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Book of Legends/Sefer Ha-Aggadah: Legends from the Talmud and Midrash Hardcover

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Book of Legends/Sefer Ha-Aggadah: Legends from the Talmud and Midrash + The Circle Maker: Praying Circles Around Your Biggest Dreams and Greatest Fears + Draw the Circle: The 40 Day Prayer Challenge
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 920 pages
  • Publisher: Schocken Books; annotated edition edition (November 10, 1992)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0805241132
  • ISBN-13: 978-0805241136
  • Product Dimensions: 10.9 x 9 x 1.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4.6 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (29 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #11,707 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Library Journal

The publication of the complete Book of Legends in English is a landmark event in Jewish learning. Since its original compilation (1908-11) by Bialik and Ravnitzky, two commanding figures in Hebrew literature, this work has been a classic text of rabbinic legend and lore. It is a thematic anthology of nonlegal rabbinic literature on all aspects of human life (e.g., creation, redemption, wisdom, clothing, folk medicine studied through Jewish stories, parables, sayings, homilies, and anecdotes). The translation by Braude is clear, lucid, and readable and includes interpolations that increase the sense and comprehension of the text. The introduction by David Stern analyzes both the volume's place in Rabbinic Judaism and the achievement of the compilers, noting both strengths and weaknesses. This volume is recommended to all libraries with an interest in Judaism, folklore, and religion.
- Maurice Tuchman, Hebrew Coll. Lib., Brookline, Mass.
Copyright 1992 Reed Business Information, Inc.


To have Book of Legends/Sefer Ha-Aggadah available in English is to open to the entire English-reading world -- Jew, non-Jew, religionist, secularist -- one of the very great creations of humankind: a rich and intricately woven tapestry of tales, homilies, legends and dreams that come to us from the very roots of the imagination. What a treasure!"

-- Chaim Potok

"Bialik and Ravnitzky's great compendium of Rabbinic legend and homily has been an indispensable resource ever since its publication in Hebrew eight decades ago....English readers are very fortunate to be able at last to avail themselves of this extraordinary compilation."

-- Robert Alter

"In translating Bialik and Ravnitzky's incomparable thematic anthology into very readable English, William Braude, master translator of Rabbinic texts, has provided the English reader with a wonderful access to the wealth of Rabbinic interpretation and lore. This book should be a fixture in the library of every serious Jew."

-- Norman J. Cohen, Dean, Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion

"Sefer Ha-Aggadah has long been one of my favorite volumes of Jewish literature. Bialik and Ravnitzky arranged topically a vast collection of Talmudic and midrashic material. Whatever one is looking for, be it stories about biblical characters or reflections on love, evil, childrearing, or healing; it is there .... A most welcome addition to the growing collection of Jewish classics now available in English translation."

-- Judith Hauptman, Associate Professor of Talmud, Jewish Theological Seminary

"Sefer Ha-Aggadah restored the prestige of the non-legal sections of the Talmud and nurtured aesthetic appreciation for one of the world's most creative and colorful literatures. I fully endorse this marvelous translation by William Braude."

-- David Weiss-Halivni, Columbia University

Customer Reviews

4.8 out of 5 stars
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This is a beautiful work of scholarship and literature.
Gay Hammerman
The main themes of philosophy are all inside this book that is a legend in its own write.
Sanford R. Pepper, MD
I recommend this book for anyone wanting to go to the next level.
Brent Bozarth

