Adin Steinsaltz

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Adin Steinsaltz
Rabbi Adin Even-Israel (Steinsaltz).JPG
Rabbi Adin Even-Israel (Steinsaltz) (2010)
Born 1937 (age 80–81)
Occupation Rabbi
Notable work The Talmud: The Steinsaltz Edition

Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz (Hebrew: עדין שטיינזלץ‬) or Adin Even Yisrael (עדין אבן ישראל‬) (born 1937) is a teacher, philosopher, social critic, and spiritual mentor, who has been hailed by Time magazine as a "once-in-a-millennium scholar".[1] He has devoted his life to making the Talmud accessible to all Jews.[2] Originally published in modern Hebrew, with a running commentary to facilitate learning, his Steinsaltz edition of the Talmud[3] has also been translated into English, French, Russian, and Spanish. Beginning in 1989, Steinsaltz published several tractates in Hebrew and English of the Babylonian (Bavli) Talmud in an English-Hebrew edition. The first volume of a new English-Hebrew edition, the Koren Talmud Bavli, was released in May, 2012, with thirteen tractates in print by July 2014. New volumes are being released following the Daf Yomi cycle.[4]


Born in Jerusalem in 1937 to secular parents, Steinsaltz studied mathematics,[5] physics, and chemistry at the Hebrew University,[6] in addition to rabbinical studies. Following graduation, he established several experimental schools after an unsuccessful attempt to start a neo-Hassidic community in the Negev desert,[7] and, at the age of 23, became Israel’s youngest school principal.[5]

In 1965, he founded the Israel Institute for Talmudic Publications, and began his monumental work on the Talmud, including translation into Hebrew, English, Russian, and various other languages. The Steinsaltz editions of the Talmud include translation from the original Aramaic and a comprehensive commentary. Steinsaltz completed his Hebrew edition of the entire Babylonian Talmud in November 2010, at which time Koren Publishers Jerusalem became the publisher of all of his works, including the Talmud. While not without criticism (such as by Jacob Neusner, 1998), the Steinsaltz edition is widely used throughout Israel, the United States, and the world.[citation needed] Over two million volumes of the Steinsaltz Talmud have been distributed to date. The out-of-print Random House publication of The Talmud: The Steinsaltz Edition is widely regarded as the most accurate and least redacted of any English language edition, and is sought after on that basis by scholars and collectors.[citation needed] Controversial Talmud passages previously obscured, omitted entirely or confined to footnotes in English translations like the Soncino Talmud, receive full exposition in the Steinsaltz Talmud. Random House halted publication of the Steinsaltz Talmud after less than one-third of the English translation had been published.[citation needed]

The Steinsaltz editions of the Talmud have opened up the world of Talmud study to thousands of people outside the walls of the traditional yeshiva, including women, who traditionally were not taught Talmud. Regarding the access that his work provides, Rabbi Steinsaltz says: "I never thought that spreading ignorance has any advantage, except for those who are in a position of power and want to deprive others of their rights and spread ignorance in order to keep them underlings."

Rabbi Steinsaltz's classic work of Kabbalah, The Thirteen Petalled Rose, was first published in 1980, and now appears in eight languages. In all, Steinsaltz has authored some 60 books and hundreds of articles on subjects including Talmud, Jewish mysticism, Jewish philosophy, sociology, historical biography, and philosophy. Many of these works have been translated into English by his close personal friend, now deceased, Yehuda Hanegbi. His latest book is a memoir-biography on the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, published by Maggid Books (2014).

In the summer of 1989, a group of rabbis including Elazar Shach placed a ban on three of Steinsaltz's books.[8]

Continuing his work as a teacher and spiritual mentor, Steinsaltz established a network of schools and educational institutions in Israel and the former Soviet Union. He has served as scholar in residence at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington, D. C., and the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton. His honorary degrees include doctorates from Yeshiva University, Ben Gurion University of the Negev, Bar Ilan University, Brandeis University, and Florida International University. Steinsaltz is also Rosh Yeshiva of Yeshivat Hesder Tekoa.

Being a follower of Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson of Chabad-Lubavitch, he went to help Jews in the Soviet Union assisting Chabad's shluchim (propagators) network. Deeply involved in the future of the Jews in the former Soviet Union, Steinsaltz serves as the region's Duchovny Ravin (Spiritual Rabbi), a historic Russian title which indicates that he is the spiritual mentor of Russian Jewry. In this capacity, Steinsaltz travelled to Russia and the Republics once each month from his home in Jerusalem. During his time in the former Soviet Union, he founded the Jewish University, both in Moscow and Saint Petersburg. The Jewish University is the first degree-granting institution of Jewish studies in the former Soviet Union.[9]

Steinsaltz has taken a cautious approach to interfaith dialogues. During a visit of a delegation of Roman Catholic cardinals in Manhattan in January 2004, he said that, "You do not have to raise over-expectations of a meeting, as it doesn't signify in itself a breakthrough; however, the opportunity for cardinals and rabbis to speak face to face is valuable. It's part of a process in which we can talk to each other in a friendly way",[10] and called for "a theological dialogue that asks the tough questions, such as whether Catholicism allows for Jews to enter eternal paradise".[11]

Steinsaltz and his wife live in Jerusalem, and have three children and more than ten grandchildren. His son, Rabbi Menachem Even-Israel, is the Executive Director of Shefa - Rabbi Steinsaltz's umbrella organization, located in the Steinsaltz Center in the Nachlaot neighborhood of Jerusalem.

Head of the new Sanhedrin[edit]

Rabbi Steinsaltz accepted the position as Nasi (President) of the 2004 attempt to revive the Sanhedrin.[12] In 2008, he resigned from this position due to differences of opinion.[13]

As an author[edit]

Rabbi Steinsaltz is a prolific author and commentator, having written numerous books on Jewish knowledge, tradition and culture, and produced original commentaries on the entirety of Jewish canon: Tanakh (Torah, Prophets, and Writings), the Babylonian Talmud, the Mishna, the Mishneh Torah, and Tanya.[14]

His published works include:

  • Biblical Images (1984) [15]
  • The Candle of God (1998) [16]
  • A Dear Son to Me (2011) [17]
  • The Essential Talmud (1976) [18]
  • A Guide to Jewish Prayer (2000) [19]
  • The Passover Haggadah (1983) [20]
  • In the Beginning (1992) [21]
  • My Rebbe (2014) [22]
  • The Tales of Rabbi Nachman of Bratslav (1993) [23]
  • On Being Free (1995) [24]
  • The Miracle of the Seventh Day (2003) [25]
  • Simple Words (1999) [26]
  • The Strife of the Spirit (1988) [27]
  • A Reference Guide to The Talmud (2012) [28]
  • Talmudic Images (1997) [29]
  • Learning from the Tanya (2005) [30]
  • Opening the Tanya (2003) [31]
  • Understanding the Tanya (2007) [32]
  • Teshuvah (1982) [33]
  • The Longer Shorter Way (1988) [34]
  • The Seven Lights: On the Major Jewish Festivals (2000) [35]
  • The Sustaining Utterance (1989) [36]
  • The Thirteen Petalled Rose (1980) [37]
  • We Jews (2005) [38]
  • The Woman of Valor (1994) [39]

As a speaker[edit]

Steinsaltz is a popular University and radio commentator. He was invited to speak at the Aspen Institute for Humanistic Studies at Yale University in 1979. Prior to his stroke,[40] he gave evening seminars in Jerusalem, which, according to Newsweek, usually lasted until 2:00 in the morning, and attracted prominent politicians, such as the former Prime Minister Levi Eshkol and former Finance Minister Pinhas Sapir.[7]

Awards and critical reception[edit]

Rabbi Steinsaltz has received many awards and prizes, among them the Israel Prize for Jewish studies in 1988.[41]

