Sefaria Staff Favorites: A Reading List

With so many wonderful texts on Sefaria, it can be hard to know where to start. Why not ask the people who work with and know the site better than anyone? Get started with this list of Sefaria Staff Favorites, including a little about why each text is so great. Read a short snippet of the text and click through on the ones that inspire you the most to read more.


Daniel Septimus, Chief Executive Officer

My favorite text is the story of Rabbi Elazar in Taanit 20a:16 - 20b:3. This story of Rabbi Elazar illustrates the dangers of pride and why some use a reed for the writing of a sefer Torah.

תנו רבנן לעולם יהא אדם רך כקנה ואל יהא קשה כארז מעשה שבא

The Sages further taught in praise of the reed: A person should always be soft like a reed, and he should not be stiff like a cedar.


Brett Lockspeiser, Co-Founder & Chief Technology Officer

My favorite text is the stories of Honi Hamaegal and Abba Hilkiyya in Taanit 23a-b.

אמר לפניו רבונו של עולם בניך שמו פניהם עלי שאני כבן בית לפניך נשבע אני בשמך הגדול שאיני זז מכאן עד שתרחם על בניך התחילו גשמים מנטפין אמרו לו תלמידיו רבי ראינוך ולא נמות כמדומין אנו שאין גשמים יורדין אלא להתיר שבועתך

Ḥoni said before God: Master of the Universe, Your children have turned their faces toward me, as I am like a member of Your household. Therefore, I take an oath by Your great name that I will not move from here until you have mercy upon Your children and answer their prayers for rain.


Annie Lumerman, Chief Operating Officer

My favorite text is Shabbat 30b:9. You can read my sheet, “Chicken is central to the story” to learn more about my personal connection to this text and click through to read the rest of the chapter.

לִיגְלֵג עָלָיו אוֹתוֹ תַּלְמִיד, אָמַר: ״אֵין כׇּל חָדָשׁ תַּחַת הַשָּׁמֶשׁ״! אֲמַר לֵיהּ: בֹּא וְאַרְאֶךָּ דּוּגְמָתָן בָּעוֹלָם הַזֶּה. נְפַק אַחְוִי לֵיהּ תַּרְנְגוֹלֶת.

A certain student scoffed at him and said: That cannot be, as it has already been stated: “There is nothing new under the sun” (Ecclesiastes 1:9). Rabban Gamliel said to him: Come and I will show you an example of this in this world. He took him outside and showed him a chicken that lays eggs every day.


Lev Israel, Chief Data Officer

Temurah 14a:24-14b:5

These two parallel passages in Talmud. They talk about the profound reticence that the Rabbis of the Talmud had for writing down Torah. It illustrates how important media is - and how the container shapes what’s in it. Which is of huge import for our day - as everything in poured into digital media.

א"ר יוחנן כותבי הלכות כשורף התורה והלמד מהן אינו נוטל שכר

Rabbi Yoḥanan said: Those who write halakhot are considered like those who burn the Torah, and one who learns from written halakhot does not receive the reward of studying Torah. Evidently, it is prohibited to send halakhot in letters.


Sara Wolkenfeld, Chief Learning Officer

My favorite text is Perek HaChovel, the 8th Chapter of Tractate Bava Kamma. It is all about responsibility and restitution and the interpretive processes the rabbis use to build a just society.

מתני׳ החובל בחבירו חייב עליו משום חמשה דברים בנזק בצער בריפוי בשבת ובושת:
MISHNA: One who injures another is liable to pay compensation for that injury due to five types of indemnity: He must pay for damage, for pain, for medical costs, for loss of livelihood, and for humiliation.

Lizi Martin, Israel Director

Deuteronomy 30 is my favorite text because it highlights G-d's belief in us. The relationship between G-d and the Jewish people is not only based on our belief in him (her?) but also, just as importantly, is G-d's belief in us.

