Classic Mussar Works

The golden era of Mussar literature lasted for almost a thousand years, beginning with the 900s and stretching on to the start of the historical Mussar movement in the 1800s. These are some of the classic works (מוסר קלאסי) from that time. Be sure to also see the Top Ten list for the best books from this era. This whole collection of 100+ Mussar books is also available as a PDF here.

Book of Books and Opinions, Sefer Emunot v'Deot. Author Saadia Gaon. Translators Samuel Rosenblatt and Alexander Altmann. Publisher Yale University Judaica Series 1946 and 1989. ISBN 0300044909, 0872206394. ספר האמונות והדעות. מחבר רבינו סעדיה בן יוסף פיומי .

Beliefs & Opinions (האמונות והדעות)

Book of Beliefs and Opinions or Sefer Emunot v'Deot (ספר האמונות והדעות) was written by the great Saadia Gaon (סעדיה גאון) in the early 900s as a philosophical defense of the core beliefs of Judaism. Its tenth and final chapter on Moral Conduct in particular was the first glimmering of the classical Mussar era. Originally written in Judeo-Arabic, it wasn't until a couple centuries later that it was translated into Hebrew and a thousand years later that it was translated into English. 

Get the Samuel Rosenblatt translation, published by Yale, which by 1989 was already in its fifth printing. 498 pages.

There's also this reprint of the original Alexander Altmann translation. 200 pages.

Fixing Soul Traits, Improvement of Moral Qualities, Tikkun Middot Hanefesh. Author Solomon Ibn Gabirol. Translator Stephen Wise. ISBN 0332609588. ספר תיקון מידות הנפש. מחבר שלמה אבן גבירול.

Fixing Soul Traits (תיקון מידות הנפש)

'Fixing Soul Traits' or more commonly 'The Improvement of the Moral Qualities' is a translation of Tikkun Middot Hanefesh (תיקון מידות הנפש). This little book was written by Solomon ibn Gabirol (שלמה אבן גבירול) in Arabic in the early 1000s and was translated into Hebrew over a century later. It was one of the three books that Rabbi Israel Salanter had reprinted for the Mussar movement. Get this reprint of the original 1902 translation by Stephen Wise. 191 pages.

Choice of Pearls, Mivchar Peninim. Author Solomon ibn Gabirol. Translator B. H. Ashcher. ISBN 1376209144. ספר מבחר הפנינים. מחבר שלמה אבן גבירול.

Choice Pearls (מבחר הפנינים)

Choice Pearls or Mivchar Peninim (מבחר הפנינים) is a collection of Mussar Proverbs written by the poet Solomon ibn Gabirol (שלמה אבן גבירול) in the early 1000s. Get this reprint of the original 1859 translation by B. H. Ascher. 216 pages.

Sefer HaYashar, Book of the Righteous. Author Rabbeinu Tam. Translator Seymour Cohen 1973. Hosted by Sefaria. ISBN 0870681974. ספר ספר הישר. מחבר רבנו תם.

Book of the Righteous

Book of the Righteous or Sefer HaYashar (ספר הישר) was written in the mid-1100s by an anonymous author, possibly Rabbeinu Tam (רבנו תם). Not to be confused with the quasi-biblical book of Jasher which has the same Hebrew name. Get the 1973 English translation by Seymour Cohen. 298 pages.

Sefer Chasidim (Hasidim), Book of the Pious. Author Yehudah HeHasid (HeChassid), Judah the Pious. Translator Avraham Yaakov Finkel. Publisher Jason Aronson 1997. ISBN 1568219202. ספר ספר חסידים. מחבר יהודה החסיד.

Book of the Pious (ספר חסידים)

The Book of the Pious or Sefer Chasidim (ספר חסידים) was written in the late 1100s by Yehudah HeChasid, Judah the Pious (יהודה החסיד). This rare book is expensive on Amazon but you may be able to use WorldCat to find a library copy. 448 pages.

