Library Updates - 2022

Kohelet Rabbah

A midrash on Kohelet (Ecclesiastes) with verse-by-verse interpretations, compiled between the 6th and 8th centuries. Ecclesiastes, traditionally read for Sukkot, is interpreted in the midrash as a religious allegory. Verses that celebrate the joy of eating and drinking, for example, are read as metaphors for learning Torah and performing mitzvot.

Ahavat Yehonatan

Ahavat Yehonatan is a running commentary in Hebrew on the haftarot, written by kabbalist and homilist Rabbi Jonathan Eybeschutz. It also contains commentaries on Genesis Chapter 1 and Chapter 15, each preceding the haftarah commentary for that Torah portion. The work was first printed shortly after the author’s death and has been printed several times since; it is often printed together with Alon Bakhut, the author’s commentary on Lamentations (including in the version appearing on Sefaria).

Horeb: Essays on Israel’s Duties in the Diaspora

A 19th-century work of Jewish philosophy and practice written by Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch as part of his efforts to preserve traditional Judaism, especially among intellectual youth. The work divides Jewish laws into six categories based on the author’s unique classification and discusses their underlying ideas. It is one of the few attempts to analyze the rationale for all of the mitzvot in the Torah.

Idra Zuta

Idra Zuta, or “Small Gathering,” is a kabbalistic work that is typically printed as part of the Zohar. It serves as a continuation of the Idra Rabba, or “Large Gathering,” at which Rabbi Shimon bar Yohai first revealed mystical secrets he had previously withheld. Idra Zuta plays a central role in kabbalistic thought and is customarily read on a number of occasions with kabbalistic significance, such as Lag Ba’Omer, Hoshanah Rabbah, and yahrzeits of close relatives. This is the first major section of the Zohar to appear in English on Sefaria.

Nachal Eshkol on Ruth

Homiletical commentary of Chida on the Five Megilot.

Mevo HaShearim

Mevo HaShearim is a 20th-century work by Rabbi Kalonymus Kalman Shapira and serves as a sequel to the author’s Chovat HaTalmidim and Hakhsharat HaAvrekhim. It consists of theoretical discourses about the nature of prophecy and the role of the chasid, as well as practical instructions for the chasid on a journey of growth. Mevo HaShearim was intended to serve as an introduction to a work entitled Chovat HaAvrekhim, a work that Rabbi Shapira likely never got to composing before he was murdered in 1943. This annotated translation by Jon Kelsen was originally published as part of a larger dissertation, which includes a background and analysis of R. Shapiro’s educational writings and philosophy.

Sefer Chasidim

Sefer Chasidim (“Book of the Pious”) is an ethical and legal guide to everyday life and a foundational text of Chasidei Ashkenaz, a mystical and ascetic movement that flourished in Germany during the 12th and 13th centuries. The work teaches the righteous how to dress, speak, pray, work, sleep, interact with gentile neighbors, and make life-decisions, like whom to marry and where to live. It puts an emphasis on avoiding honor, wealth, physical pleasure, and extramarital sex, and its legal rulings are generally stringent. Given the ample attention the work devotes to realistic details, it is considered a critical source for studying Jewish civilization in medieval Germany.

Midrash Rabbah: Shir HaShirim & Ruth

Sefaria is excited to announce an original English translation of two more books from Midrash Rabbah. Shir HaShirim Rabbah, commissioned by Sefaria. Compiled around the 7th century, this midrash expands upon the biblical book Song of Songs, interpreting the book’s poetic conversations between two lovers as a metaphor for the loving relationship between God and the people of Israel. Ruth Rabbah is a sixth-century midrash on the Book of Ruth with verse-by-verse interpretations on most of the book, compiled in Israel. The commentary in the book is often introduced by a poem or series of poems. Ruth Rabbah also weaves in occasional large chunks of sermons, discourses, or interpretations of other biblical texts, connecting them to related interpretations of the Book of Ruth.

Sefer Daniel: Opportunity in Exile

Sefer Daniel: Opportunity in Exile is a modern, 21st-commentary on the Book of Daniel by Rabbi Chaim Jachter, rabbi of Congregation Shaarei Orah in Teaneck, New Jersey and Judaic Studies teacher at Torah Academy of Bergen County (TABC). This commentary is guided by Rav Ya’akov Medan’s book entitled “Daniel: Galut V’Hitgalut,” and incorporates questions and insights from Rabbi Jachter’s students at TABC.

Ezra ben Solomon on Song of Songs

Rabbi Ezra ben Shlomo’s commentary on the Song of Songs is considered one of the most important texts of the first clearly identified Kabbalists who operated in the Catalonian town of Gerona at the middle of the 13th century. It was originally published with an attribution to Nachmanides. This version includes 20th-century translations and annotations by Professor Seth Brody.