Just like parents and teachers- to children, one of the most critical values that G-d could instill in us- as a people, is confidence. Living a Jewish life is in our reach.

(א) וְהָיָה֩ כִֽי־יָבֹ֨אוּ עָלֶ֜יךָ כָּל־הַדְּבָרִ֣ים הָאֵ֗לֶּה הַבְּרָכָה֙ וְהַקְּלָלָ֔ה אֲשֶׁ֥ר נָתַ֖תִּי לְפָנֶ֑יךָ וַהֲשֵׁבֹתָ֙ אֶל־לְבָבֶ֔ךָ בְּכָל־הַגּוֹיִ֔ם אֲשֶׁ֧ר הִדִּיחֲךָ֛ יְהוָ֥ה אֱלֹהֶ֖יךָ שָֽׁמָּה׃ (ב) וְשַׁבְתָּ֞ עַד־יְהוָ֤ה אֱלֹהֶ֙יךָ֙ וְשָׁמַעְתָּ֣ בְקֹל֔וֹ כְּכֹ֛ל אֲשֶׁר־אָנֹכִ֥י מְצַוְּךָ֖ הַיּ֑וֹם אַתָּ֣ה וּבָנֶ֔יךָ בְּכָל־לְבָבְךָ֖ וּבְכָל־נַפְשֶֽׁךָ׃ (ג) וְשָׁ֨ב יְהוָ֧ה אֱלֹהֶ֛יךָ אֶת־שְׁבוּתְךָ֖ וְרִחֲמֶ֑ךָ וְשָׁ֗ב וְקִבֶּצְךָ֙ מִכָּל־הָ֣עַמִּ֔ים אֲשֶׁ֧ר הֱפִֽיצְךָ֛ יְהוָ֥ה אֱלֹהֶ֖יךָ שָֽׁמָּה׃

(1) When all these things befall you—the blessing and the curse that I have set before you—and you take them to heart amidst the various nations to which the LORD your God has banished you, (2) and you return to the LORD your God, and you and your children heed His command with all your heart and soul, just as I enjoin upon you this day, (3) then the LORD your God will restore your fortunes and take you back in love.


Rachel Buckman, Education Associate

Temurah 16a:3 is my favorite text because it emphasizes the importance of being actively involved in the learning process. Struggling with a text is even better than getting a direct injection from God!

גופא אמר רב יהודה אמר שמואל שלשת אלפים הלכות נשתכחו בימי אבלו של משה אמרו לו ליהושע שאל א"ל (דברים ל, יב) לא בשמים היא

Once the Torah was given on Sinai, the Sages of each generation must determine the halakha. No new halakhot may be added or subtracted by heavenly instruction or through prophecy.


Lorenzo Fernando Davis, Sr. Infrastructure & Backend Engineer

One of my favorite texts is Mishneh Torah, Transmission of the Oral Law. Passage 22 is a favored passage that summarizes a key theme of the chapter that is dear to my heart: The strength and continuity of Torah relies on not just the gedolei hadorot (the greats of the generation), but also on the thousands and tens of thousands of Jews that study and embody Torah in their lives. The cultivation of this class of people is so important to the Rambam and his desire to buttress Torah, that he cites it as a key motivation for the creation of not only the present work, but also for the Mishnah.

(כב) כָּל אֵלּוּ הַחֲכָמִים הַנִּזְכָּרִים, הֶם גְּדוֹלֵי הַדּוֹרוֹת – מֵהֶם רָאשֵׁי יְשִׁיבוֹת, וּמֵהֶם רָאשֵׁי גָּלִיּוֹת, וּמֵהֶם מִסַּנְהֶדְּרֵי גְּדוֹלָה. וְעִמָּהֶם בְּכָל דּוֹר וָדוֹר, אֲלָפִים וּרְבָבוֹת שֶׁשָּׁמְעוּ מֵהֶם וְעִמָּהֶם.

...and with them were their contemporaries in each and every generation numbering in the thousands, even tens of thousands who heard the Oral Torah being expounded together with them, or received it from them.