On 9 February 2012, Steinsaltz was honored by Israeli President Shimon Peres with Israel's first President's Prize for his scholarship in Talmud.[42]

The Jewish Book Council named the Koren Talmud Bavli with commentary, translation, and notes by Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz, a 2012 National Jewish Book Award winner in the category of Modern Jewish Thought and Experience.[43]

Public reception[edit]

Academic criticism[edit]

Jacob Neusner's How Adin Steinsaltz Misrepresents the Talmud. Four False Propositions from his "Reference Guide" (1998) displays strong disagreement.[44]

Response from the Haredi community[edit]

Steinsaltz's works aroused fierce opposition in parts of the Orthodox Jewish world, with many leading rabbis such as Elazar Shach, Yosef Shalom Eliashiv, and Eliezer Waldenberg harshly condemning his Talmud and other books.[45][46][47] Waldenberg wrote that when the Steinsaltz Talmud was brought before him, he was "shocked" to see the way in which the Steinsaltz Talmud described the Patriarchs and Talmudic sages, as well as its approach to the Oral Torah. Waldenberg further wrote that the Steinsaltz Talmud had the power to "poison the souls" of those who read it.[45] Mordechai Gifter delivered a pointed lecture on the subject, criticizing Steinsaltz and his defenders in strong terms.[48]

