First Annual Yamim Noraim Hisorerus Competition

Not much competition, really. Eveybody wins.

For many of us, no yom tov is properly observed without some immersion in the special works that lead to a deeper appreciation of the special quality of the day, the unique ohr that Hashem associated with that event. These works provide much of the inspiration we savor.

Which seforim work best for people? If you had to recommend something to a neighbor that you thought would inspire him and lead to a fuller appreciation of the Yamim Noraim, what would you suggest?

I’m going to open with a few of my own, and see if others will share their experience. The only requirements will be that the seforim should be appropriate to our audience, and they should not be the very obvious ones, i.e. you need not mention Shem MiShmuel and Pachad Yitzchok. Both English and Hebrew suggestions will be accepted.

My picks – In Hebrew, my recommendations are 1) the section at the end of Sifsei Chaim that parses the davening word by word, and gives exquisite meaning to the machzor, and 2) the several pages in Neos Hadesheh by the Baal Avnei Nezer

On the English side, one work continues to stand out: On Repentence, by R Yosef Dov Soloveitchik. I haven’t found anything to come near it for its depth and clarity.

Perhaps a few more people will share their choices, and many will gain from this exercise.

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26 Responses

  1. Bob Miller says:

    Regarding one of Rabbi Adlerstein’s pick’s, “1) the section at the end of Sifsei Chaim that parses the davening word by word, and gives exquisite meaning to the machzor” :

    Rinas Chaim (Pub. Feldheim) contains Yamim Noraim content from Sifsei Chaim in English translation, along with voweled Hebrew:

    This is currently on sale at the web site.

  2. dr. william gewirtz says:

    They are not Yomim Noraim specific, but i suggest accounts of how others faced adversity with their faith as guide. Various Tshuvot from the Shoah (both english and hebrew), the remarkable few pages describing the last days of R. Yechial Michal Tuchitzinsky zt”l (also available in hebrew and english) added by his son to his Gesher HaChaim, the last Mussar shmuss as the Nazi’s approached at the Slabodka Yeshiva, etc. continue to inspire.

  3. Yehoshua Friedman says:

    For Hebrew-only readers, the Hebrew version, “Al Hateshuva”, probably fills the bill as well. I would recommend the Orot Hateshuva by Rav Kook zt”l. It is also available in English at great cost to the language. In our generation there are many books explaining its difficult Hebrew and concepts. Orot Hateshuva is unique in the body of teshuva literature in that it deals not merely with the aveiros of the individual, but the overwhelming feeling of people who learn Torah and keep mitzvos but feel a great emptiness of “Hashem is not in me”. In addition Rav Kook is unique in his emphasis on teshuva as a cosmic process of the whole world trying to get back to where it once belonged. The most recent addition in English to the teachings based on the Orot Hateshuva is Sparks of David, a transcribed series of shiurim on R. Shlomo Carlebach z”l’s Orot Shlomo on the Orot Hateshuva. If you love Rav Kook and Reb Shlomo, go for it. If not, go somewhere else.

  4. Tzvi says:

    Toras Avigdor 2 volumes & Sharei Orah First Volume. Both are hebrew sefarim that contain R Avigdor Miller’s ZTL thoughts, the yomim noraim (& other yomim tovim) pieces are clearly delineated. Indispensable & unequaled for essential ideas & practical applications for properly deriving the maximum
    out of these days

  5. Ken Applebaum says:

    With respect to Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur, virtually any selection from Reb Yerucham’s Daas Chochma Umussar is inspiring. For those with a Chassidishe leaning, try Likutei Moharan (you need not be a Breslover to appreciate Rebbe Nachman’s religious genius and, quite frankly, unbelievable command of Tanach).

    In addition, I am now reading Tnuas Hamussar, which is only borderline hagiography, and the life stories and teachings of the Mussar greats can only help to raise our spiritual level during this season.

    K’siva V’chasima Tova to you Rav Yitzchok and to all the Cross Currents participants and readers.

    Ken Applebaum

  6. Steve Brizel says:

    A good mix should include Halacha and hashkafa. I always like to mix anything from RYBS such as Noraos HaRav, Harei Kedem, Ymei Zikaron and Al HaTeshuvah along with Nesivos Shalom, R Pinkus ZTL and Ymei Ratzon
    ( R Wolbe ZTL). R TP Frank’s Mikraei Kodesh and HaMoadim Bhalacha are also superb for indepth exploration of the many halachic issues. There is also a Ramban in Parshas Emor that discusses RH and YK as Yom Din BRachamim and Yom Rachamim BaDin as well as a Drasha on RH in the Kisvei HaRamban as well.

  7. Steve Brizel says:

    Let me add another sefer-Afikei Mayim-which are transcribed shiurim from R M Shapira of Bayit Vegan-a major Baal Machshavah-the shiurim combine a powerful combination of Brisker style analyis of Rambam as well as in depth exploration of Ramban, Gra, Maharal,and Zohar.

  8. Mark says:

    Nothing like Shaarei Teshuvah to refocus in Elul, but Sfas Emes on Moadim is also powerful and inspiring.
    Of course, Rambam Hil. Teshuvah should probably be a must read.

