TORAH TEXT and TRANSLATION*
English-Hebrew Torah Text with Commentary
The Stone Edition: The Chumash. Nosson Scherman, ed. Mesorah (Art Scroll), 1993. This volume includes notes in English referencing traditional authors across two millenia; commentaries of Onkelos (2nd Century CE) and Rashi (10th Century CE) are provided in Hebrew (not translated). An appendix identifies commentators cited to aid further study. Bibliography and topical index are also useful.
(“Plaut”) The Torah: A Modern Commentary. W. Gunther Plaut, ed. Union of American Hebrew Congregations [now Union for Reform Judaism], 1981. The English translation is from the Jewish Public Society, 1962-1967 version. Notes reference authors from many perspectives over the centuries; endnotes and bibliography aid further study.
(“Plaut/Stein”) The Torah: A Modern Commentary. W. Gunther Plaut, David E. Stein, eds. Union for Reform Judaism [formerly Union of American Hebrew Congregations], 2005. English is a gender-sensitive version of the more recent Jewish Publication Society translation. I don’t own this version, but cite it on occasion, through http://books.google.com. I list it here primarily to clarify the three Reform Torah/Commentaries (see above and below). NOTE: Genesis translation was updated by Chaim Stern before his death in 2001.
(“TWC“) The Torah: A Women’s Commentary. Tamara Cohn Eskenazi and Andrea L. Weiss, eds. Women of Reform Judaism, 2008. The translation is that of the 2005 URJ volume with some additional modifications. Commentaries are strongly, although not entirely, focused on women and on gender issues in the text. Each portion closes with poetry on related themes, “another view” and a “contemporary reflection” on issues relating to women/gender. (No haftarah — prophetic readings.)
(“Onkelos”) Onkelos on the Torah: Understanding the Bible Text. Drazin, Israel and Stanley M. Wagner, translator/eds. Jerusalem: Geffen, 2008. Includes Hebrew text and Onkelos (ancient Aramaic translation) plus Rashi. Drazin and Wagner translate Onkelos, but not the Hebrew, into English and add commentary. Commentary stresses points where Onkelos differs from original Hebrew, but comments are presented in English and do not require Hebrew or Aramaic knowledge. Haftarot are provided in Aramaic with Drazin/Wagner translation.
Fox, Everett. The Five Books of Moses. Schocken Bible, Volume 1. Schocken, 2000 (hardcover); paperback, Random House. Employs unusual English in an attempt to carry sound and sense of Hebrew. More details.
Alter, Robert. The Five Books of Moses: A Translation with Commentary. Attempts to “convey the music and meaning” of the text. Hardcover, 2004; paperback, 2008.
* A GENERAL NOTE: The tetragrammaton, the four-letter name of God, appears differently in these volumes. JPS (Plaut) and Alter both use “the LORD,” while Scherman/Stone uses “HASHEM” [the name]. Fox uses the English capitals YHWH. The modified JPS in Plaut/Stein uses “the Eternal,” while The Torah: A Women’s Commentary uses the Hebrew letters yod-heh-vav-heh. (Because I cannot do Hebrew font, I copy that as YHWH, too, I’m afraid.)
— Torah, Nevi’im [prophets], and Ketuvim [writings] —
Jewish Publication Society (JPS) in Philadephia, PA, completed a new translation in 1999. In addition to updating the English, the new editions use a two-column layout that aligns Hebrew and English pretty closely for easy reference. The URJ’s Torah/Commentary (above) and several others relay on JPS translations.
Ancient Israel: The Former Prophets: Joshua, Judges, Samuel, and Kings: A Translation with Commentary. Robert Alter. NY: Norton, 2013.
The Bible: Psalms with the Jerusalem Commentary, translation and commentary by Amos Hakham. Copyright 2003 by Mosad Harav Kook. Oversize, three-volume work with introductory essays, comments on each psalm and notes on translation, history, etc; only section of this series so far available in English. An amazing resource, but not exactly subway reading.
The Complete Psalms: The Book of Prayer Songs in a New Translation. Pamela Greenberg (forward by Susannah Heschel). NY: Bloomsbury, 2010.
Entirely free English translation of the Babylonian Talmud is available on-line, recently (2012) “reformatted (for easier PDF reading, also available for Kindle, etc.) The reformatting includes introductions to each order. Very handy resource! I see nothing about who owns the copyright, although I am figuring the law school at Yeshiva University is clear on their right to share this. Electronic and print versions are available from Soncino Press.