Guide to Serving God, Hamaspik l'Ovdei Hashem. Author Rabbeinu Avraham Ben HaRambam (Son of Maimonides). Publisher Feldheim 2007, 2013. ISBN 1583309810, 1598269658. ספר המספיק לעובדי השם. מחבר רבי אברהם בן הרמב"ם.

Guide to Serving God (המספיק לעובדי השם)

Guide to Serving God or HaMaspik l'Ovdei Hashem (המספיק לעובדי השם) was written by Rabbeinu Avraham (אברהם בן הרמב"ם) the son of the Rambam himself around 1230. Get Feldheim's Hebrew/English 2007 fullsize edition or the 2013 compact edition. 614 pages.

Letter for the Ages, Iggeres (Iggeret) HaRamban (Nachmanides). Ethical Will. Publisher Artscroll. ISBN 0899062180, 1422605167, 1422605175.  ספר אגרת הרמב״ן. מחבר רבי משה בן נחמן, רמב״ן.

Ramban's Ethical Will (אגרת הרמב״ן)

The Iggeret HaRamban (אגרת הרמב״ן) was a Mussar letter written by Moses Ben Nachman (רבי משה בן נחמן) commonly known as the Ramban/Nachmanides (רמב״ן) to his son shortly before his death in 1270. 

Get Artscroll's 1989 publication of the Iggeres HaRamban in Hebrew/English with commentary.  144 pages.

There are also two 2007 'Bentscher' versions with the Grace After Meals prayers, one with a paperback cover and the other leatherette.

Maalot HaMiddot, the Book of Middoth. Author Yechiel Ben Yekutiel. Translator Shraga Silverstein. Publisher Moznaim 1994. ISBN 0940118955. ספר מעלות המדות. מחבר רבי יחיאל בר יקותיאל הרופא.

Staircase of Virtues (מעלות המדות)

Maalot HaMiddot (מעלות המדות) literally means Staircase of Virtues. Written by Yechiel Ben Yekutiel (רבי יחיאל בר יקותיאל) in the late 1200s, it lists 24 qualities/middot and their opposites. Get Moznaim's 1994 translation by Shraga Silverstein, The Book of Middoth. 355 pages.

Orchos (Orchot) Chaim. Author Rabbeinu Asher Ben Yechiel, the Rosh. Publisher Artscroll 1993, 2016. ISBN 089906549X, 1422616118. ספר ארחות חיים. מחבר רבי אשר בן יחיאל, רא"ש.

Paths of Life (ארחות חיים)

Paths of Life or Orchot Chaim (ארחות חיים) was written in the early 1300s by Rabbeinu Asher Ben Yechiel (רבי אשר בן יחיאל), better known as The Rosh (רא״ש), to his sons. Get Artscroll's fullsize 1993 publication or the 2016 pocketsize version. 248 pages.

Why Catastrophes come. Iggeret Mussar, Epistle of Rebuke. Author Solomon Alami. ספר אגרת מוסר. מחבר שלמה אלעמי.

Why Catastrophes Come (אגרת מוסר)

Solomon Alami (שלמה אלעמי) wrote his Epistle of Rebuke or Iggeret Mussar (אגרת מוסר) to one of his disciples in 1415 as anti-Jewish persecution was sweeping Spain, attempting to explain Why Catastrophes Come. Download part of the letter translated into English. 

Meneket Rivkah, Rebekkah's Nurse. Author Rivka Bat Meir Tiktiner. Translator Frauke Von Rohden. Publisher Jewish Publication Society 2009. ISBN 0827608357. ספר מינקת רבקה. מחבר רבקה בת מאיר טיקטינר.

Rivkah's Nurse (מינקת רבקה)

Rebecca's Nurse or Meneket Rivkah (מינקת רבקה) was written by Rivka Bat Meir Tiktiner (רבקה בת מאיר טיקטינר) in the mid-1500s. Not only was it the first Yiddish book to be written by a woman, it was also one of the only Mussar books written by a woman before the modern era. Get the Yiddish/English Meneket Rivkah translated by Frauke Von Rohden and published by the Jewish Publication Society in 2009. 360 pages.

