Beyond BT Survival Kit – Pick 6 Books

There’s a show on public radio called ‘Survival Kit”. The show starts out as follows:

“So you’ve had it with the rat race and feel you’ve just got to get away. We’ll arrange an escape for two or three months. Far from everything – snowed in at an isolated cabin in Montana’s Yak Valley or, if you prefer heat, on a desert island. What would you need to maintain your sanity? We’ll provide you with plenty of food, of course. A dictionary, a bible, the complete works of Shakespeare and the tools of your trade.
But what else must you have?”

Each week, the host interviews a celebrity and asks about what they would put in their survival kit.

Let’s tweak this a bit:

“So you’ve had it with the Hat race and feel you’re ready to start a breakaway minyan. Well before you do something rash, how about some time to recharge the spiritual and physical batteries. We’ll arrange an escape for the 8.5 vacation days you have left after using them up for the Yomim Tovim. Far from everything – in a single shteibel community or, if you prefer heat, Ramat Beit Shemesh. What would you need to maintain your sanity? We’ll provide you with plenty of glatt kosher food, Bar Ilan CD, e-daf and an always-on connection to But you can pick six additional seforim in Halacha, Hashkafa, Mussar, Tefillah, Parsha, … ”

What six books must you have?

38 comments on “Beyond BT Survival Kit – Pick 6 Books

  1. Just wanted to add a book I read a couple of weeks ago and am already finding invaluable:

    What Do You Mean, You Can’t Eat in My Home? : A Guide to How Newly Observant Jews and Their Less Observant Relatives Can Still Get Along

    by Azriela Jaffe

    I read it, then promptly bought a copy for my best friend (also BT), my parents and 3 copies for the local Aish chapter.

  2. 1. Sfas Emes on the Torah

    2. Malbim on Tanach

    3. Ethics From Sinai by Irving Bunim

    4. The Juggler and the King by Rav Aharon Feldman

    5. Artscroll commentary on Tehillim

    6. Generation to Generation by Rav Abraham Twersky

  3. Jonathon Livingstone Seagull by Richard Bach

    The Light Of Ephraim by Simcha Ben yosef

    The ways of the Tzaddikim

    The Knowing Heart by The Ramchal

    A call to the infinite by Rabbi Aryeh kaplan

    Letters to a Buddhist jew by Rabbi akiva Tatz.

  4. Why not choose CHITAS (Chumash, Tehillim, Tanya – no order of importance intended) to get round the whole issue and then you’d have three books in one!
    Kol tov,

  5. mikros gedolos
    talmud bavli-(if i can’t bring a Jastro, then I’ll need the Artscroll)
    shulchan aruch
    siddur w/ tehillim
    shimon zilberman’s hebrew/english dictionary

  6. David – David-Mossad haRav Kook published Rabbanit/Professor Farbstein’s book. It is over 600 pages but well worth the time in reading it over the summer. I recently aw on Cross Currents that it is set to be translated into English.

  7. ShoShanna-
    Point taken. Your gemorah illustration brought it home. I allowed personal prejudices to cloud my reading of an innocent exercise meant to help bloggers get a comprehensive overview of inspiring seforim. I apologize and hope all those who read my earlier comments will see that I regret having made and thought them. I also regret having muddied the waters and veering things off topic. Please forgive me.


  8. Shammai,

    What if someone listed a Gemorah first, because he is learning his Daf Yomi shiur? Would you have issue with that?

    This point of this excercise is not to play the ‘holier than thou’ game. Shammai, why do you feel you have the right to pass judgment on others’ hahskafas? Don’t you believe in giving your fellow Jew melamed zchut?

  9. Here is a top five for me:

    1) Any one of Rav Soloveitchik’s works ( Al HaTeshuvah/On Repentance/ Ymei Zikaron/ The Origins of Ethical Man)

    2) Alei Shur

    3) Chumash with Rashi and Ramban

    4) Shmiras Shabbos Khilcasa/Shoneh Halachos/Mishneh Brurah Mnukad with Chazon Ish

    5) Making of a Gadol / HaRav MeBrisk/Baseser Vrem ( Rabbanit Esther Farbstein’s majestic 600+ page work on religious life, leadership and theology during the Holocaust)

  10. Because absent Chumash none of the other choices would even exist. No aviera just IMO krum (apologies to D Kelsey) Hashkafa and not being able to see the forest for the trees.

  11. Ground rule: No books are being listed in order of preference.

    OK,Shammai, your turn.

    Kelsey, any particular “modern non-haredi commentaries” you can recommend?

  12. Shamia, All my book chocies were not listed in order of importance. They are all important. Even so, why would the order ‘disturb’ you? Why start such a silly debate over holy books? Is it an aviera if a Jew would find one more holy sefer more improtant than another? Of course not! Not unless someone has an axe to grind.