Koren Publishers offers a new translation edited by R. Adin Steinsaltz, which opens two ways: 1) Hebrew-opening text laid out with traditional commentary (in Hebrew only); 2) English-opening with notes, timelines, illustrations, and other useful material in the margins, along with the English and Hebrew/Aramaic text in manageable chunks. Available in full color volumes or slightly cheaper daf-yomi black/white editions, as well as PDF versions.
An incomplete translation by Michael L. Rodkinson (Boston: The Talmud Society, 1913-1918), which is in the public domain, is available from a site called Sacred Texts, which advertises itself as “a quiet place in cyberspace devoted to religious tolerance and scholarship.” Many other public domain texts of Judaism and other faiths are available as well.
ArtScroll has published a complete English translation of both the Babylonian Talmud and the Jerusalem Talmud.
Background materials on Talmud and women in Talmud
Midrash Rabbah. Medieval compilation of commentary on the Torah. Some translations are available at sacred-text.com
Alter, Robert. Canon and Creativity: Modern Writing and the Authority of Scripture. Yale Univ. Press, 2000.
Antonelli, Judith. In the Image of God: A Feminist Commentary on the Torah . Jason Aronson, 1995.
Bach, Alice. Women in the Hebrew Bible: A Reader. NY: 1999. Includes essays on ancient Israel and goddesses as well as material on specific biblical texts. Introduction includes sections on “Feminists Changing the Rules of the Game” and “A Subversive Companion for Reading ancient Texts.” Offers an extensive bibliography, and reference notes for each essay.
Berditchev, Rabbi Levi Yitzchak. Kedushat Levi. Translated and annotated by Eliyahu Munk. Lambda Publications, 2009. See Breishit: Great Sources for more.
Bialik, H.N and Y.H Ravnitzky. Wm. Braude, trans. The Book of Legends: Sefer Ha-Aggadah, Legends from the Talmud and Midrash. Originally published in 1908 by Dvir Publishing House; English by Schocken in 1992….A two-volume Hebrew edition is available from Dvir — the publishing enterprise founded by Bialik — (Dvir, Tel Aviv, 2000). The English translation is much more recent (NY: Schocken Books, 1992).
Cassuto, Umberto. A Commentary on the Book of Exodus. Jerusalem: Magnes Press, Hebrew University, 1997 (first Hebrew 1951; first English 1967). Translated from the Hebrew by Israel Abrahams.
—A Commentary on the Book of Genesis, Part Two: From Noah to Abraham, ibid., 1992 (first Hebrew 1949; first English 1964).
–There is also a Genesis, Part One: From Adam to Noah, but I’ve never read it.
—Part Three: Abraham and the Promised Land was unfinished on Cassuto’s death; current editions of Part Two include fragments of this volume. These volumes are very readable, even if dense [not obstuse: rich]. Worth the effort if you like language and near Eastern history; often cited by other authors concerning poetic/linguistic structure of the text. See Shemot
for more details.
Elper, Ora Wiskind and Susan Handelman. Torah of the Mothers. Urim, 2000.
Feigenson, Emily H., Susan Marks and Andrea L. Weiss, eds. Beginning the Journey: A Women’s Commentary on Torah. Women of Reform Judaism, 1998. [Can be obtained new from WRJ or used through ABE or Alibris,etc.]
Fields, Harvey J. Illustrations by Giori Carmi. A Torah Commentary for Our Times. Discussion of weekly portions with reference to commentary across the centuries and to contemporary issues. Questions for discussion and study follow each section. NY: UAHC (now URJ) Press, 1990.
Frankel, Ellen. The Five Books of Miriam: A Woman’s Commentary on the Torah.. G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 1996. (paperback: HarperCollins). A variety of “voices” — our daughters, our mothers, our bubbes, Lilith the Rebel, Beruriah the Scholar, Huldah the Preacher, and many others — create a dialogue of traditional and contemporary commentaries across the centuries. Endnotes and a bibliography encourage further study.
Ginzberg, Louis. Legends of the Jews. Early 20th Century anthology of midrash; readable as coherent stories, not as useful for tracking down individual midrashim with citations. Translated from the German by Henrietta Szold. Available on-line at Sacred-Texts.com or Project Guttenberg. A print re-issue (seven volumes) is available from the Jewish Publication Society.
Goldstein, Elyse. The Women’s Torah Commentary: New Insights from Women Rabbis on the 54 Weekly Torah Portions. Jewish Lights, 2000.
Greenberg, Aharon Yaakov, editor. Itturei Torah [Torah Gems]. Translated into English by Shmuel Himelstein. Compilation of midrash, with an emphasis on Chassidic commentaries. Tel Aviv: Yavneh Publishing House, 1992.