Shaarei Kedusha, Gates of Holiness. Kabbalistic, Kabbalah. Author Rabbi Chaim Hayyim Vital. Publisher Providence University. Translator Rabbi Amiram Markel. Hosted on Sefaria. ISBN 1897352042. ספר שערי קדושה. מחבר הרב חיים ויטאל.

Gates of Holiness (שערי קדושה)

Gates of Holiness or Sha'arei Kedusha (שערי קדושה) is a kabbalistic Mussar work written by Rabbi Chaim Vital (חיים ויטאל) around 1575. As you can see, it's rare on Amazon so read the 2013 English translation by Rabbi Amiram Markel on Sefaria so search the ISBN or find a library copy through Worldcat. 208 pages.

Beginning of Wisdom, Reshit (Reishet) Chochmah. Author Eliahu (Eliyahu, Elijah) De Vidas. Translator Simcha Benyosef. Publisher Ktav 2001. ISBN 0881256951, 088125696X. ספר ראשית חכמה. מחבר אליהו די וידאש.

Beginning of Wisdom (ראשית חכמה)

The Beginning of Wisdom or Reshit Chochmah (ראשית חכמה) is a kabbalistic Mussar work written by Rabbi Eliahu de Vidas (אליהו די וידאש) around 1580. As you can see here and here, it's rare on Amazon so your best bet would be to find a library copy through WorldCat. 458 pages.

Sefer Tomer Devorah. Author Rabbi Moshe Cordovaero. Translators Rabbis Dov Fink and Shimon Finkelman. Publisher Tomer Publications 2005. ספר תומר דבורה. מחבר רבי משה קורדובירו.

Deborah's Palm Tree (תומר דבורה)

The Palm Tree of Devorah or Tomer Devorah (תומר דבורה) was a small kabbalistic work written by Rabbi Moses Cordovero (משה קורדובירו) around 1570 and could be included in the Top Ten for its popularity. Get this beautiful pocketsize version with imitation leather cover, divided into 30 daily readings. Translated by Rabbis Dov Fink and Shimon Finkelman. 80 pages.

Palm Tree of Deborah, Tomer Devorah. Author Rabbi Moses Cordovero. Translator Moshe Miller. Publisher Targum 1994. ISBN 1568710275. ספר תומר דבורה. מחבר רבי משה קורדובירו.

There's also Targum's 1994 Hebrew/English translation by Moshe Miller. 232 pages.

Elucidated Tomer Devorah. Author Rav Moshe ben Yaakov Cordovero. Translator Rabbi Shmuel Meir Riachi. Publisher Feldheim 2015. ISBN 1680252089. ספר תומר דבורה. מחבר רבי משה קורדובירו.

For more commentary see Feldheim's 2015 Elucidated Tomer Devorah, translated by Rabbi Shmuel Meir Riachi. 288 pages.

Palm Tree of Deborah. Author Moses Cordovero. Translator Louis Jacobs. Publishers Vallentine Mitchell & Co Ltd. and Sepher Hermon Press, 1960 and 1981. ISBN 0853030766 0872030970. ספר תומר דבורה. מחבר רבי משה קורדובירו.

For a rare older translation there's also The Palm Tree of Deborah with introduction and notes by Louis Jacobs, published in 1960 and republished in 1981. 134 pages.

Shney Luchot Habrit (Shenei Luchos Haberit), Two Tables of the Covenant. Author Rabbi Isaiah (Yeshayahu) Horowitz, the Shelah (Sheloh, Shlah) HaKaddosh. Publisher Lambda 1999. ספר שני לוחות הברית. מחבר ישעיה הלוי הורוביץ, השל״ה הקדוש.

Two Tables of the Covenant (שני לוחות הברית)

Two Tables of the Covenant or Shney Luchot Habrit (שני לוחות הברית) was written around 1630 by Rabbi Isaiah Horowitz (ישעיה הלוי הורוביץ), popularly known as the Holy Shelah (השל״ה הקדוש). The three-volume set with 1327 pages is very rare as you can see on Amazon but that same translation by Eliyahu Munk can be read on Sefaria. The WorldCat listings are confusing as to which volumes are carried and where.