Tali Herenstein, Chief of Staff

There is a line that I keep returning to in Ruth Rabbah which comments on how the action of Megillat Ruth unfolded: "Rabbi Eliezer said: "Boaz did his part and Ruth did her part, and Naomi did her part, and the Holy One, blessed be He said: "So I will do my part" (Ruth Rabbah 7:7).

According to Rabbi Eliezer, the story is delivered its triumphant conclusion because each of the central characters steps up to the task before them, spurring God to action in turn. It's a simple line but a striking commentary on the interplay between human agency and divine intervention. It takes one step further another favorite passage, the well-known Rabbi Tarfon adage (Pirkei Avot 2:16): It is not your duty to finish the work, but neither are you at liberty to neglect it," – now explicitly naming God as a potential partner for humankind in their efforts. At a moment in history where the work before us can feel so colossal and the task at hand so daunting, it's a powerful reminder that we are each responsible to step up and do our part, but that we may also count on God to do His part, too.

רַבִּי אֱלִיעֶזֶר אוֹמֵר בֹּעַז עָשָׂה אֶת שֶׁלּוֹ, וְרוּת עָשְׂתָה אֶת שֶׁלָּהּ, וְנָעֳמִי עָשְׂתָה אֶת שֶׁלָּהּ, אָמַר הַקָּדוֹשׁ בָּרוּךְ הוּא, אַף אֲנִי אֶעֱשֶׂה אֶת שֶׁלִּי

Rabbi Eliezer said: "Boaz made his thing and Ruth did her thing, and Naomi did her thing, and the Holy One, blessed be He said: "So I will do my thing".


Steve Kaplan, Content Engineer

My favorite text is the book Tomer Devorah -- It enjoins us to behave with love, compassion, and respect for all living things, even the "puniest of the puny creatures" and the "evildoers."

יַרְגִּיל עַצְמוֹ לְהַכְנִיס אַהֲבַת בְּנֵי אָדָם בְּלִבּוֹ, וַאֲפִילוּ הָרְשָׁעִים, כְּאִלּוּ הָיוּ אֶחָיו וְיֹתֵר מִזֶּה,

He [should] accustom himself to internalize the love of people into his heart - and even the evildoers - as if they were his brothers


Jonathan Mosenkis, Sr. Content Engineer

My favorite text is the Pesach Haggadah. It's not just a foundational text, but it really tries to combine the essence of what Judaism is. Beyond just telling the story of the Exodus, you get Midrashic learning, encouragement by the text to add contemporary study patterns with a lot of the ritualism mixed in. If Judaism could be boiled down to one book that would be it (in my opinion).

הָא לַחְמָא עַנְיָא דִּי אֲכָלוּ אַבְהָתָנָא בְאַרְעָא דְמִצְרָיִם. כָּל דִכְפִין יֵיתֵי וְיֵיכֹל, כָּל דִצְרִיךְ יֵיתֵי וְיִפְסַח. הָשַּׁתָּא הָכָא, לְשָׁנָה הַבָּאָה בְּאַרְעָא דְיִשְׂרָאֵל. הָשַּׁתָּא עַבְדֵי, לְשָׁנָה הַבָּאָה בְּנֵי חוֹרִין.

This is the bread of destitution that our ancestors ate in the land of Egypt. Anyone who is famished should come and eat, anyone who is in need should come and partake of the Pesach sacrifice. Now we are here, next year we will be in the land of Israel; this year we are slaves, next year we will be free people.


Russel Neiss, Sr. Product Engineer

My favorite text is the Yehoyesh Yiddish translation of Tanakh.

אין אָנהײב האָט גאָט באַשאַפֿן דעם הימל און די ערד.
When God began to create heaven and earth—

Noah Santacruz, Sr. Research Engineer

I love Chapter 31 of The Books of Jeremiah which is just so positive and the wording is beautiful. It includes so many of the great quotes from Jeremiah. It's also interesting how the interpretation of this chapter has shifted so much. Initially it seems to have about the return of the lost 10 tribes to reunite with Judah. But now it's interpreted by many as modern day Jews returning to Israel.

