Main CategoriesJudaism and TorahTorah, Talmud and Midrash Book of Legends, The (O)

Book of Legends, The (O)

Product no.: 0-8052-4113-2
The first complete English translation of the Hebrew classic Sefer Ha-Aggadah brings to the Gentile world the greatest and best-loved anthology of classical Rabbinic literature ever compiled.

Product is in stock

Additional product information

Publisher's Synopsis

The Hebrew poet Hayim Nahman Bialik and the renowned editor Yehoshua Hana Ravnitzky, the architects of this masterful compendium, selected hundreds of texts from the Talmud and midrashic literature and arranged them thematically, in order to provide their contemporaries with easy access to the national literary heritage of the Jewish people—the texts of Rabbinic Judaism that remain at the heart of Jewish literacy today.

Bialik and Ravnitzky chose Aggadah—the non-legal portions of the Talmud and Midrash—for their anthology. Loosely translated as "legends", Aggadah includes the genres of biblical exegesis, stories about biblical characters, the lives of the Talmudic era sages and their contemporary history, parables, proverbs and folklore. A captivating melange of wisdom and piety, fantasy and satire, Aggadah is the expressive medium of the Jewish creative genius.

The arrangement of this compendium reflects the theological concerns of the Rabbinic sages: the role of Israel and the nations; God, good and evil; human relations; the world of nature; and the art of healing. Here, the reader who wants to explore traditional Jewish views on a particular subject is treated to a selection of relevant texts at his fingertips but will soon become immersed in a way of thinking, exploring and questioning that is the hallmark of Jewish inquiry.

"Whatever the imagination can invent is found in the Aggadah", wrote the historian Leopold Zunz, "its purpose always being to teach man the ways of God." The Book of Legends/Sefer Ha-Aggadah, now available in William Braude's superbly annotated translation, enables modern Jews to experience firsthand the richness and excitement of their cultural inheritance.


"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."      ~Library Journal

"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, Jewish Theological Seminary


Genesis 22:3  So early next morning, Abraham saddled his ass and took with him two of his servants and his son Isaac. He split the wood for the burnt offering, and he set out for the place of which God had told him.

“On the way, Satan ran ahead of Abraham, appeared before him in the guise of an old man, and asked, “Where are you going”? Abraham: ‘to pray’. Satan: ‘Why should one going to pray have fire and a knife in his hand, and kindling wood on his shoulder?’ Abraham: ‘We may abode there a day or two, and we will have to slaughter an animal, bake bread, and eat.’ Satan: ‘Old man, do you think I was not there when the Holy One said to you “take now thy son”? Old man, you are out of your mind. A son who was given to you at the age of one hundred – and you are setting out to kill him!’ Abraham: ‘Even so.’ Satan: ‘And should he test even more severely, will you still stand firm?’ Abraham: ‘Yes, even more and more severely.’ Satan: ‘But tomorrow He will call you murderer for shedding the blood of your son.’ Abraham: ‘Even so.’

Editor Bialik, Hayim Nahman
Coeditor Ravnitzky, Jehoshua Hana
Translator Braude, William G.
Book Type Hardcover
Page Count 897 pp.
Publisher Schocken Books 1992
Gold Medal

Gold Medal


  Gold Medal Essential Reading

Browse these categories as well: Torah, Talmud and Midrash, Judaism: Prophets and Patriarchs, Biblical Exegesis and Pseudepigrapha, Mythology, Folk and Fairy Tales, Masterworks of the Western Mystery Tradition, Gold Medal Essential Reading

We also recommend