Rabbi Shlomo Cohen

There is a sequence in which Seforim should be bought to maximize your learning. First off, consider that a huge number of Seforim are now available on CD. Seforim are expensive and heavy to move from home to home as you move from place to place. By far and away, most Seforim are not used on a regular basis. As most people have, or will be getting a home computer, it pays to consider getting the Bar Ilon CD and limiting hard copies to those that are essential.

As long as you are in Yeshiva, with access to the Seforim, many purchases are superfluous. Why buy a Rashba when the Yeshiva has it already. Remember also that most people do not get much use from Rishonim and Achronim once they leave Yeshiva. Consider as well whether you intend to live near someplace or someone who has a large library. If so, you can limit your purchases to the most needed.

Buying Seforim is considered a Mitzva D’Orysa, equivalent to writing a Sefer Torah. It will also make a statement about your home to those who visit as well as a factor in raising your children.

The following [certainly non-exhaustive list] is tiered, the most crucial Seforim, by topic, listed first, in bold then in regular then in smaller italics. Of course, you will be guided by your own personal needs and preferences. Generally, most people tend to favor one area of learning and their library reflects that attachment. It is always fascinating to browse someone else’s book shelves. It often tells you alot about that person.

The market in English Seforim has exploded over the last quarter century. Virtually everything is available in translation. I will only be listing several English Seforim as such. Buying too heavily in translation now will skew your library as you grow in learning.

Art Scroll or Metsuda translation with Rashi; Mikraos Gedolos:

Hirsch {Eng.}; Malbim; Torah Temima;
Maom Loez {Eng. or Heb.}; Midrash Rabba
New English translations are coming out all the time
A good Hebrew-English dictionary; Jastrow {less necessary now w/ Art Scroll Gemora}; any dictionary of abbreviations; concordance of Tanach; additionally there are any number of excellent aids for the beginning, or not so beginning learner
Art scroll translation: Mikraos Gedolos
Malbim : Maom Loez
Kehati Heb. or Eng.;
Art Scroll
Tiferes Yisroel
Mesilas Yeshorim Heb./Eng.; Orchos Tzadikim )Heb./Eng.(Sha’arei Tshuva Heb./Eng.

Sefer HaChinuch Heb. or Eng.;
Minchas Chinuch;
Sefer HaMitzvose L’HaRambam :

Mishna Brura [w/ index Yad Yisroel] Heb. Or Eng.: Shmeeras Shabbos K’Hilchasa Eng. or Heb.

Chaye Adam: Chachmas Adam :
Aruch HaShulchan
In addition there are a host of Seforim available on specific topics, purchase as needed or by interest area.
Sephardim might look into the Ben Ish Chai and Kaf HaChaim instead.
Igros Moshe [w/ index Yad Moshe]
Shas: Shulchan Aruch: Rambam [these are normally gotten when married, the custom is for the Kallah’s father to buy them for the Choson]: for reference purposes a small Shas and Rambam are very handy.
Otzer HaTefilos [2 vol.] is the Mikraos Gedolos of Siddur
: Siddur Bais Yaakov:
Art Scroll’s Siddurim, Machzorim, Selichos, Kinnos etc.:
Metsuda’ Siddurim, Machzorim etc. are linear.
Seder Olam Raba: Seder HaDoros: Some good Judaica histories are available in English.
Ta’amei HaMinhagim
Badei HaShulchan – Hilchos Nidda: Gefen Poraiya Eng. -R’ Blumenkrantz:
Sugah BaShoshanim on Harchokos
Halichas Bas Yisroel Eng. or Heb.

Beyond this point, you either know in which direction you wish to develop or sit with your Rebbe who will help you make that determination.

One excellent suggestion for a Seder would be to take 10 or 15 minutes a day and spend them browsing through the Yeshiva’s library. The intent is to familiarize yourself with Seforim in general. Where can I find any given piece of information? What is available to me? Check out various Seforim. Title, author, subject, contents. Especially watch for Seforim that contain an index. They can simplify your life tremendously. Know who has done all the work for you.

One simple example. With no prior information how would you go about locating a Gemora and a Rambam on the subject of T’chailes? ).Assume you don’t know where it is located in Chumash.
Step 1- look up T’chailes in the concordance. This gives you the place in Chumash.
Step 2- Using a Torah Temima gives you the sources in Gemora.
Step 3- Using the Ain Mishpat [top outside margin of the Gemora] gives you the Rambam and Shulchan Aruch.
Three simple steps, if you know where to look!

I usually suggest that Ba’alei Tshuva read through the Kitzur Shulchan Aruch as quickly as possible. Ask no questions, remember the Kitzur is often strict and mentions many customs we don’t necessarily follow. However, you will walk away with an overview of Halacha after which there should be no major surprises.


  1. It is not the way of Torah to:Base Halachah on a single agloehcorical finding.Summarily dismiss leading poskim such as R. Chaim Naeh as mistaken.Refer to contemporary rabbanim such as Rabbi Kaganoff with a lack of respect.I hope we don’t see more articles written in this vein.

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