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Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz (Hebrew: עדין שטיינזלץ) or Adin Even Yisrael (Hebrew: 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". He has devoted his life to making the Talmud accessible to all Jews. Originally published in modern Hebrew, with a running commentary to facilitate learning, his Steinsaltz edition of the Talmud 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 thirteenth tractates in print by July 2014. New volumes are being released following the Daf Yomi cycle.
Born in Jerusalem in 1937 to secular parents, Steinsaltz studied mathematics, physics, and chemistry at the Hebrew University, 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, and, at the age of 23, became Israel’s youngest school principal.
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 (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 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. 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 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).
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.
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, Rabbi Steinsaltz said.”, and called for “a theological dialogue that asks the tough questions, such as whether Catholicism allows for Jews to enter eternal paradise.”
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
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.
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Awards and critical reception
On 9 February 2012, Steinsaltz was honored by Israeli President Shimon Peres with Israel's first President's Prize for his scholarship in Talmud.
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.
However not all reception of Steinsaltz' studies have been wholly positive. In the relatively calm academic world Jacob Neusner's combatively titled How Adin Steinsaltz Misrepresents the Talmud. Four False Propositions from his "Reference Guide." (1998) displays strong disagreement.
- Richard N. Ostling (18 January 1988). "Giving The Talmud to the Jews". Time magazine. Retrieved 23 April 2010.
- Jewish Literacy, Joseph Telushkin, William Morrow, 2001, p.541
- Even-Israel (Steinsaltz), Adin; editor-in-chief, Tzvi Hersh Weinreb ; senior content editor, Shalom Z. Berger ; managing editor Joshua Schreier (2012). [Talmud Bavli] = Koren Talmud Bavli (1st Hebrew/English ed. ed.). Jerusalem: Shefa Foundation. ISBN 978-9653015630. Retrieved 24 July 2014.
- Bob Abernethy (27 April 2012). "Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz". Religion & Ethics. Retrieved 29 April 2012.
- 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
- Steinsaltz, Adin; Arthur Kurzweil. Pebbles of wisdom from Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz. John Wiley and Sons, 2009, p.331.
- Kenneth L. Woodward and Milan L. Kubic (26 May 1980). "Israel's Mystical Rabbi". Newsweek.
- Davar - 4/08/1989 - pg. 3 - Noach Zvuluny (Can be read online here :http://www.ranaz.co.il/articles/article3071_19890804.asp)
- "Jewish University in Moscow". Retrieved 4 July 2011.
- Daniel J. Wakin and Laurie Goodstein (20 January 2004). "In Upper Manhattan, Talmudic Scholars Look Up and Find Cardinals Among the Rabbis". The New York Times. Retrieved 4 July 2011.
- Nacha Cattan (23 January 2004). "Cardinals Meet For a Dialogue With Top Rabbis". The Jewish Daily Forward. Retrieved 4 July 2011.
- Wagner, Matthew (1 March 2007). "Steinsaltz addresses event for revived Sanhedrin". The Jerusalem Post.
- Sue Fishkoff (31 October 2010). "Steinsaltz completes Talmud translation with Global Day of Jewish Learning". JTA. Retrieved 4 July 2011.
- "Israel Prize Official Site – Recipients in 1988 (in Hebrew)".
- "Kissinger, others honored by Israeli president". JTA. Retrieved 12 February 2012.
- . JewishBookCouncil.org. Retrieved on 2013-14-07.
- "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. ..."
- hashefa.co.il -the Rabbi's umbrella organization world wide
- 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
- Catalog of books published by Koren Publishers Jerusalem
- Steinsaltz.org – The website of The Aleph Society and Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz