The best books on Judaism

4 authors have picked their favorite books about Judaism and why they recommend each book.

Soon, you will be able to filter by genre, age group, and more. Sign up here to follow our story as we build a better way to explore books.

Shepherd is reader supported. When you buy through links on our website, we may earn an affiliate commission (learn more).

Zen Judaism

By Avi Sion,

Book cover of Zen Judaism

Zen Judaism is a frank reflection on the tensions between reason and faith in today’s context of knowledge. This book includes logic, ethics, philosophy, phenomenology and the need to inject Zen-like meditation into Judaism.


Who am I?

A lifelong practitioner and teacher of both Zen and Judaism, I am also a psychologist, who has constantly grappled with human needs, suffering, and the craving for meaning. The focus of my life has been to integrate the profound teachings of East and West and provide ways of making these teachings real in our everyday lives. An award-winning author, I have published many books on Zen and psychology, and have been the playwright in residence at the Jewish Repertory Theater in NY. Presently, I offer two weekly podcasts, Zen Wisdom for Your Everyday Life, and One Minute Mitzvahs. I also provide ongoing Zen talks both for Morningstar Zen and Inisfada Zen, workshops, and other talks for the community.


I wrote...

Jewish Dharma: A Guide to the Practice of Judaism and Zen

By Brenda Shoshanna,

Book cover of Jewish Dharma: A Guide to the Practice of Judaism and Zen

What is my book about?

The practice of Zen and Judaism are like two wings of a bird. Both are needed to be able to fly. In our world where everything is in great flux, both roots and wings are necessary to live truly and fully. Both Jewish and Zen practices have enormous wisdom so relevant to our struggles today. Jewish Dharma shows how each practice illuminates, challenges, and enriches the other.

Zen is based on radical freedom, individuality, being in the present, and nonattachment. Judaism comes rooted in relationships, family, love, prayer to a Higher power, and the instruction to always remember. A Jewish heart is warm, giving, human, and devoted to family and friends. A Zen eye is fresh, direct, spontaneous, and planted in the present moment. Together they are like two wings of a bird, both are needed to be able to fly.

The Thirteen Petalled Rose

By Adin Steinsaltz,

Book cover of The Thirteen Petalled Rose: A Discourse on the Essence of Jewish Existence and Belief

Adin Steinsaltz is another author who can be absolutely trusted in his ability to transmit ancient secrets with clarity, simplicity utilizing a complete concordance of knowledge meant to educate the reader. The first form of creation, as related in the preface to the Zohar, is the thirteen petal rose. Thirteen is the gematria of Echud/One, from here arises the seed to the Tree of Life.

Who am I?

I have been studying Zohar in the original ancient language for fifty years and have written a number of books about how Zohar informs the future of the Earth. For my whole life, I have pursued Truth. Zohar has been my guide through the darkness of life riddled with lies. The words of Zohar promise to become relevant at the End of Days, before the six thousand year calendar runs out in 220 years with the advent of the Thousand Years of Woman and Peace. After fifty years of study, I have deciphered the past and written a book for the ages.


I wrote...

Zohar: Beyond the BlackWhole

By Dovid Krafchow,

Book cover of Zohar: Beyond the BlackWhole

What is my book about?

Redefining time and space using ancient Hebrew knowledge combined with scientific and historical information allows the reader to enter into the inner sanctum of Jewish mysticism. Zohar—Beyond the BlackWhole is the unfurling of a seven hundred-year mystery. First came Zohar, meaning Brilliance: the most mystical of all Jewish texts. Then two hundred years later came Cabala, the key to Zohar. Only now, witnessed by technological wizardry, can the great vision of Zohar be corroborated by scientific fact. Now is the time to turn the key and open the door. Zohar can heal the world, showing the way to a beautiful future.

Mouse in the Matzah Factory

By Francine Medoff, Nicole In Den Bosch (illustrator),

Book cover of Mouse in the Matzah Factory

This is one of my favorite stories and it allows the reader to observe the process of making matzah. Through the eyes of a little mouse, we watch the care that is taken from growing and harvesting the wheat, to transporting it to the matzah factory, and finally, baking it into matzah. I think this story more than any other inspired my writing. I wanted to create a relatable character that would engage young children – a character who exhibits childlike curiosity and who wants to discover and participate in the events occurring around him. 


Who am I?