Aharon Feldman has penned a lengthy critical review of the Steinsaltz Talmud. Among many criticisms, he writes, "Specifically, the work is marred by an extraordinary number of inaccuracies stemming primarily from misreadings of the sources; it fails to explain those difficult passages which the reader would expect it to explain; and it confuses him with notes which are often irrelevant, incomprehensible, and contradictory." Feldman says he fears that, "An intelligent student utilizing the Steinsaltz Talmud as his personal instructor might in fact conclude that Talmud in general is not supposed to make sense." Furthermore, writes Feldman, the Steinsaltz Talmud gives off the impression that the Talmud is intellectually flabby, inconsistent, and often trivial.[49]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Ostling, Richard N. (18 January 1988). "Giving The Talmud to the Jews". Time. Retrieved 23 April 2010. 
  2. ^ Telushkin, Joseph (2001). Jewish Literacy. William Morrow. p. 541. 
  3. ^ Steinsaltz, Adin; Weinreb, Tzvi Hersh; Berger, Shalom Z.; Schreier, Joshua, eds. (2012). Koren Talmud Bavli (1st Hebrew/English ed.). Jerusalem: Shefa Foundation. ISBN 978-9653015630. 
  4. ^ Abernethy, Bob (27 April 2012). "Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz". Religion & Ethics. Retrieved 29 April 2012. 
  5. ^ a b Steinsaltz, Adin; Shneur Zalman (of Lyady). Understanding the Tanya: Volume Three in the Definitive Commentary on a Classic Work of Kabbalah by the World's Foremost Authority. John Wiley and Sons, 2007, p. 343
  6. ^ Steinsaltz, Adin; Arthur Kurzweil. Pebbles of wisdom from Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz. John Wiley and Sons, 2009, p.331.
  7. ^ a b Woodward, Kenneth L.; Kubic, Milan L. (26 May 1980). "Israel's Mystical Rabbi". Newsweek. 
  8. ^ Noach Zvuluny Archived 7 October 2013 at the Wayback Machine.; Davar - 4/8/1989, p.3
  9. ^ "Jewish University in Moscow". Jewish Heritage Society. Archived from the original on 27 September 2011. Retrieved 4 July 2011. 
  10. ^ Wakin, Daniel J.; Goodstein, Laurie (20 January 2004). "In Upper Manhattan, Talmudic Scholars Look Up and Find Cardinals Among the Rabbis". The New York Times. Retrieved 4 July 2011. 
  11. ^ Cattan, Nacha (23 January 2004). "Cardinals Meet For a Dialogue With Top Rabbis". The Jewish Daily Forward. Retrieved 4 July 2011. 
  12. ^ Wagner, Matthew (1 March 2007). "Steinsaltz addresses event for revived Sanhedrin". The Jerusalem Post. 
  13. ^ Fishkoff, Sue (31 October 2010). "Steinsaltz completes Talmud translation with Global Day of Jewish Learning". JTA. Archived from the original on 12 February 2012. Retrieved 4 July 2011. 
  14. ^ Klein Greenwald, Toby (14 June 2018). "Rav Adin Steinsaltz honored in Jerusalem for life's work". San Diego Jewish World. 
  15. ^ Steinsaltz, Adin (1984). Biblical Images. 
  16. ^ Steinsaltz, Adin (1998). The Candle of God. 
  17. ^ Steinsaltz, Adin (2011). A Dear Son to Me. 
  18. ^ Steinsaltz, Adin (1976). The Essential Talmud. 
  19. ^ Steinsaltz, Adin (2000). A Guide to Jewish Prayer. 
  20. ^ Steinsaltz, Adin (1983). The Passover Haggadah. 
  21. ^ Steinsaltz, Adin (1992). In the Beginning. 
  22. ^ Steinsaltz, Adin (2014). My Rebbe. 
  23. ^ Steinsaltz, Adin (1993). The Tales of Rabbi Nachman of Bratslav. 
  24. ^ Steinsaltz, Adin (1995). On Being Free. 
  25. ^ Steinsaltz, Adin (2003). The Miracle of the Seventh Day. 
  26. ^ Steinsaltz, Adin (1999). Simple Words. 
  27. ^ Steinsaltz, Adin (1988). The Strife of the Spirit. 
  28. ^ Steinsaltz, Adin (2012). A Reference Guide to The Talmud. 
  29. ^ Steinsaltz, Adin (1997). Talmudic Images. 
  30. ^ Steinsaltz, Adin (2005). Learning from the Tanya. 
  31. ^ Steinsaltz, Adin (2003). Opening the Tanya. 
  32. ^ Steinsaltz, Adin (2007). Understanding the Tanya. 
  33. ^ Steinsaltz, Adin (1982). Teshuvah. 
  34. ^ Steinsaltz, Adin (1988). The Longer Shorter Way. 
  35. ^ Steinsaltz, Adin (2000). The Seven Lights: On the Major Jewish Festivals. 
  36. ^ Steinsaltz, Adin (1989). The Sustaining Utterance. 
  37. ^ Steinsaltz, Adin (1980). The Thirteen Petalled Rose. 
  38. ^ Steinsaltz, Adin (2005). We Jews. 
  39. ^ Steinsaltz, Adin (1994). The Woman of Valor. 
  40. ^ "Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz recovering from stroke". The Times of Israel. 14 December 2016. 
  41. ^ "Israel Prize Official Site – Recipients in 1988 (in Hebrew)". Archived from the original on 16 July 2011. 
  42. ^ "Kissinger, others honored by Israeli president". JTA. Archived from the original on 13 February 2012. Retrieved 12 February 2012. 
  43. ^ 2012 National Jewish Book Award Winners. Retrieved on 2013-14-07.
  44. ^ "So to orient Steinsaltz to the discourse he manifestly has missed, I call to his attention the following works in ... of book reviews and criticism I have published over the past forty years: Judaic Law from Jesus to the Mishnah. ..."
  45. ^ a b Elchanan, Yoel. דת הציונות [Dat Hatzionut] (PDF) (in Hebrew). pp. 288–302. 
  46. ^ "Steinsaltz Completes His Controversial Translation of Shas". 
  47. ^ Elias, Joseph (January 1990). "Popularizing The Talmud: An Analytical Study Of The Steinsaltz Approach To Talmud". p. 27. Retrieved 2018-03-01. 
  48. ^ Gifter, Mordechai. "Diversity in Orthodoxy & the Greatness of Maran Rav Shach, two part lecture".  Part two, especially from 19:50 on.
  49. ^ "Learning Gemara" (PDF). 

External links[edit]