These utterly transformed my ḥagim. Rabbi Sacks‘ gorgeous and elegant translations, inspiring commentaries and – perhaps most of all – incredibly intelligent and incisive introductory essays to each of the Holidays gave me new perspectives I had never considered. These are absolutely essential for the ḥagim.
Rabbi Sacks’s introduction is a primer of prayer: read it for the most sublime and profound understanding of how and why we pray. I use the Koren Shalem Siddur three times a day, and never stop enjoying the translations (I cram in both the Hebrew and the English when I can) and the design, especially the now famous typography of Koren’s founder Eliyahu Koren. It’s a permanent companion wherever I go. The addition of the navigation thumb tabs on the new compact editions of the Koren Shalem Siddur make using this prayer book even more of a pleasure.
It was a very difficult to choose which of the Maggid Studies in Tanakh should make this list and the time of year is what clinched it for Dr. Erica Brown’s Jonah: A Reluctant Prophet. Dr. Brown’s novel and insightful interpretation of the story of Jonah will change the way I appreciate the Maftir at Minḥa on Yom Kippur. I am also excited to tackle Rabbi Zvi Grummet on Genesis in the new year. And I’m looking forward to Rav Alex Israel’s II Kings (which I’ll have a go with after a re-read of his I Kings…). They’re all so accessible, original and incisive. (Oh, and Rabbi Binyamin Lau’s Jerimiah is incredibly original…)
The late Yehuda Avner’s The Prime Ministers was a bestseller and made into a thrilling documentary. Less well known, but as exciting, is his last book The Ambassador. Imagining an Israel created in 1937 after the Peel Commission and not a decade later, it tells the story of history’s great “what if?” from the perspective of Israel’s Ambassador to Germany in between 1938-1941. Breathtaking and unputdownable, The Ambassador is a fast-paced thriller and wonderful indeed.
We follow the young Haim through the agonies of the Yom Kippur War, with the loss of his ḥevruta. An indescribably tragic, religious but ultimately redeeming book, reminiscent of the style of S.Y. Agnon, but with a deeply religious exploration all of its own. Its no surprise that this isn’t the first time Adjusting Sights has appeared as a staff pick.