Kav HaYashar, the Just Measure. Author Rabbi Tzvi Hirsch Kaidanover. Translator Avrohom Davis. Publisher Metzudah 2007 and 2013. ISBN 1600910394. ספר קב הישר. מחבר צבי הירש קאיידנובר.

The Just Measure (קב הישר)

The Just Measure or Kav HaYashar (קב הישר) is a kabbalistic Mussar book written by Rabbi Tzvi Hirsch Kaidanover (צבי הירש קאיידנובר) in 1705. Get the 2007 or 2013 editions of Metzudah's Hebrew/English Two-Volume set, translated by Avrohom Davis, or search the ISBN.

Tzetel Katan (Tzetl Koton). Author Elimelech Weisblum of Lizhensk. Translator Rabbi Doctor Eliezer Shore. Publisher Israel Bookshop Publications 2016. Hasidic. Chasidic. Chassidic. ISBN 1600913792. ספר צעטיל הקטן. מחבר רבי אלימלך ויסבלום.

A Little Note (צעטיל הקטן)

The Tzetel Katan (צעטיל הקטן) or Little Note is a Hasidic Mussar book written in 1750 by Rabbi Elimelech Weisblum of Lizhensk (רבי אלימלך ויסבלום). Get this beautiful edition translated by Rabbi Eliezer Shore and published by Israel Bookshop Publications in 2016. 302 pages.

Tzava'at Harivash, testament of Rabbi Israel Baal Shem Tov (Besht). Author Jacob Immanuel Schochet. Publisher Kehot Publication Society 1998. Chasidut. Chassidut. Chassidus. ISBN 0826603998. ספר צוואת הריב״ש. מחבר רבי ישראל בעל שם טוב, בעש״ט.

Testament of Rabbi Israel (צוואת הריב״ש)

The Testament of Rabbi Israel or Tzava'at HaRivash (צוואת הריב״ש) is a collection of teachings from the founder of the Chasidic movement, usually called the Baal Shem Tov (בעל שם טוב) or simply the Besht (בעש״ט). Get this Chassidic Mussar book, translated by Rabbi Jacob Immanuel Schochet and published by Kehot in 1998, in hardcover or ebook. 186 pages.

The Aleph-Bet Book. Author Rebbi (Rabbi) Nachman of Breslov. Translator Moshe Mykoff. Publisher Breslov Research Inst. 1986 and 2015. Chassidism. Hasidism. ISBN 0930213157, 1928822886. ספר ספר האלף-בית. מחבר רבי נחמן מברסלב.

Aleph-Bet Book (ספר האלף-בית)

The Aleph-Bet Book (ספר האלף-בית) is a collection of proverb-like sayings from Rebbi Nachman of Breslov (רבי נחמן מברסלב), an early Hassidic Rabbi. Get the 268-page 1986 edition or the updated and expanded 573-page 2015 edition, translated by Moshe Mykoff and published by the Breslov Research Institute.

Pele Yoetz. Author Rabbi Eliezer Papo. Translator Rabbi Shmuel Kurtz. Publisher Noam Eliezer 2021. ISBN 9659176503. ספר פלא יועץ. מחבר הרב אליעזר ב"ר יצחק פאפו.

Wonderful Counsellor (פלא יועץ)

Wonderful Counsellor or Pele Yoetz (פלא יועץ) was written by Rabbi Eliezer Papo (רבי אליעזר פאפו) in 1824. Get the full two-volume set translated by Rabbi Shmuel Kurtz and published by Noam Eliezer in 2021. 875 pages.

Essential Pele Yoetz: An Encyclopedia of Ethical Jewish Living. Author Rabbi Eliezer Papo. Translator Mark D. Angel. Publishers Intellect Books 2008. ISBN 0872031691. ספר פלא יועץ. מחבר הרב אליעזר ב"ר יצחק פאפו.

There's also the smaller Essential Pele Yoetz: An Encyclopedia of Ethical Jewish Living translated by Marc Angel and published by Intellectbooks in 2008. 272 pages.

Now see books from the historical Mussar movement!