I believe that good Jewish stories are important tools in building Jewish identity. But when I first taught preschoolers, the books were either too didactic or written for older children. One day, when the children in my class were enthusiastically discussing the Christmas display at the mall, the idea came to me that maybe an eight-legged Spider celebrating the eight days of Hanukkah could compete with Frosty the Snowman. When Sammy Spider asks to spin a dreidel, he is told, “Spider’s don’t spin dreidels. Spiders spin webs.” The response became a favorite with Jewish children and a form of the phrase is part of all the Sammy Spider holiday and values books.


I wrote...

Sammy Spider's First ABC

By Sylvia A. Rouss, Katherine Janus Kahn (illustrator),

Book cover of Sammy Spider's First ABC

What is my book about?

Sammy Spider goes through the English alphabet using the Jewish holidays and traditions celebrated by the Shapiro family. With its sweet rhymes and iconic illustrations, this book is a fun new addition to the Sammy Spider collection. “A is for apple, a Rosh Hashanah treat. Josh dips it in honey, so tasty and sweet!”

The Great Angel

By Margaret Barker,

Book cover of The Great Angel: A Study of Israel's Second God

This book was published in 1992, prior to the recent revolution in our understanding of Jewish and Christian origins, but no book has done more to revolutionize my own understanding of Jewish and Christian origins than this one. What is so important about this book is not any specific fact or revelation, but rather the framework that Margaret Barker establishes for understanding the complex development of Jewish concepts of divinity. Barker shows how the polytheistic roots of Semitic religion led to ongoing turmoil within ancient Judaism and interpretations of the scriptures in ways that indicated there were two or more divine beings, not one.


Who am I?

I have been fascinated by the Bible since my earliest days in Sunday school, coloring pictures of Noah’s Ark. Yet, even as a young child I was very skeptical of the Christian interpretation of biblical stories, seeing that they couldn’t possibly be true. But I’ve always respected the Bible as a literary work and sought to understand its details. In my years of researching the Bible and Christian origins, several works stand out as being particularly important in shaping my understanding of Judaism and Christianity. These are those books.


I wrote...

Deciphering the Gospels: Proves Jesus Never Existed

By R.G. Price,

Book cover of Deciphering the Gospels: Proves Jesus Never Existed

What is my book about?

The Christian Bible is one of the most fascinating and important literary creations ever produced. Like many ancient works, the Bible is filled with literary puzzles, secret codes, hidden references, and masked allegory. Deciphering the Gospels examines many aspects of the Gospel of Mark to show that the story is a fictional allegory, based not on the life of Jesus, but rather on the life of Paul. It goes on to show how understanding the fictional scenes in the Gospel of Mark changes our understanding of everything we think we know about Jesus.

The First Edition of the New Testament

By David Trobisch,

Book cover of The First Edition of the New Testament

Trobisch is a highly respected Net Testament scholar, and his insights are on full display in this short, but important, work. The exact origins of the New Testament have long been shrouded in mystery. Many people think of the New Testament as a collection of independent writings. Here Trobisch provides an important framework for understanding the New Testament as a whole. He reveals many important clues about who, when, how, and why the first edition of the New Testament was created. Trobisch shows the overall unity of the editorial features of the New Testament.


Who am I?

I have been fascinated by the Bible since my earliest days in Sunday school, coloring pictures of Noah’s Ark. Yet, even as a young child I was very skeptical of the Christian interpretation of biblical stories, seeing that they couldn’t possibly be true. But I’ve always respected the Bible as a literary work and sought to understand its details. In my years of researching the Bible and Christian origins, several works stand out as being particularly important in shaping my understanding of Judaism and Christianity. These are those books.


I wrote...

Deciphering the Gospels: Proves Jesus Never Existed

By R.G. Price,

Book cover of Deciphering the Gospels: Proves Jesus Never Existed

What is my book about?

The Christian Bible is one of the most fascinating and important literary creations ever produced. Like many ancient works, the Bible is filled with literary puzzles, secret codes, hidden references, and masked allegory. Deciphering the Gospels examines many aspects of the Gospel of Mark to show that the story is a fictional allegory, based not on the life of Jesus, but rather on the life of Paul. It goes on to show how understanding the fictional scenes in the Gospel of Mark changes our understanding of everything we think we know about Jesus.

The Guide for the Perplexed

By Moses Maimonides,

Book cover of The Guide for the Perplexed

The classic 13th century medieval Jewish philosophic text that proposes a sophisticated—for that time—metaphysical model of spiritual experience; in this case, prophecy as articulated in the Hebrew Bible. The intellectual scaffolding for my attempt to resurrect a metaphysics of prophecy in my 2014 book "DMT and the Soul of Prophecy."