  9. JosephW says:

    For the past several years my elul mussar reading has included “Mussar Movement”, a translation of Vol. 1 of tnuas hamussar (suggested earlier).Reading about R. Yisrael and his insistence on one’s perfecting himself is quite inspiring to me. However, I do not think that this translation is currently on the market.

  10. Michoel says:

    Even though Rabbi Adlerstein says that we don’t need to mention the Shem Mishmuel, I’ll do it anyway, since I’ve encountered several very big talmidei chachamim that had little famliarity with it. It so deep and clear. And if you take Rabbi Adlerstein’s suggestion and look in the Neos Hadesheh, you can gain a lot by then looking in the Shem Mishmuel and see the ben build on and be marchiv his Tatty’s words. Marharalniks that know the Pachad Yitzchad should learn the Shem Mishmuel and Maharalniks that know the Shem Mishmuel should learn the Pachad Yitzchak. One takes a Maharal and builds on it from the big Rebbe’s and one builds on the Maharal from the Gra and others. This advice for the yamim noraim and all year round too!

  11. Gershon says:

    For Hebrew Readers out there, the last chapter of Tomer Devorah of R. Moshe Kordovero. It’s a discussion about how to fulfill the mitzva of “VeHalachta B’derachav” by emulating the 13 middos of Rachamim.

  12. Ben Zoma's Apprentice says:

    R’ Shamshon Raphael Hirsch, Collected Writings Volume 2, Tishri 1 –regarding the meaning of the two starting dates of the Jewish calendar, i.e. Tishrei and Nissan, is a must for my Pre-Rosh HaShana prep.

  13. lawrence kaplan says:

    Mo’adei Nehamah: Studies of Prof. Nehamah Leibowitz on Pirkei Geulah and Teshuvah and the Holidays of Yerach ha-Eitanim, edited by Yitzhak Reiner.

  14. Jonathan Rosenblum says:

    Rav Moshe Antebbe of Lakewood writes up in both Hebrew and English, Rav Moshe Shapiro’s Thursday night shiurim — probably the most accessible of his shiurim. Each shiur is a highly original interweaving of Rishonim, Kabbalistic sources, Maharal, GR”A. They can be read and reread, listened to and listened to again several times in a week without being bored.

    Rav Shapiro has personally told me that Rav Antebbe’s presentations of the shiur can be relied upon. They can be ordered via

  15. Phil says:

    I’m on round four of:
    Patterns in Time – Rosh Hashanah, by R’ M. Weinberg
    Hopefully I’ll eventually fully understand it.

  16. c says:

    where can i get a copy of the last mussar shmooze in slobodka before the war?

  17. Steve Brizel says:

    R Jonathan-How do R Antebbe’s presentations compare with Afikei Mayim?

  18. cvmay says:

    Anything written by Zelig Pliskin invigorates and enhances your ahavas yisroel, which is a prerequisite for mechila ben adom lechavero. Another personal favorite of mine is Rav Avigdor Nebenzall of the Old City and his sefer on Yomim Noraim. Shana Tova OOmesuka to all!

  19. Danny Rubin says:

    Whenever I find myself intimidated or “psyched out” by aspiring to the daunting reuirements of Tshuva Shleima enumerated by the Rishonim I turn to the Toras Avraham’s schmuz on Tshuva found at the back of the sefer on page 456/”Reish Caf Cheis”. I’ve found it invaluable to instill optimism and a “can do” attitude during this beautiful time of year.

  20. SM says:

    I don’t know if this is ‘kosher’ for this site, but I am reading Lamm’s ‘Faith and Doubt’ and finding that it makes me long for the opportunity to pray at length with its discussion in mind.

  21. dr. william gewirtz says:

    #16 – a short two pages were printed in Judaism in the year 1970 (yellow cover in the house somewhere, i reread almost every Yom Kippur.) Excerpt from a larger book by Dr. Joseph Gutferstein.

    A short excerpt found on the Internet:

    With the full weight of the authority granted me as your Rabbi, I command you to leave me here. You must flee and save yourselves! … It is not for man to judge which one shall be a saint and which not. Everyone slaughtered by the wicked ones is to be judged a saint. … And when the world returns again to stability and quiet, never become weary of teaching the glories, the wisdom, the Torah and the Musar of Lithuania, the beautiful and ethical life which Jews lived here. … These evil ones schemed to blot out their names from the face of the earth; but man cannot destroy letters. For words have wings; they mount up to the heavenly heights and they endure for eternity.

  22. Toby Katz says:

    Sefer Hatoda’ah by Eliyahu Kitov — in English, *The Book of Our Heritage* — the chapter on the month of Tishrei. I at least dip into it every year.


    Gershon and others , IIRC, Tomer Devorah was translated ino English by the late Rabbi Louis Jacobs.

  24. Bob Miller says:

    Two other translations of Tomer Devorah into English are available (with Hebrew text included) from Targum Press and Judaica Press:

  25. Yaakov says:

    Oneof the very best and definitely inspiring is Agnon’s absolute superb anthology “Yamim Nora’im” (available in both Hebrew and English translation). Comprehensive – even exhaustive – with enough material for every one and any one! Use it literally every year!

  26. Steve Brizel says:

    Two must have additions to this list-I highly recoomend the Machzor Mesoras HaRav which is based upon RYBS’s teachings on both RH and YK. Dr Kaplan’s review essay on Hirhurim says it all for the interested reader.

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