Since it was first published in 1964, Rabbi Yisrael Yitzchak (Yishai) Chasidah's Ishei HaTanach has been proclaimed an indispensable classic.
Anyone who has ever used it cannot imagine how he could ever have done without it. By bringing together and organizing biographical snippets from the length and breadth of Rabbinic literature, the author has provided the closest thing we have to biographical analyses of the personalities of Scripture. Ishei HaTanach is not only a storehouse of information, it has become the spawning ground of infinite ideas and insights on the part of countless authors, speakers, teachers, and thinkers.
How did Moses spend his childhood? What was the relationship between Abraham and Ishmael? What do we know about Boaz? About Jephthah? About such barely known figures as "Bakol" and "Osah"?
The pages of Scripture are spare; they are characterized by an economy of words and a wealth of allusion and meaning. Just as the laws are fleshed out by the Oral Tradition from Sinai - which tells us what is meant by "an eye for an eye,"and that provides the definition of the cryptic word "frontlets" that Jews wear between their eyes - so the Rabbinic tradition is essential for an understanding of the personalities in the Biblical narratives. Any understanding based on literal translations are often so flawed as to be worse than no understanding at all. With access to the perceptions of the Sages, however, the riches of the Torah open up in a dazzling light.
Scattered through thousands of pages in tens of volumes, the teachings of the Sages provide insights into the major and minor personalities of Scripture - but only a genius can find them, collect them, and fashion all the individual hues of biography and personality into a coherent picture.
"Yishai Chasidah" has done this in Ishei HaTanach, his enduring masterpiece. Since its initial publication in Hebrew, it has been reprinted many times, and is still the most highly regarded work of its genre. Now -- finally -- the long awaited English edition is available for the first time, in a translation and production worthy of its contents.
This is a book that will be well-thumbed even when it is not needed for research. Every time one turns its pages, it will provide flashes of understanding and ideas for further thought and exploration. Whether one reads it for five minutes or five hours -- it will always enrich, always provide new glimpses into those who laid the bricks of Jewish history.