Malbim Ayelet HaShachar

This 19th century commentary contains a comprehensive guide and explanation of rabbinic interpretation of the Bible. In it, the author delves into the nuances of Hebrew vocabulary and grammar to determine 613 principles through which the Bible is to be interpreted. Malbim Ayelet HaShachar was written by Meïr Leibush ben Yehiel Michel Weisser (Malbim), a rabbi, Hebrew grammarian, and halachic scholar, who held seven different rabbinic posts over the course of his lifetime.

Hebrew Highlights: Ohr HaTzafun

Ohr HaTzafun is a 20th-century work of musar that contains a compilation of discourses of Rabbi Nosson Tzvi Finkel, an influential Lithuanian Jewish leader of Orthodox Judaism in Eastern Europe and founder of the Slabodka yeshiva. It contains ethical discussions arranged according to the weekly Torah portion.

Hebrew Highlights: New Works by Rav Shagar

Panekha Avakesh consists of a collection of sermons delivered by Rabbi Shimon Gershon Rosenberg (Rav Shagar) in 1981-1982, when he served as head of yeshiva at Yeshivat HaKotel in Jerusalem. The sermons often touch on events of the period, such as Israel’s withdrawal from the Sinai Peninsula and the First Lebanon War (in which many of the yeshiva’s students fought - including two who were killed). The 21st century work Ahevukha Ad Mavet analyzes the discussions of martyrdom (“kiddush Hashem”) in tractate Sanhedrin and in Maimonides’ Sefer HaMitzvot. It combines traditional methods of talmudic interpretation and academic insights in order to address the fundamental issues with which the talmudic text grapples, like the value of human life and its conflict with the concept of loving God until death.

Hebrew Highlights: Em LaMikra

This Hebrew commentary by Rabbi Elijah Benamozegh incorporates academic scholarship including philology, archeology, and history, while defending traditional rabbinic biblical interpretation against the critiques of biblical criticism. Soon after Em LaMikra was published, it elicited fierce debate among several Jewish communities. Rabbis of Aleppo ordered that copies of the Pentateuch in which Benamozegh’s commentary had been printed be burned, arguing that the academic nature of the work, comparisons of the practices of the Israelites with those of other near-eastern religions, and quotations from Karaite commentaries and the New Testament all rendered the commentary a work of heresy.

Shivchei HaRan

We’ve added a complete English translation of Shivchei HaRan, a biography of Rebbe Nachman of Breslov, thanks to a generous release by the Breslov Institute. This work was compiled by his student, Rebbe Natan Sternhartz, in the early 19th century.

Hebrew Highlights: Ohr LaYeshrim on Jerusalem Talmud

Ohr LaYesharim is a 21st-century Hebrew commentary on certain tractates in the Jerusalem Talmud. It consists of two parts: clear and accessible in-line explanations of each phrase in the talmudic text, and more detailed elucidations that summarize the structure and conclusion of talmudic passages, explain the function of key talmudic phrases, compare select texts to their parallels in rabbinic literature, and expand upon topics addressed in the Talmud.

Hebrew Highlights: Menorat HaMaor

Menorat HaMaor (“The Lamp of Illumination”) is a 14th-century work by Rabbi Yisrael Alnaqua. Written in simple and accessible Hebrew, it includes practical legal instructions for daily activity like prayer and Torah study, as well as guidance for ethical conduct, discourses on the significance behind commandments and customs, and a series of assorted addenda at the end.

Hebrew Highlights: Teshuvot Bayit Chadash

Teshuvot Bayit Chadash is a 17th-century collection of responsa penned by Rabbi Yoel Sirkis, also known as the Bach. Its letters often shed light on the social, economic, and religious conditions of Polish Jewry during the period, addressing cases like that in which a Jew was martyred by Christians for stealing a statue of Jesus. The responsa were published in two editions: Teshuvot HaYeshunot (“Old Responsa”) addresses topics related to monetary law and forbidden mixtures, while Teshuvot HaChadashot (“New Responsa”) addresses assorted topics.

New English Translations from Breslov Research Institute

We've expanded the library's collection of English translations of works by the chassidic master Rabbi Nachman of Breslov. Sichot HaRan is an introduction to Breslov's thought compiled by his closest disciple. Sefer HaMiddot is an ethical work that lists various character traits in alphabetical order and elaborates on them at length. Likutei Etzot is a collection of Rebbe Nachman's teachings on a variety of common human situations and emotions, and Likutei Halakhot explains topics in the Shulchan Aruch in the light of Breslov teachings.

Esther Rabbah

Just in time for the month of Adar and the upcoming Purim holiday: we’re proud to announce the addition of an original translation of Esther Rabbah, commissioned by Sefaria. Esther Rabbah is a work of midrash that expands upon the Book of Esther, filling in gaps in the narrative and providing new perspectives on the story’s characters.

Hebrew Highlights: Sefer HaShorashim

Sefer HaShorashim (“The Book of Roots”) is a 13th-century dictionary of the Hebrew language by Rav David Kimchi (known as the Radak), with definitions based upon etymology and comparisons between languages.