Who am I?

I’ve always been interested in the interface of biology and the mind, and between the mind and usually invisible worlds. Both Philip K Dick and the medieval Jewish philosophers labor mightily to unpack and communicate realms of the imagination residing in science fiction as well as Hebrew Bible prophecy. Likewise, the influx of Eastern religious practices and beliefs have pointed to areas of consciousness previously unknown to the West.


I wrote...

DMT and the Soul of Prophecy: A New Science of Spiritual Revelation in the Hebrew Bible

By Rick Strassman,

Book cover of DMT and the Soul of Prophecy: A New Science of Spiritual Revelation in the Hebrew Bible

What is my book about?

After completing his groundbreaking research chronicled in DMT: The Spirit Molecule, Rick Strassman was left with one fundamental question: What does it mean that DMT, a simple chemical naturally found in all of our bodies, instantaneously opens us to an interactive spirit world that feels more real than our own world?

When his decades of clinical psychiatric research and Buddhist practice were unable to provide answers to this question, Strassman began searching for a more resonant spiritual model. He found that the visions of the Hebrew prophets--such as Ezekiel, Moses, Adam, and Daniel--were strikingly similar to those of the volunteers in his DMT studies. Carefully examining the concept of prophecy in the Hebrew Bible, he characterizes a "prophetic state of consciousness" and explains how it may share biological and metaphysical mechanisms with the DMT effect.

Theological-Political Treatise

By Benedictus de Spinoza, Robert Harvey Munroe Elwes,

Book cover of Theological-Political Treatise: Tractatus Theologico-Politicus

Ostensibly an implacable intellectual foe of Maimonides’ “Guide,” this twice-excommunicated Jewish philosopher makes his own compelling arguments for the basis of spiritual experience/prophecy. At the same time, one senses a powerful compatibility with his philosophical opponent’s viewpoints.


Who am I?

I’ve always been interested in the interface of biology and the mind, and between the mind and usually invisible worlds. Both Philip K Dick and the medieval Jewish philosophers labor mightily to unpack and communicate realms of the imagination residing in science fiction as well as Hebrew Bible prophecy. Likewise, the influx of Eastern religious practices and beliefs have pointed to areas of consciousness previously unknown to the West.


I wrote...

DMT and the Soul of Prophecy: A New Science of Spiritual Revelation in the Hebrew Bible

By Rick Strassman,

Book cover of DMT and the Soul of Prophecy: A New Science of Spiritual Revelation in the Hebrew Bible

What is my book about?

After completing his groundbreaking research chronicled in DMT: The Spirit Molecule, Rick Strassman was left with one fundamental question: What does it mean that DMT, a simple chemical naturally found in all of our bodies, instantaneously opens us to an interactive spirit world that feels more real than our own world?

When his decades of clinical psychiatric research and Buddhist practice were unable to provide answers to this question, Strassman began searching for a more resonant spiritual model. He found that the visions of the Hebrew prophets--such as Ezekiel, Moses, Adam, and Daniel--were strikingly similar to those of the volunteers in his DMT studies. Carefully examining the concept of prophecy in the Hebrew Bible, he characterizes a "prophetic state of consciousness" and explains how it may share biological and metaphysical mechanisms with the DMT effect.

Jewish Meditation Practices for Everyday Life

By Rabbi Jeff Roth,

Book cover of Jewish Meditation Practices for Everyday Life: Awakening Your Heart, Connecting with God

This approach to meditation includes the wisdom of Buddhism and Judaism as a way to learn from life experience. By combining these two traditions, Rabbi Roth presents a model that allows westerners―both Jews and non-Jews―to embrace timeless Eastern teachings and integrate them with Jewish practice as well.


Who am I?

A lifelong practitioner and teacher of both Zen and Judaism, I am also a psychologist, who has constantly grappled with human needs, suffering, and the craving for meaning. The focus of my life has been to integrate the profound teachings of East and West and provide ways of making these teachings real in our everyday lives. An award-winning author, I have published many books on Zen and psychology, and have been the playwright in residence at the Jewish Repertory Theater in NY. Presently, I offer two weekly podcasts, Zen Wisdom for Your Everyday Life, and One Minute Mitzvahs. I also provide ongoing Zen talks both for Morningstar Zen and Inisfada Zen, workshops, and other talks for the community.


I wrote...

Jewish Dharma: A Guide to the Practice of Judaism and Zen

By Brenda Shoshanna,

Book cover of Jewish Dharma: A Guide to the Practice of Judaism and Zen

What is my book about?