Heschel, Abraham Joshua. Heavenly Torah: As Refracted through the Generations. (originally published in Hebrew, 1962-65). English translation by Gordon Tucker and Leonard Lavin, 2005. NY: Continuum (hardcover and paperback). Topically arranged 800+-page resource. Includes translators’ footnotes as well as Heschel’s, source appendix and a glossary.
Klitsner, Judy. Subversive Sequels in the Bible: How Biblical Stories Mine and Undermine Each Other. Jerusalem: Maggid Books/Koren, 2011.
Kushner, Rabbi Lawrence, and David Mamet. Five Cities of Refuge: Weekly Reflections on Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy. NY: Schocken Books, 2003. Also available as an ebook. For an excerpt, discussion and links to a review, see Terumah: Great Sources.
Lapidus Lerner, Anne. Eternally Eve: Images of Eve in the Hebrew Bible, Midrash and Modern Jewish Poetry. Brandeis University Press, 2007.
Leibowitz, Nehama. Studies in Breishit, Shemot, Vayikra, Bamidbar, Devarim [7 volume set]. Translated and adapted from the Hebrew by Aryeh Newman. Jerusalem: Elinor Library, Joint Authority for Jewish Zionist Education [various years]. Biographical notes on commentators cited and Newman’s introduction appear in the Breishit [Genesis] volume. Books are sometimes called “New Studies in…,” but “new” means later than 1955-1962, when the studies were shared in mimeograph and other formats. See Shoftim: Great Sources for additional details.
Loeb, Sorel Goldberg and Barbara Binder Kadden. Teaching Torah: A Treasury of Insights. Denver, CO: ARE (Alternatives in Religious Education) Publishing, 1997. Extremely useful source for individual study and for teaching all ages. Now available from Behrman House.
Orenstein, Debra and Jane Litman, eds. Lifecycles Volume 2: Jewish Women on Biblical Themes in Contemporary Life. Jewish Lights, 1998.
Ostriker, Alicia. The Nakedness of the Fathers: Biblical Visions and Revisions Rutgers Univ. Pres, 1994. Presented as a unique weave of essay and poetry, personal reflection and bible commentary — never about (simply) “giving voice to women.” When Ostriker’s women and men speak, they have something to say that profoundly alters the reader’s perspective on the text. A great book to read and re-read with Torah and later books of the bible. See also Noach: Great Sources and Korach: Great Sources.
Pardes, Ilana. The Biography of Ancient Israel: National Narratives in the Bible. Part of the Contraversions series, 2000, it is published by Univ. of California Press and is now available in paperback. Rare combination of readable and scholarly. Can’t recommend enough: read this! (See post “Bamidbar: Great Source“)
Salkin, Jerffrey K., ed. The Modern Men’s Torah Commentary: New Insights from Jewish Men on the 54 Weekly Torah Portions. Woodstock, VT: Jewish Lights, 2009. An interesting array of commentary which serves both to bring out new perspectives on the weekly portions and to remind us that older commentaries, although written almost exclusively by men, do not necessarily speak to contemporary men… or do so in the same way. See also 54 New Torah Insights.
Schwartz, Howard. Tree of Souls: The Mythology of Judaism. Illustrations by Carol Loebel-Fried. New York: Oxford University Press, 2004. (See post Chukat: Great Sources)
Schwartz, Rebecca A. All the Women Followed Her: A Collection of Writings on Miriam the Prophet & The Women of Exodus. Rikudei Miriam Press, 2001. Poetry, fiction, and essays about Miriam, Zipporah, Batya, Yocheved and Elisheva. Out-of-print but available used. See Drawing Back: Zipporah’s View for my contribution to that volume.
Schweid, Eliezer. The philosophy of the Bible as foundation of Jewish culture. Translated by Leonard Levin. Academic Studies Press.
Shunfenthal, Sheri Waas. Judybeth Greene, illustrator. Sacred Voices: Women of Genesis Speak. Pocol Press, 2000. Select pages from this book, including the illustration, “Adam and His Remote,” by Judybeth Greene, are available through Amazon.com; other illustrations are here.
Trible, Phyllis. Texts of Terror: Literary-Feminist Readings of Biblical Narratives. Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1984. This early, oft-cited source in feminist text analysis is easy to read, text-illuminating and historically useful. The author’s training and overall framework are Christian, but her biblical readings remain within the Hebrew text. Available through GoogleBooks See also Lekh Lekha: Great Source(s).
Tucker, Joann, and Susan Freeman. Torah in Motion: Creating Dance Midrash. Denver, CO: ARE Publishing Inc., 1990. Now available as a used trade paperback or as an e-book.
Zornberg, Avivah Gottlieb. (My note on these sources is too long for this file.)