  13. 1) Chumash w/ (in addition to Rashi), Ibn ezra, and some modern non-Haredi Commentaries.

    2) Hebrew-English Dcitonary

    3) A masechta from the Jersualem Talmud (there have got to be some juicy reasons this version was deemphasized, and has already brought out some interesting tidbits on why this might be)

    4) Jastrow dictionary

    5) Bavli masechta on Kedoshim

    6) Something from Nach — Daniel or Ezra and Nechemia, with Commentaries.

    *7) In case Chumash was implied (and not just the Malbim Commentary types) Mishna with (who else?)Kehati and Shenoth Eliyahu (the Gru’s)


  14. I think chumash and tehillim are valid choices. Not everyone likes learning or saying tehillim from a computer screen…

    [Now I’m imagining people davening from laptops!]

  15. The Tanya, By Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi

    The Kitzur Shulchan Aruch

    A Chumash

    A tehillim

    A Siddur

    Duties of the Heart

  16. In the inimmitable words of Steve Martin:
    “All I need is this chair, and that’s it…and this paddle-ball game. This chair and this paddle-ball game, and nothing else…and this, I could use this ash tray. This chair, this paddle-ball game, and this ashtray, and that’s all I need! Well, I need this clock. This chair, this paddle-ball game, this ashtray, and this clock, and that’s it, that’s all I need!”

  17. Well, then, assuming no secular books allowed, I’d choose:

    1. my Artscroll siddur
    2. the Stone Chumash
    3. Mirrors of Our Lives by Rebbetzin Holly Pavlov
    4. It’s Not as Tough as You Think by Rabbi Abraham Twersky
    Wings by Meir Uri Gottesman (It’s fiction, and it’s wonderful!)
    6. Rabbi Avigdor Miller’s sefer on Neviim (I don’t remember the title)

    But I’d also need plenty of paper and pens as well as a few CDs.

  18. well then if there’s no CDs I suppose the guitar must go. I guess now I can get some serious learning in.

    I’ll add Maseches Makkos, Alei Shur volume 2, and Nefesh Shimshon

  19. Only books? In the original game, you can pick music, too. I couldn’t survive without a CD or two.

  20. I’m gonna stick to just 4 things, as long as one of them can be my guitar

    Hirsch’s Nineteen Letters

    Hirsch on Bereishis (can you see a theme here?)

    Hirsch on Psalms

    My guitar (I’ll even bring that instaed of an extra change of clothes if I must! This just has to come along (click on my name which will send you to some of my music)

  21. OK, here goes:

    1. Fingerprints on the Universe – Louis Pollack

    Covers a lot of ground and, being scientifically disinclined, I’ve never been able to grasp the whole Einstein – Bohr debate he discusses. Maybe over eight and a half days I could figure it out.

    2. Horeb – Rav Shamshon Rafael Hirsch

    Couldn’t even finish it in eight and a half days.

    3. The World of Prayer – Rav Elie Munk

    Depth and focus in prayer.

    4.Gesher HaChaim – Rav Dukacinsky (sp?)

    Based on the Jewish concept of death and dying, it teaches just as much about life and living.

    5.The Living Torah Rav Pliskin Eminently readable parsha book with a mussar angle.

    I’ll have to go with one of Mark’s choices (not because he gave it to me a few months
    ago but because it covers so many important issues with such clarity)…

    6. Let’s Face It – The 8 Essential Challenges of Living – Rebbetzin Tziporah Heller

  22. Greedy? I’d be cooking for myself, so if anything that would mean less effort on the Provider of Glatt Foods…

    I guess I could go without the guitar. But if I were ever stranded without knitting/crocheting supplies and it wasn’t a chag, it would not be a pretty sight. [I bring my knitting bag everywhere, even for a 10-minute car-ride.]

  23. All right Mark, we’ll let you slide with those choices even though Rabbi Ribiat’s 39 Melochos is four books and Strive for Truth is probably six.

  24. The O-U guide to blessings

    Rav Schwab on prayer

    A good translation of the Kuzari

    “Teshuva” By Rabbi Steindsaltz

    “To be a Jewish Woman” by Lisa Aiken

    And since I can’t think of a 6th book at the moment: a cuisinart, an oven, (you provide food, but I would probably want to cook deli-roll and other things) kippah yarn, a crochet hook, and a left-handed guitar.

  25. Strive for Truth – Rabbi Eliyahu Dessler

    The Aryeh Kaplan Reader – Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan

    Let’s Face It – The 8 Essential Challenges of Living – Rebbetzin Tziporah Heller

    The 39 Melochos – Rabbi Dovid Ribiat

    Ner Uziel – Perspectives on the Parsha – Rabbi Uziel Milevsky

    Chofetz Chaim – Loving Kindness – Daily Lessons in the Power of Giving – Rabbi Fishel Schachter / Chana Nestlebaum

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