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October 28, 1988 - Image 77

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1988-10-28

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Building A Home Jewish Library

of scorn, the Jewish world found in
these bookmen, objects of
It was commonplace for well-to-
do families to open their homes to
I yeshiva students — to have them as
regular guests at their table, and to
L include them in the lives of their
family. The wealthiest men of a
community would vie to marry their
daughters off to the most promising
student. Communities took pride in
legends of a local matmid — the
student who pored over his book
continually, whose studies became
an endless vigil, an act of piety and
devotion without rest. Imagine a
father in any other society,
admonishing his son in his will and
testament as Judah Ibn Tibbon, the
medieval scholar, does:
"My son,make your books your
companions. Your bookcases and
bookshelves shall be your garden
and your paradise. Find your
nourishment in their fertile fields,
pluck their roses, gather their fruit,
enjoy their flavor. When you tire,
walk on; from garden to garden,
from furrow to furrow. Then your
zeal will be reawakened and your
mind will be refreshed."
Jewish bookmen were the
heroes of the people, embodiments
of the community's devotion to the
The book became the foremost
expression of Jewish civilization.
Some nations mounted mighty
armies. Some peoples created
breathtaking works of art. Some


societies built monumental
cathedrals. Jews wrote books. And
Jews read books. Whatever the Jew
dreamed, felt, or accomplished,
found expression in the book.
Milestones of the Jewish march of
history are marked in the names of
the books we read, and wrote: The
Torah, fountainhead of all Jewish life
— and all western spirituality .. .
the Talmud library of eons of Jewish
lore ... the philosophy of
Maimonides ... the Shulchan
Aruch — the manual of Jewish
living ... the collections of the
. and
stories of Chasidic rebbeim
the volumes of commentaries on all
of these. These are more than
records of Jewish thought. They are
the very structure of Jewish life.
Even when our people finally
returned to its native land, we got
there first in a book — Theodore
Herzl's Altneuland. Without the art
of Florence, there would be no
Renaissance. Without books, there
would be no Jews. It was David
Ben-Gurion who said, we have
preserved the book, and the book
has preserved us.
My son still kisses fallen books
— as do I. Each time I see him
yield to this impuse, my heart fills
with joy. Joy that this small part of
me, and part of my grandfather will
live on in him — and perhaps in
those whose names we do not
know, beyond him. And joy that the
love of the book that lies at the
heart of that reflex is very much a
part of who he is.

What are the basic books that
every Jewish family should have in
their home libraries? Rabbi Efry
Spectre, spiritual leader of Adat
Shalom Synagogue, answered that
question by compiling a list for
members of his congregation.
In an introduction to the list,
Rabbi Spectre offered the following
"The purpose is to suggest
books in the listed categories that I
have found significant to my own
appreciation of Judaism and that
synagogue members might also find
useful. Some are reference books
like The Code of Jewish Law; some
are fictional, like Uris' Exodus and
Michener's The Source. Some are
new books or new translations;
others are older classics. Because
the list is prepared for non-scholars
with limited time for reading, I
included only a few "scholarly"
books and omitted most seminal
Jewish classics such as The Talmud
and Maimonides' writings.
"To keep it concise, I omitted
whole categories such as Jewish
music, Jewish art and modern
Jewish literature. Most books on the
list are available in paperback
Following is the list by category:

The Bible

Tanakh, edited by Jewish

Israel Passover Haggadah, edited

by Rabbi Menachem M. Kasher

Jewish Philosophy

Conservative Judaism; Our
Ancestors to Our Descendants,

Rabbi Elliot Dorf

Creators of the Jewish Experience
in Ancient and Medieval Times;
Great Jewish Thinkers of the 20th
Century, B'nai B'rith
Between God and Man, Abraham

Joshua Heschel, edited by Fritz
Philosophies of Judaism, Julius
Souls on Fire, Elie Wiesel

Nahman of Bratslav — The Tales,

arranged by Arnold J. Band

Jewish History

A History of the Jews, Solomon


The Course of Modern Jewish
History, Howard M. Sachar
My People:The Story of the Jews,

Abba Eban

World of Our Fathers, Irving Howe
Jews, God and History, Max I.


The Source, James Michener

Rabbinics and Codes

The Mishnah,translated by Herbert


Publication Society

Code of Jewish Law,compiled by

Joseph H. Hertz

Rabbi Solomon Ganzfried,
translated by Hyman Goldin

Pentateuch and Haftorahs, edited by

The Torah — A modern
Commentary, editored by Gunther

Plaut and Bernard Bamberger
The Art of Biblical Narrative, Robert

The Halachic Process; A Systematic
Analysis, Joel Roth
The Essential Talmud, Adin


Everyman's Talmud, Abraham


Jewish Beliefs
and Practices

Basic Judaism, Milton Steinberg
When Bad Things Happen to Good
People, Harold S. Kushner
To Pray as a Jew, Rabbi Hayim


The Jewish Catalogue — Vol. 1,

Richard Siegel, Michal and Sharon

Prayer Books
and Haggadot


The War Against the Jews
1933-1945, Lucy Dawidowicz
The Destruction of the European
Jews, Raul Hilberg
Night, Elie Wiesel


The Zionist Idea, Rabbi Arthur


Exodus, Leon Uris

Conservative Practice

Rabbi Jules Harlow

A Guide to Jewish Religious
Practice, Isaac Klein
The Jewish Dietary Laws, Samuel

edited by Joseph H. Hertz

H. Dresner and Seymour J. Siegel

Siddur Sim Shalom, edited by

The Authorized Daily Prayer Book,

Mahzor for Rosh Hashanah and
Yom Kippur, edited by Rabbi Jules


Passover Haggadah — The Feast of
Freedom, Rabbinical Assembly

The Seminary at 100 — Reflections
on the Jewish Theological Seminary
and the Conservative Movement,

edited by Nina Beth Cardin and
David Wolf Siverman



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