, or the Religious Philosophy of the Hebrews
by Adolphe Franck 
Did the Kabbalah originate from Zoroastrianism?
by Bernhard Pick 
A short critical introduction to the Kabbalah.
Tales and Maxims from the Midrash
by Samuel Rapaport 
A popular Midrash compilation. This is the (unattributed) source for the next two entries’ Midrash extracts. This book has the references for each of the passages quoted lacking in the texts below, which makes it the best source if you wish to quote some of this material.
The Sacred Books and Early Literature of the East, Vol. IV: Medieval Hebrew
Some sizeable extracts from the Midrash, medieval collections of Jewish Biblical lore and legend.
The Union Haggadah
ed. by The Central Conference of American Rabbis, illus. Isidore Lipton 
A guide to the celebration of Passover.
Prayer Books (Siddur)
The Standard Prayer Book by Simeon Singer 
Complete English translation of a Jewish Prayer Book, or Siddur, including prayers, holidays, ceremonies, and important texts.
Other texts from late Antiquity and Middle Ages
The Works of Flavius Josephus
by Josephus, tr. by William Whiston 
Josephus was a Jewish historian, soldier and scholar who lived in the first century [37-100 C.E.]. His works are primary historical sources of information about the doomed Jewish revolt of 66-9 C.E.
The Kitab al Khazari
of Judah Hallevi, translated by Hartwig Hirschfeld 
A classic of Medieval Jewish philosophy, set in a legendary (but historical) central Asian kingdom.
The Guide for the Perplexed
by Moses Maimonides, M. Freidländer, tr. (2nd Ed.) 
Maimonides’ masterful summation of theology, natural philosophy and divine law.
Selected Religious Poems of Solomon ibn Gabirol
by Solomon ibn Gabirol, tr. by Israel Zangwill 
A key medieval Jewish Spanish poet and philosopher’s devotional poetry, some of which was adopted into liturgy.
The Fountain of Life
by Solomon ibn Gabirol, tr. by Harry E. Wedeck 
An extract from the Jewish writer Solomon ibn Gabirol’s philosophical treatise on the First Cause, misattributed for centuries to an Islamic or Christian author named Avicebron.
Original Hebrew of a Portion of Ecclesiasticus
by A.E. Cowley and A. Neubauer 
Includes the Alphabet of Ben Sira.
The Duties of the Heart
by Rabbi Bachye, tr. by Edwin Collins 
A 12th Century Spanish Rabbi’s systematic treatment of Ethics as a universal.
Ancient Jewish Proverbs
by Abraham Cohen 
A treasury of Jewish proverbs from the Mishna and Talmud.
Jewish Magic and Superstition: A Study in Folk Religion
by Joshua Trachtenberg 
A comprehensive study of medieval Jewish folk magic, a primary source of modern ceremonial magic.
A Rabbi’s Impressions of the Oberammergau Passion Play
by Joseph Krauskopf 
A Rabbi examines the tangled narrative of the Crucifixion, and the roots of anti-Semitism in the early Church.
Folk-lore of the Holy Land; Moslem, Christian and Jewish
by J. E. Hanauer 
Moslem, Christian and Jewish tales from old Palestine.
Jewish Fairy Tales and Legends by “Aunt Naomi” (Gertrude Landa) 
A well-told collection of Midrash and Talmudic lore for children.
The Great March
by Rose G. Lurie 
A wonderful children’s book of post-biblical Jewish stories, with great illustrations, that adults can learn a thing or two from.
The Golden Mountain
by Meyer Levin 
Magical realist Hassidic tales, lovingly retold by a master storyteller.
Reform Judaism – 1885 Pittsburgh Conference 4,588 bytes
Articles of Faith from the Jewish Encyclopedia 29,628 bytes
The Columbus Platform: The Guiding Principles Of Reform Judaism  8,706 bytes
Reform Judaism – A Centenary Perspective 11,054 bytes
Maimonides: Ani Maamin – I believe… 34,307 bytes
Solomon Schechter – Studies in Judaism – The Dogmas of Judaism 64,107 bytes
The Thirteen Wants by Mordecai M. Kaplan 2,127 bytes