Hebrew Highlights: Pur HuHaGoral; Homilies for Purim

Pur Hu HaGoral is a collection of sermons related to Purim delivered by Rabbi Shimon Gershon Rosenberg (known as Rav Shagar for his acronym) between the years of 1982 and 2003. Drawing on modern philosophy as well as on traditional chasidic thought, the work addresses spiritual questions such as the meaning of life and religious conviction and doubt, aiming to connect the Purim holiday with lived human experience.

New English Chasidut Translations

We’ve added new Chasidut translations to our library. These include two works of the late 18th-century chasidic master, Rebbe Nachman of Breslov: Likutei Etzot, assorted teachings on daily situations and emotions, and Sefer HaMiddot, a study of various character traits arranged in alphabetical order. We’ve also added a new translation of Mei HaShiloach, a reflective collection of thoughts on the weekly Torah portion and other texts by the mid 19th-century Rabbi Mordechai Leiner, founder of the Izhbitza-Radzyn chasidic dynasty.

English Translation of Sefer HaYirah

Now available thanks to Rabbi Justin Kerber’s generous release of his translation into the Creative Commons — explore the fully translated Sefer HaYirah, a 13th-century essay attributed to Rabbeinu Yonah of Gerondi. The text was written as a guide for daily living from morning until evening, emphasizing God's presence in everyday life.

Works from Dr. Erica Brown (and an Author Talk!)

We celebrated the addition of two texts by Dr. Erica Brown that are anchored in the Jewish calendar. In the Narrow Places; Daily Inspiration for the Three Weeks is a daily study schedule for reflection between the 17th of Tamuz and Tisha B’av, and Return; Daily Inspiration for the Days of Awe is a collection of lessons and prompts for the ten-day period beginning with Rosh Hashanah and ending with Yom Kippur. Want to learn more? Check out our Author Talk with Dr. Erica Brown about her High Holidays book writing process.

Female Scholarship in Nishmat HaBayit

Now available online in Hebrew, Nishmat HaBayit is a collection of essays written by Yoatzot Halakhah, Women Halachic Consultants certified by Nishmat, The Jeanie Schottenstein Center for Advanced Torah Study for Women. Covering topics such as pregnancy, birth, nursing, and contraception, this addition to our library is an important work of contemporary halakha and female scholarship.

Hebrew Highlights: Academic Mishnah Commentary

Written by contemporary scholars Professors Shmuel Safrai, Chana Safrai, and Ze'ev Safrai, Mishnah Eretz Yisrael is a 21st-century modern Hebrew Mishnah commentary with an emphasis on the historical backdrop of the Mishnah’s development. This critical commentary is now available in our library in Hebrew for select tractates.

Hebrew Highlights: Works by Rav Shagar

We’ve added two Hebrew works by Rabbi Shimon Gershon Rosenberg (also known as Rav Shagar). Talmud Series; Shemitah is a collection of notes on tractate Sheviit, and Al Kapot HaMan'ul; Homilies for the Days of Awe is a collection of High Holidays sermons. Rav Shagar was a 20th and 21st century Torah scholar whose work drew on chasidic teachings, early Religious Zionist thought, and contemporary philosophy.

Additional Hebrew Texts

  • Shabbat HaAretz: A 20th-century work of Halakha by Rabbi Avraham Yitzchak HaCohen Kook (the first Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi in pre-state Israel), exploring the laws of and ideas behind Shemitah, or the Sabbatical year.
  • Em HaBanim Semecha: A 20th-century work by Rabbi Yisachar Shlomo Teichtal, advocating for Jewish unity around rebuilding the land of Israel to bring redemption.
  • Chayim VaChesed: Chasidic Torah insights from Rebbe Chaim Cyakly Levin of Amdur, one of the earliest founders of Lithuanian chasidism, published posthumously in 1891.
  • Bat Ayin: An 18th century Torah commentary by ​​Rabbi Avraham Dov Auerbach of Avritch.
  • Reshit Chokhmah: A 16th-century Kabbalistic work by Rabbi Eliyahu de Vidas, outlining meditation methods with permutations of Hebrew letters to inspire holiness.
  • Maskil LeDavid: Written by Rabbi David Pardo, an 18th-century Italian Rabbi and poet, Maskil LeDavid is a super-commentary on Rashi’s Torah commentary.
  • Adam Min HaAdamah: A 21st-century study of Shemitah (the Sabbatical year) and Yovel (the Jubilee year), written by students and faculty at Yeshivat Otniel in Israel.
  • Penei Sheviit Nekabelah: An analysis of Shemitah as a central and valuable commandment, written in the 21st-century by Rav Elchanan Cherlow, rosh yeshiva of Yeshivat Otniel.
  • Sefer HaYirah: A 13th-century essay attributed to Rabbeinu Yonah of Gerondi as a guide for daily living from morning until evening emphasizing God's presence in everyday life.

As always, you can find all of our most recent library updates on our Content Updates page. Still catching up? Check out the 2021 New Year, New Texts post and our Library Updates page from November 2020.