(יז) וְיֵשׁ־תִּקְוָ֥ה לְאַחֲרִיתֵ֖ךְ נְאֻם־יְהוָ֑ה וְשָׁ֥בוּ בָנִ֖ים לִגְבוּלָֽם׃ (ס)
(17) And there is hope for your future —declares the LORD: Your children shall return to their country.

Israel Tsadok, Educational Consultant

One of my favorite texts is The Book of Ezra. Reading this almost last part of Tanakh, gives you a sense of what it means to rebuild a nation, and is interesting to compare to the struggles and victories of the zionist movement.

(ב) כֹּ֣ה אָמַ֗ר כֹּ֚רֶשׁ מֶ֣לֶךְ פָּרַ֔ס כֹּ֚ל מַמְלְכ֣וֹת הָאָ֔רֶץ נָ֣תַן לִ֔י יְהוָ֖ה אֱלֹהֵ֣י הַשָּׁמָ֑יִם וְהֽוּא־פָקַ֤ד עָלַי֙ לִבְנֽוֹת־ל֣וֹ בַ֔יִת בִּירוּשָׁלִַ֖ם אֲשֶׁ֥ר בִּֽיהוּדָֽה׃
(2) “Thus said King Cyrus of Persia: The LORD God of Heaven has given me all the kingdoms of the earth and has charged me with building Him a house in Jerusalem, which is in Judah.

Chava Tzemach, Communications & Marketing Manager

One of my favorite texts is Perek Shirah. I love how this text centers on the idea of all of the natural elements, flora, and fauna of Earth praising their Creator in their own unique way.

(א) אִילָנוֹת שֶׁבְּשָׂדֶה אוֹמְרִים. אָז יְרַנְּנוּ עֲצֵי הַיָּעַר מִלִּפְנֵי יי כִּי בָא לִשְׁפּוֹט אֶת הָאָרֶץ: (דברי הימים א טז לח)

(1) The Wild Trees are saying, “Then shall the trees of the forest sing out at the presence of God, because God comes to judge the earth.


Shmuel Weissman, Manager of Text Acquisition & Text Quality

My favorite text is Sefer Hamitzvot of Rasag. While not as popular, Rav Saadia Gaon’s work is of similar genre to the classic Monei Hamitzvot, such as Rambam and Chinukh. In his short work, Rasag presents the commandments in the form of Azharot – a liturgical poem, where each phrase, word and syllable is as instructive as charming, not worn away by millennia…

(א) אֶת יְיָ אֱלֹהֶיךָ תִּירָא

(ב) וְאוֹתוֹ תַעֲבֹד בִּתְפִלָּה.

(ג) עֶרֶב

(ד) וּבֹקֶר יַחֲדֵהוּ

(ה) בְּאוֹת

(ו) וְטוֹטָפֹת לִתְהִלָּה:

Unfortunately, this text is not available in translation on Sefaria.


Hedva Yechieli, Education Coordinator Israel

My favorite text is Tzidkat HaTzadick. Beyond the chasidic content and its in-depth look into the Jewish soul, this book was ahead of its time in the ability of R' Tsadok to create a philosophy that is relevant for our postmodern era.

מפני שההתחלה לנתק עצמו מכל תאות עוה"ז שהוא מקושר בהם צריך לשמור הרגע שמתעורר בו רצון ה' ולחפוז על אותו רגע למהר לצאת מהם אולי יוכל. ואח"כ שוב ילך במתינות ולאט

For when one begins to cut oneself off from all desires of this world to which one is connected one must be aware of the moment wherein the desire to serve God awakens. One must rush to that moment and hurry to escape, maybe it is then possible. And then, later, one can go along moderately and slowly

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