The practice of Zen and Judaism are like two wings of a bird. Both are needed to be able to fly. In our world where everything is in great flux, both roots and wings are necessary to live truly and fully. Both Jewish and Zen practices have enormous wisdom so relevant to our struggles today. Jewish Dharma shows how each practice illuminates, challenges, and enriches the other.

Zen is based on radical freedom, individuality, being in the present, and nonattachment. Judaism comes rooted in relationships, family, love, prayer to a Higher power, and the instruction to always remember. A Jewish heart is warm, giving, human, and devoted to family and friends. A Zen eye is fresh, direct, spontaneous, and planted in the present moment. Together they are like two wings of a bird, both are needed to be able to fly.

Be Still and Get Going

By Alan Lew,

Book cover of Be Still and Get Going: A Jewish Meditation Practice for Real Life

Combining the teachings of Zen and Judaism Rabbi Lew creates a wonderful balance between stillness and activity. The book includes both Buddhist and Jewish teachings and addresses the pain and psychological issues we grapple with daily.


Who am I?

A lifelong practitioner and teacher of both Zen and Judaism, I am also a psychologist, who has constantly grappled with human needs, suffering, and the craving for meaning. The focus of my life has been to integrate the profound teachings of East and West and provide ways of making these teachings real in our everyday lives. An award-winning author, I have published many books on Zen and psychology, and have been the playwright in residence at the Jewish Repertory Theater in NY. Presently, I offer two weekly podcasts, Zen Wisdom for Your Everyday Life, and One Minute Mitzvahs. I also provide ongoing Zen talks both for Morningstar Zen and Inisfada Zen, workshops, and other talks for the community.


I wrote...

Jewish Dharma: A Guide to the Practice of Judaism and Zen

By Brenda Shoshanna,

Book cover of Jewish Dharma: A Guide to the Practice of Judaism and Zen

What is my book about?

The practice of Zen and Judaism are like two wings of a bird. Both are needed to be able to fly. In our world where everything is in great flux, both roots and wings are necessary to live truly and fully. Both Jewish and Zen practices have enormous wisdom so relevant to our struggles today. Jewish Dharma shows how each practice illuminates, challenges, and enriches the other.

Zen is based on radical freedom, individuality, being in the present, and nonattachment. Judaism comes rooted in relationships, family, love, prayer to a Higher power, and the instruction to always remember. A Jewish heart is warm, giving, human, and devoted to family and friends. A Zen eye is fresh, direct, spontaneous, and planted in the present moment. Together they are like two wings of a bird, both are needed to be able to fly.

Black Zion

By Yvonne Patricia Chireau (editor), Nathaniel Deutsch (editor),

Book cover of Black Zion: African American Religious Encounters with Judaism

Too often “Black-Jewish relations” focuses on Jewish engagement in the Black civil rights struggle, a largely one-sided political narrative. This book broadens that horizon in two ways. First, it focuses on the Black experience and encounter with the other, rather than the Jewish one. Second, it explores the religious dimension that political discussions often ignore – that the Black experience with Jews and Judaism is as much rooted in religion as in politics.


Who am I?

I am a professor who teaches and works in the field of African American History. Because I am both white and Jewish, I’ve been repeatedly asked to give talks about relationships between African Americans and white Jewish Americans, and about what “went wrong” to shatter the “grand alliance” of the civil rights movement embodied by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel. I had no answer, but I suspected that none of the stories that we had been told, whether good or bad, were fully true. So I went back to the sources and uncovered a complex and multilayered history. Black and Jewish collaboration was never a given, and underlying tensions and conflicts reflected the broader realities of race and class in the U.S. In the book I explored how these historical and political forces operated, and continue to resonate today.


I wrote...

Troubling the Waters: Black-Jewish Relations in the American Century

By Cheryl Lynn Greenberg,

Book cover of Troubling the Waters: Black-Jewish Relations in the American Century

What is my book about?

Was there ever really a black-Jewish alliance in twentieth-century America? And if there was, what happened to it?

My book examines the history and significance of what was less an alliance than a tumultuous political engagement. That engagement advanced the civil rights revolution and helped shape the agenda of liberalism, but it also laid bare the realities of racial and class divisions in our society, which divided the two communities even as they tried to make common cause. These tensions and conflicts persist today; my goal in writing this book was to better understand the past so we may learn how better to move forward with that yet unfinished work.

Or, view all 43 books about Judaism

New book lists related to Judaism

All book lists related to Judaism

Bookshelves related to Judaism