—The Beginning of Desire: Reflections on Genesis. NY: Doubleday, 1996.
—The Particulars of Rapture: Reflections on Exodus. NY: Doubleday, 2001.
—The Murmuring Deep: Reflections on the Biblical Unconscious. NY: Schocken, 2009.
–“Cries and Whispers: The Death of Sarah” IN Beginning Anew: A Woman’s Companion to the High Holidays. Gail Twersky Reimer and Judith A. Kates, editors. Simon and Schuster, 1997.
B’chol L’vav’cha. NY: Congregation Beth Simchat Torah, 2009. Cross-denominational congregation-based siddur “re-crafting classical prayers to reflect contemporary concerns.”
Book of Blessings: New Jewish Prayers for Daily Life, the Sabbath, and the New Moon Festival. Marcia Falk. Boston: Beacon Press, 1996. Poetic offerings and prayers re-written in Hebrew and English that calls on the community to bless (with a plural “we”) instead of addressing God directly, which requires a gendered vocabulary in Hebrew and poses other theological challenges.
Hours of Devotion: Fanny Neuda’s Book of Prayers for Jewish Women. Dinah Berland, translator. NY: Schocken, 2007. Originally published in German in 1854.
Kol Haneshamah: Shabbat v’chagim. Wyncote, PA: The Reconstructionist Press, 1996. Title is an untranslated phrase, meaning “every living thing” or “all with breath” or “all souls,” used in Psalm 150, e.g. The edition labeled “Shabbat v’chagim” is for Sabbath morning and festival prayers. There are additional volumes for Friday nights, songs and daily prayers as well as a high holiday prayerbook.
Koren Jerusalem Siddur. 2009. Koren siddurim are famous for their beautiful typeface. Rabbi Jonathan Sacks prepared the first English-Hebrew text for Koren in 2009. Sacks says he endeavored to add notes and English while maintaining a siddur that is beautiful to hold and to read. I’ve heard him speak about the English and heard previously Hebrew-only users remark on how interesting it is to use a translated text. I use the compact size, which adds weight but does fit a backpack or substantial bag. Lots of info on website; see also When the Ground Breaks.
- Koren Mesorat Harav Siddur. 2011. Commentary based on the teachings of Rabbi Joseph Soloveitchik, using the Sacks prayer translations
- Koren Rav Kook Siddur. 2017. Commentary based on the teachings of Rabbi Avraham Yitzhak haKohen Kook, translated and adapted by Rabbi Bezalel Naor, using the Sacks prayer translations.
Mishkan T’filah. NY: Union for Reform Judaism, 2007. The title [roughly: “Sanctuary of Prayer”] is untranslated by design in the first new prayerbook from the North American Reform movement in decades.
My People’s Prayer Book: Traditional Prayers, Modern Commentaries. Hoffman, Lawrence A., ed. Woodstock, VT: Jewish Lights. Ten volumes published over several years.
Seder Ha-T’fillot [“Forms of Prayer”]. London: Movement for Reform Judaism, 2009. First new prayerbook in decades for the Reform movement in the United Kingdom.
Siddur Birkat Shalom. Somerville, MA: Havurat Shalom Siddur Project, 2008. “Hebrew and English egalitarian language for both God and humans; new, original blessing for diversity; greater variety of God images;
new perspectives on Jews and non-Jews, good and evil, reward and punishment, and hierarchy.” Newest version goes up through Shema, with meditations on the Amidah and Aleinu, but not a full prayer service yet.
Siddur Eit Ratzon: a prayerbook for the morning service of Shabbat and festivals with new translations, commentaries, meditations, and prayers by Joseph G. Rosenstein. Highland Park, NJ: Shiviti Publications, 2003. There are now paperback weekday versions, CDs, and a high holiday machzor available as well. Additional resources available for study and meditation.
Siddur Lev Shalem. NY: Rabbinical Assembly, 2016. Lovely layout includes poems and commentary across many ages in margins along with prayers in Hebrew and English. No transliteration.
Siddur Sha’ar Zahav [Golden Gate Prayerbook]. San Francisco: Congregation Sha’ar Zahav, 2009. “Grounded in Reform theology…offers a diverse and inclusive liturgy inspiring to Jews of all genders and sexualities.”
Sim Shalom. Published by the Rabbinic Assembly (Conservative) in 1989. Edited by Rabbi Jules Harlow.
THEOLOGY, GENDER, MEDITATION and MORE
Adler, Rachel. Engendering Judaism: An Inclusive Theology and Ethics. Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society, 1998. (paperback, Beacon Press, 1999). This text is full of remarkable insights on Judaism, Torah, etc. — not exclusively on topics relevant to gender. It’s sometimes a slog to read (it began as a dissertation), and some of her arguments are more detailed than might interest a casual reader. But her discussion of the concept of “story,” and its importance in Judaism, e.g., is very worthwhile. Preview available at Google Books.
