Tuesday, November 19, 2013

What's Your "Favorite" Book of Tanach?

Do you particularly enjoy a certain book of the Tanach?

Today, I heard the book of Daniel described as a "really good read." Usually, when I hear orthodox Jews discuss a "favorite" book of Tanach, it's always Psalms/Tehillim. But does another book speak to you personally? Is there a book you simply enjoy reading? Have those feelings or choices changed over time? 

Conversely, do you have particular difficulty with a certain book? Why do you think that is?

Deep Thoughts Tuesday.


  1. I really like Yonah, maybe because it's the first one that I read all the way through in Hebrew. I also like Vayikra, not sure why.

  2. Shmuel/Samuel (books 1 and 2 are one volume in the Hebrew): Shaul and especially David are presented in much more detail than most figures in Tanakh and come across as complex and fascinating personalities. The narrative can be seen as an extended disquisition on the way even the best men are corrupted by power, acting as a companion piece of Shoftim/Judges, which is about the dangers of anarchy.

    Iyov/Job: intricate, moving poetry and a support, albeit a difficult one, at times of trouble with its message (as I understand it) that being in awe of G-d and His creation is more important than understanding what goes on in it and that suffering can be a catalyst for growth.

    1. I agree with you 100% about Iyov, although the message can be difficult to follow, and the Hebrew is impossible to follow (aside from the first two chapters and the last chapter which are narrative).

  3. I was always a big fan of Daniel as a kid. I think it was all the stories about people standing by their beliefs regardless of the consequences. The imagery of Daniel surviving the lion's den or Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego being saved from a furnace can be easily imagined.

  4. Well, yes, I suppose that I´d say Tehilim, but i can strongly state the one I enjoy the least: Job

  5. Shmuel is a very good shteig, especially if you get the commentary with all the various midrashim. (Artscroll has a quality English sefer on it; I would highly recommend it).

  6. Kohelet. Reading that back when I was struggling with depression and my belief in G-d literally saved my life.

  7. Megillas Esther and Shmuel are probably my
    favorites. I highly recommend the Living Nach
    editions - those volumes have a great
    translation and a short commentary which is
    good when you want to cover ground. I also
    like Yirmiyah, which is much easier than sefer
    like Yeshaya - Yirmiyah has a lot more stories
    (especially the last 12 chapters or so), and the
    prophecies aren't so esoteric. I also think it's a
    good idea to learn Zecharya, which has very
    esoteric prophecies, just to see some of what's
    predicted for time leading up to the Yemos

    Rabbi Hayyim Angel has some very good
    Tanach shiurim on yutorah.org. He just
    completed a three-part lecture series on
    Mishlei, Iyov, and Koheles. I also recommend
    Rabbi Allen Schwartz's lectures on yutorah.org –
    he's taught most of the sefarim of Tanach.

  8. I'll be different here and say Deuteronomy. I like the way it is put together and it brings a strong message to the birth if a nation.

    1. I love Devarim too, but I love it because it's about the power to radically transform law while ostensibly staying true to your roots. Only not, because cf. radical transformation and power grabs by the priesthood. In case you hadn't guessed, I'm a source critic and don't believe in Torah miSinai. Still love Torah, though.

      I'm also quite fond of Ezra-Nehemiah for the same reasons that I like Devarim. Shir haShirim's applications in later midrash are epic. I really dislike Bamidbar because it. Never. Ends.

  9. Bereshit, but honestly, how can I choose? It is all so very cool.

  10. I started converting almost a year ago, and found your blog and started reading back through old posts- and the Southern town with the Orthodox synagogue mostly attended by the older/grandparents generation, with the younger/family generation at the satellite, and being told stories of extreme rules sounds EXACTLY like the beginning of my conversion journey. Ever been to Charleston, SC? ;)

    1. Yep, that's where I found Judaism! I doubt anyone even remembers me there. The rabbi is now in NYC.

  11. Wow! Small world! The story about not being able to walk on grass was one of the first stories I heard, too ;)
    Though, apparently not long before I started my conversion process there was a "turn over" at the synagogues. I don't think that any of the current rabbis have been here for too long. KKBE got a new rabbi in 2011, and I think she's been here the longest. Plus, a couple of months ago our new MO congregation got it's first rabbi (apparently BSBI originally had the downtown synagogue, then added one in West Ashley near the bridge-the satellite- but later started a second satellite at the JCC, and that one became it's own MO congregation Dor Tikvah) And I'm almost positive that the Dor Tikvah rabbi came from a synagogue that Heshy Fried has attended. Can you teach me more about Jewish Geography??

  12. My initial thought upon reading the question is that because the entire Tanach is the word of Hashem, how is it possible to favor one book over another? I would phrase the question "Which book of the Tanach is your favorite to read," or "Which is the most meaningful to you." Those are both questions that I would answer, and I believe that is what the author meant. Tehillim, Psalms is the most widely read, and features a major role in all of our Tefilot; yet it is also one of the least understood. I gain new insights from the book of Mishlei, Proverbs every time I read it. The same is true of the book Iyov, Job. I also love the books of Daniel, Yechezke'el, Ezekiel, and Zechariah. But after all is said and done, I love reading and studying every sing book!