Photo Credit: Jewish Press
Elliot Resnick

Rabbi Gil Student manages the popular website,, and serves as book editor of the Orthodox Union’s Jewish Action. He formerly headed Yashar Books, a small publishing company which functioned from 2005-2008.



What books are currently on your night stand?

I keep my iPad on my night stand, but I’ll tell you which book I read regularly and look to for insight. Rav Yosef Shaul Nathanson was a leading Polish rabbi in the 19th century, and I fell in love with his collected insights on the Torah, Divrei Shaul. It is a combination of classic homiletics (drush) with full command of the medieval philosophical rabbinic library. I find his philosophical worldview refreshing, his halachic mastery unparalleled, and his interpretations deep and meaningful.


What’s the best book on Judaism you’ve ever read?

R. Aryeh Kaplan’s Handbook of Jewish Thought. When I was a yeshiva student, a young rabbi told me that the footnotes alone are an encyclopedia of Jewish thought. He was absolutely right.


What kind of reader were you as a child? Your favorite books and authors?

I was an obsessive reader as a child, almost entirely science fiction. Isaac Asimov was by far my favorite author. As an adult, I think the only fiction I have read was most of the Harry Potter series. I just don’t have time anymore.


If you had to name one book that made you who you are today, what would it be?

Ramchal’s Messilas Yesharim changed my life. R. Avraham Besdin’s Reflections of the Rav comes in second. It didn’t change my life, but it helped me understand the worldview I was taught by Rav Soloveitchik’s students.


Hidden gems: Which Jewish book or author should be widely known but isn’t?

Rabbi Norman Lamm’s Derashot LeDorot books are amazing. In his later years, Rabbi Lamm was somewhat of a polarizing figure because he represented Modern Orthodoxy in a political sense. But before he rose to that position, he was a leading pulpit rabbi making the argument for Jewish tradition. His sermons are brilliant, beautiful, and uncannily timely.


Disappointing, overrated, just not good: What book did you feel you were supposed to like, and didn’t? Do you remember the last book you put down without finishing?

R. Ari Wasserman’s Otzar Ha-Kippah. It is a comprehensive study of the yarmulka in Jewish law and history. It’s a great reference work but I couldn’t get through two large volumes on this one subject that is ultimately not that important.


Who are the best bloggers in the Jewish world today?

Blogs are history. They still exist, but they are largely irrelevant. For better or worse, communal discussions have moved to social media. When I realized this a few years ago, I professionalized my blog into an online magazine with an editorial board and more sophisticated content. Blogs were a brief phase in the evolution of the Internet.


What books might people be surprised to find on your bookshelves?

Christian commentaries on the Torah. There is some incredible work done by Christian Bible scholars who are able to view the text from a different perspective. Nonetheless, a Jew has to be very, very careful when using these commentaries (which is why I am not mentioning any specific titles). My favorite phenomenon is when a Christian scholar arrives at the same interpretation as Chazal, which at first glance seems far from the simple meaning but after deeper study is the best interpretation.


What book hasn’t been written that you’d like to read?

I’d like to see a good history of Jewish music since the 1960’s – from Carlebach to Lipa.


What books are you embarrassed not to have read yet?

I have this emotional block preventing me from reading philosophy about the Holocaust. I think it is because I am frustrated by those who refuse to deal with it in the traditional Jewish way. I squirm whenever I see an Orthodox rabbi deflecting questions about where God was during the Holocaust. The same place He was during the Spanish Inquisition and the Chmelnitzky massacres. I think it must be a generational sensitivity.


What do you plan to read next?

I literally have piles of books around my house, waiting to be read. I am in the middle of R. Immanuel Bernstein’s Aggadah: Sages, Stories and Secrets, which I am enjoying. I also just received R. Jonathan Sacks’ Lessons in Leadership: A Weekly Reading of the Jewish Bible, which I look forward to reading. Finally, I recently bought a used copy of R. Samuel Belkin’s Essays in Traditional Jewish Thought after seeing it quoted somewhere.


(format and questions modeled after those of  The New York Times’s popular “By the Book” interviews)


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Elliot Resnick is the former chief editor of The Jewish Press and the author and editor of several books including, most recently, “Movers & Shakers, Vol. 3.”