Adin Steinsaltz

Adin Steinsaltz

Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz (Hebrew: עדין שטיינזלץ) or Adin Even Yisrael (Hebrew: עדין אבן ישראל) (born 1937) is most commonly known for his popular commentary and translation of both Talmuds into Hebrew, French, Russian and Spanish. In 1988, he was awarded the Israel Prize, Israel's highest honor.

Steinsaltz is a noted rabbi, scholar, philosopher, social critic and author world wide whose background also includes extensive scientific training. In 1988, Time magazine praised him as an "once-in-a-millennium scholar." [cite web|url=,9171,966474,00.html|title=Giving The Talmud to the Jews|author=Richard N. Ostling|publisher=Time magazine]

"A society must ask, seek and demand, that each individual give something of himself. From the sum of these small offerings. It can then build itself anew. If all of us light the candle of our souls, the world will be filled with light." -Adin Steinsaltz


Born in Jerusalem in 1937 to secular parents, Steinsaltz studied physics, chemistry, mathematics, and sociology at the Hebrew University, in addition to rabbinical studies. Following graduation, he established several experimental schools and, at the age of 23, became Israel’s youngest school principal, a record still unbroken.

In 1965, he founded the Israel Institute for Talmudic Publications and began his monumental translation to Hebrew, English, Russian, and various other languages. His edition of the Talmud includes his own explanation of the text and a complete commentary on the Talmud. Steinsaltz first translates the Talmud into Modern Hebrew from the original Aramaic and rabbinical Hebrew and adds his explanations, the other language editions are translations of the Hebrew. The only rival to Steinsaltz is Artscroll's similarly popular Schottenstein Edition Talmud (translated first into English and then other languages). To date, he has published 38 of the anticipated 46 volumes. While not without criticism (e.g. by Neusner, 1998), the Steinsaltz edition is widely used throughout Israel, the United States and the world. Over 2 million volumes of the Steinsaltz Talmud have been distributed to date. The out of print Random House publication of "" 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. 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. The reasons for halting publication by Random House are disputed. Fact|date=August 2008

His translation of the Talmud from Aramaic (or rabbinical Hebrew to Modern Hebrew) has increased the number of people who are able to study its content. His translation opened the door for women who traditionally are not taught Talmud, and are therefore not proficient in Aramaic, to study the Talmud. Modern Orthodox High Schools and Seminaries teach women Talmud using his translation. The number of men capable of studying Talmud also increased as a result of Steinzaltz' work.

Regarding the access that his work provides, 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. My gemarot are surely used, if they are used anywhere, in Matan [a yeshiva for Orthodox women in Jerusalem] , from beginning to end. Why? Because they help skip the elementary school level of training. That makes learning Talmud for them possible, and if it is possible then it is challenging and some of the men don’t want that challenge.”

The Rabbi’s classic work of Kabbalah, "The Thirteen Petalled Rose", was first published in 1980 and now appears in eight languages. In all, Rabbi 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.

Continuing his work as a teacher and spiritual mentor, Rabbi 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 Studies at Princeton University. His honorary degrees include doctorates from Yeshiva University, Ben Gurion University of the Negev, Bar Ilan University, Brandeis University, and Florida International University. Rabbi Steinsaltz is also Rosh Yeshiva of Yeshivat Hesder Tekoa, and functions as Nasi in an attempt to revive the Sanhedrin. Rabbi Steinsaltz was honored with the Israel Prize in 1988 in the field of Jewish studies.

Being a personal friend and follower of the late Grand Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson of Chabad-Lubavitch, he went to help Jews in the Soviet Union assisting Chabad's shluchim network. Deeply involved in the future of the Jews in the former Soviet Union, Steinsaltz serves as the region's Duchovny Ravin, 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 ever established in the former Soviet Union.

Rabbi Steinsaltz and his wife live in Jerusalem, and have three children and eleven grandchildren. His son, Rabbi Menachem Even-Israel, is the Director of Educational Programs at the Steinsaltz Center in the Nachlaot neighborhood of Jerusalem.

As a speaker

Steinsaltz is a popular University and radio commentator. He has been invited to speak at the Aspen Institute for Humanistic Studies at Yale University in 1979. In Jerusalem, he gives evening seminars, which according to Newsweek usually last till 2 in the morning, and have attracted prominent politicians as the former Prime Minister Levi Eshkol and former Finance Minister Pinhas Sapir. [cite web|url=|publisher=Newsweek|author=Kenneth L. Woodward and Milan L. Kubic|title=Israel's Mystical Rabbi]

As Head of the new Sanhedrin

Rabbi Steinsaltz acceptedFact|date=August 2007 a position as Nasi (President) of a recent attempt to revive the Sanhedrin. Prior to the actual meeting of the new Sanhedrin, Rabbi Steinsaltz advised sticking strictly to devotional matters, focusing on gaining broadened acceptance in the traditional Jewish community, and steering clear of matters of politics. Since meeting, however, the new Sanhedrin appears to have disagreed. It established a division on state matters which takes a nationalistic position on matters of foreign policy and seeks to establish the new Sanhedrin as an upper theocratic political chamber with veto power over Israeli state laws and government actions it deems inconsistent with Halakha, traditional Jewish law. The new Sanhedrin has encountered extensive controversy, with opposition to its claims to religious legitimacy and its proposed role in the State. Rabbi Steinsaltz has not endorsed the Sanhedrin's current direction, but has remained in his position as Nasi.


Related information

* Modern attempts to revive the Sanhedrin

External links

* [ - The website of The Aleph Society and Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz]
* [ Steinsaltz's lecture in winter 2005] at Florida International University
* [ Rabbi Steinsaltz talks about the Torah] to BBC (sound file)
* [ Some articles written by Rabbi Adin Even-Yisrael Steinsaltz]

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