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

83 of 86 people found the following review helpful By on April 14, 1999
Format: Hardcover
One of the other reviewers on this website makes the bizarre and incorrect assertation that it is wrong to study aggadah (the non-legal sections of rabbinic works) without first mastering Kabbalah (Jewish mysticism). This is ignorance of the highest order. Even if one were to adopt fundamentalist Orthodox Judaism, that comment is still wrong. In fact, orthodox Judaism explicitly teaches that one should astudy aggadah first, and then only learn Kabbalah after one is at least 40 years old.
Further, the previous reviewer incorrectly charged the editors with falsely mistranslation passages in order to please a certain point of view. This is pure fiction.
The fact is that the Jewish tradition has always held the aggadah in the highest esteem, and it is only among the post-16th century Ashkenazi Orthodox that we find it reduced to the pathetic state that is has been in. Fortunately, the editors of this compilation come to the resuce by presenting all the classic aggadic passages from the Mishna, both of the Talmuds (Yerushalmi and Bavli), and most of the major midrash compilations.
I cannot overemphasize the ease of use; any English speaker will find it extremely easy to look up any aggadic passage based on subject or verse. further, it is comprehensive beyond anything that I couldhave wished for. if you are secular, or religious Jew, this book is for you. If you a Reform Conservative or Modern Orthodox Jew, it is for you. If you are a gentile who wants to learn about Judaism, this is for you.
However, as the above reviewer demonstrates, if you are an uneducated religious fundamentalist, this book may not be to your liking.
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42 of 42 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on July 18, 1999
Format: Hardcover
Bialik's collection is a delight to read. Filled with stories that give insight into biblical stories and Jewish history, the contents of this book add tremendous texture to Torah discussion and participation in markers of the Jewish year and Jewish life. Each week I am excited to see what the Book of Legends might have to say about the Torah portion. Were the sages troubled by the same passages I was? Did they see something completely different? The Book of Legends is also great for browsing at random. Every time I open it I find something that makes me think, laugh, or pause and scratch my head. It is an excellent addition to a primarily English speaking Jew's library.
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43 of 45 people found the following review helpful By Marc Ruby™ HALL OF FAMEVINE VOICE on May 1, 2002
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
It is hard to believe that it was only so far back as 1908 that Russian poet Hayim Bialik and editor Yehoshua Ravnitsky put their heads together to create the Sefer Ha-Aggadah, a compendium of legends, history and lessons from the Talmud and the Midrash. Originally, in Hebrew (much of that translated from the Aramaic) it was finally translated into English by William Braude, appearing in 1992. Until that time, much of the material covered was only available to students of the Talmud, a loss to many generations of Jews as well as other of different faiths around the world.
Irreverently, I think of 'The Book of Legends' as the 'juicy parts' redaction of the some of the most important bodies of work in the Jewish faith. The Talmud is composed of both law and legend, and the stones of that law grind exceedingly fine. To be honest, I am much more drawn to the lore and legends; because I believe it is there that the true center of the Jewish spirit can be found. Whether it be the story of Solomon's struggles with demon kind, or the thoughts of the sages on the nature of God, this is the imagination and the heart of thousands of years of belief.
Am I exaggerating? I don't know. But this material has lived as oral tradition from generation to generation, and now we are able to hold it in printed form, simply to read or for research. Bialik and Ravnitsky put an immense effort into gather the material together from many diverse sources, and then managing to arrange it is such a fashion that it is accessible. The first parts are organized in accordance with Jewish biblical history, and then as the deeds of the Sages. Following sections turn to Israel's place in the world, the nature of God, man, his community and the world itself.
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Glenn Jacob on June 15, 2004
Format: Hardcover
No other collection of rabbinic writings concerning the sages, their ethics, and their stories reaches the breadth or depth of this collection. This book is not meant to be read cover to cover but to be perused and explored bit by bit. This reference work has endured for over 100 years as Sefer HaAggada in Hebrew and captures the same enduring quality in the English.
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16 of 18 people found the following review helpful By Andre Lawrence TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on November 3, 2001
Format: Hardcover
I recently heard something that bears repeating as it relates to this treasured book, Sefer Ha-Aggahah. It says, in the Christian tradition, that Jesus told parables to the masses so that the veiled, deeper truths about life would be revealed to those whom sought after it. Of course, the obvious inference is that one would have to know that there is something beyond stories that make them relevant. Judaism is magnificent because its tenets provoke research. It is a progressive, revelatory social document. Apart from the mystical elements of its semitic tongue, the stories, especially those collected by the editors, Hayim N. Bialik and Yehoshua H. Ravinitzky represent oftentimes contradictory versions from traditional accounts from the rabbis. This book, as some other reviewers have mentioned is a wonder to read. It is edited in such a way that it may be accessed by personalities or by subject. Although one should view these traditions as customs, it seems to fill many a void left by the writers of the Bible.
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