Alter, Robert. The Art of Biblical Narrative. NY: Basic Books, 1983. This now classic exploration of narrative and literary style in the Hebrew bible was heralded as a “radical approach” on publication.
Comins, Rabbi Mike. Making Prayer Real: Leading Jewish Spiritual Voices on Why Prayer is Difficult and What to Do about It. Woodstock, VT: Jewish Lights, 2010.
Heschel, Abraham Joshua. Moral Grandeur and Spiritual Audacity: Essays edited by Susannah Heschel. NY: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1996. Contains the lecture, “The Spirit of Prayer,” originally published in Proceedings of the Rabbinical Assembly of America [Conservative], Vol. XVII, 1953, and reprinted as an RA pamphlet. Volume, including this essay, is available through Google Books. See also Justice and Peace: Shoftim Prayer Links.
Hoffman, Lawrence A. Covenant of Blood: Circumcision and Gender in Rabbinic Judaism. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1996. Much of this book is available through Google Book preview. See also Tazria: A Path to Follow and Metzora: Great Source
Holtz, Barry. Back to the Sources: Reading the Classic Jewish Texts. Simon and Schuster, 1984. Extraordinarily useful book for orienting oneself to the many forms and layers of Jewish text developed over the centuries. Some English sources mentioned in this work are out of print or hard to find now, and many other books have become available, in the 25 years since the first edition; but the basic information is invaluable.
Idelsohn, A.Z. Jewish Liturgy and Its Development. Originally published by Henry Holt, 1932. Now available in reprint. NY: Dover, 1995. Good and thorough reference. Not ponderous, but not a great read either.
Lew, Alan. Be Still and Get Going: A Jewish Meditation Practice for Real Life. NY: Little Brown and Company, 2005. This is not a “commentary” on the Torah. Meditative practices and introduced through a variety of sacred texts. Many chapters serve to open new readings of Torah. For a bit about Lew’s life, please see “Death of a Great Teacher, Mentor, Colleague, Activist.”
Umansky, Ellen and Diane Ashton. Four Centuries of Jewish Women’s Spirituality: A Sourcebook. Beacon, 1992.
Atwan, Robert & Laurance Wieder, eds. Chapters Into Verse: Poetry in English Inspired by the Bible (Volume 1: Genesis to Malachi). New York: Oxford University Press, 1993. “To be included…a poem had to meet two criteria: it had to possess real literary merit (as distinct from admirable sentiment, or propriety, or didactor fervor) and it had to derive from a specific scriptural source.” A wide range of poetric approaches and styles are offered, although many contributions reflecting decidedly Christian perspectives. (Second volume focuses on the New Testament.)
Carmi, T. The Penguin Book of Hebrew Verse. Bilingual volume including poetry from the ancient world through the 20th Century, with an extensive introduction. Carmi explains his translation style as “prose,” but “not word for word,” adding: “I have tried to render the poems idiomatically and to capture something of their tone and movement, without ‘betraying’ their literal level.” (preface, p.11)
Even-Shoshan, ed. A New Concordance of the Bible: Thesaurus of the Language of the Bible, Hebrew and Aramaic roots, words, proper names phrases and synonyms. “Kiryat Sefer” Publishing House Ltd., Jerusalem [sic. Quotation marks for publishing house and yes, that long thing is the title].
Feinstein, Edward M. Capturing the Moon: Classic and Modern Jewish Tales retold by Rabbi Edward M. Feinstein. A collection of 36 tales suitable for all-age learning and discussion. “Values” index helps correlate with particular portions and themes. Springfield, NJ: Behrman House, 2008. See also Beshalach.
LolCatBible. An interesting project for a fresh perspective on bible text. Offers useful notes, including explanations of spots where Christian and Hebrew chapter/verse numberings differ.
Spanier, Ehud. ed. The Royal Purple and The Biblical Blue: The Study of Chief Rabbi Isaac Herzog and Recent Scientific Contributions. Jerusalem: Keter Publishing House, 1987.
Steinberg, Milton. As a Driven Leaf. Behrman House, 1939 (1996). A fictionalized account of the life of Elisha ben Abuya, the 2nd Century CE rabbi, referenced in much of the Talmud as Acher [“the other one”], to avoid mentioning the apostate by name. Originally published in 1939. Steinberg‘s novel is introduced by Chaim Potok in the 1996 edition..
See also Commentators and Passover References