Adin Steinsaltz

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Adin Even-Israel Steinsaltz
עדין אבן-ישראל שטיינזלץ
Rabbi Adin Even-Israel (Steinsaltz).JPG
Rabbi Adin Even-Israel (Steinsaltz) (2010)
Adin Steinsaltz

(1937-07-11) 11 July 1937 (age 83)
Alma materHebrew University of Jerusalem
OccupationRabbi, author
Notable work
The Talmud: The Steinsaltz Edition

Rabbi Adin Even-Israel Steinsaltz (Hebrew: עדין אבן-ישראל שטיינזלץ) (born 11 July 1937[citation needed]) is an Israeli Chabad Chasidic rabbi, teacher, philosopher, social critic, and publisher.

His Steinsaltz edition of the Talmud was originally published in modern Hebrew, with a running commentary to facilitate learning, and has also been translated into English,[1] 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,[2] and has since been brought to completion.

Steinsaltz is a recipient of the Israel Prize for Jewish Studies (1988), the President's Medal (2012), and the Yakir Yerushalayim prize (2017).


Adin Even-Israel Steinsaltz and his son Meni Even-Israel inspect a newly printed volume of the Koren Noe Talmud series, an English-language edition of the Babylonian Talmud. (2018)

Adin Steinsaltz was born in Jerusalem in 1937 to secular parents, Avraham Steinsaltz and Leah (née Krokovitz). His father was a great-grandson of the first Slonimer Rebbe, Avrohom Weinberg, and was a student of Hillel Zeitlin. Avraham and Leah Steinsaltz met through Zeitlin. They immigrated to Israel in 1924. Avraham Steinsaltz, a devoted communist and member of Lehi went to Spain in 1936 to fight with the International Brigades in the Spanish Civil War.[3] Adin was born the following year.

Steinsaltz became a baal teshuva during his teenage years and learned from rabbi Shmuel Elazar Heilprin (Rosh yeshiva of Yeshivas Toras Emes Chabad). He studied mathematics,[4] physics, and chemistry at the Hebrew University,[5] in addition to rabbinical studies at Yeshivas Tomchei Temimim in Lod and with rabbis Dov Ber Eliezrov and Shmaryahu Noach Sasonkin. Following graduation, he established several experimental schools after an unsuccessful attempt to start a neo-Hassidic community in the Negev desert,[6] and, at the age of 24, became Israel's youngest school principal.[4]

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]

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 memoir-biography on the Lubavitcher Rebbe, rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, was published by Maggid Books (2014).

Continuing his work as a teacher and spiritual mentor, Steinsaltz established Yeshivat Mekor Chaim alongside rabbis Menachem Froman and Shagar in 1984, and Yeshivat Tekoa in 1999. He also serves as president of the Shefa Middle and High Schools. 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. Steinsaltz serves[when?] 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.[citation needed] 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.[7] In 1991, on Schneersohn's advice, he changed his family name from Steinsaltz to Even-Israel. Besides Chabad, Steinsaltz is also inspired by the teachings of the Kotzker Rebbe. He was in close contact with the fifth Gerrer Rebbe, Yisroel Alter, and his brother and successor, Simcha Bunim Alter.[citation needed]

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",[8] and called for "a theological dialogue that asks the tough questions, such as whether Catholicism allows for Jews to enter eternal paradise".[9]

Steinsaltz and his wife live[when?] in Jerusalem, and have three children and more than ten grandchildren.[citation needed] In 2016, Rav Steinsaltz suffered a stroke, leaving him unable to speak.[10] His son, Rabbi Menachem ("Meni") Even-Israel, is the Executive Director of the Steinsaltz Center, Rabbi Steinsaltz's umbrella organization, located in the Nachlaot neighborhood of Jerusalem.[11]

Head of the new Sanhedrin[edit]

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]

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),[14][15] the Babylonian Talmud, the Mishna, the Mishneh Torah, and Tanya.[16]

His published works include:

  • Biblical Images (1984)[17]
  • The Candle of God (1998)[18]
  • A Dear Son to Me (2011)[19]
  • The Essential Talmud (1976)[20]
  • A Guide to Jewish Prayer (2000)[21]
  • The Passover Haggadah (1983)[22]
  • In the Beginning (1992)[23]
  • My Rebbe (2014)[24]
  • The Tales of Rabbi Nachman of Bratslav (1993)[25]
  • On Being Free (1995)[26]
  • The Miracle of the Seventh Day (2003)[27]
  • Simple Words (1999)[28]
  • The Strife of the Spirit (1988)[29]
  • A Reference Guide to The Talmud (2012)[30]
  • Talmudic Images (1997)[31]
  • Learning from the Tanya (2005)[32]
  • Opening the Tanya (2003)[33]
  • Understanding the Tanya (2007)[34]
  • Teshuvah (1982)[35]
  • The Longer Shorter Way (1988)[36]
  • The Seven Lights: On the Major Jewish Festivals (2000)[37]
  • The Sustaining Utterance (1989)[38]
  • The Thirteen Petalled Rose (1980)[39]
  • We Jews (2005)[40]
  • The Woman of Valor (1994)[41]

As a speaker[edit]

Steinsaltz was invited to speak at the Aspen Institute for Humanistic Studies at Yale University in 1979.

Prior to his stroke,[42] 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.[6]

Awards and critical reception[edit]

On 21 April 1988, Steinsaltz received the Israel Prize for Jewish Studies.[43]

On 9 February 2012, Steinsaltz was honored by Israeli President Shimon Peres with Israel's first President's Prize alongside Zubin Mehta, Uri Slonim, Henry Kissinger, Judy Feld Carr, and the Rashi Foundation.[15] Steinsaltz was presented with this award for his contribution to the study of Talmud, making it more accessible to Jews worldwide.[44]

Steinsaltz was also presented with the 2012 National Jewish Book Award in the category of Modern Jewish Thought & Experience by the Jewish Book Council for his commentary, translation, and notes in the Koren Babylonian Talmud.[45] The Modern Jewish Thought & Experience award was awarded on 15 January 2013 in memory of Joy Ungerleider Mayerson by the Dorot Foundation.[46]

On 22 May 2017, Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat visited Steinsaltz at his home to present him with the Yakir Yerushalayim ("Worthy Citizen of Jerusalem") medal.[47] This medal of achievement was awarded to Steinsaltz for his writing and translating work.[48]

On 10 June 2018, Steinsaltz was honored at a Gala Dinner at the Orient Hotel in Jerusalem for his pedagogical achievements throughout a lifetime dedicated to Jewish education.[49] A limited-edition version of "The Steinsaltz Humash” was presented to the attendees of this event.[50]

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.[51] Dr. Jeremy Brown criticized the Koren Talmud Bavli as having inaccurate scientific information, such as identifying Ursa Major as a star and describing polycythemia vera as a disease causing excessive bleeding from the gums and from ordinary cuts.[52]

Haredi community[edit]

Steinsaltz's works were fiercely opposed by 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.[53][54][55] Much of the criticism was not focused on the Hebrew Talmud translation per se but stemmed from other works of Steinsaltz and, by extension, Steinsaltz's general worldview.[56] Waldenberg wrote that when The Essential Talmud and Biblical Images (Hebrew: "דמויות מן המקרא" ו"תלמוד לכל") were brought before him, he was shocked to see the way in which Steinsaltz described the Patriarchs and Talmudic sages, as well as his approach to the Oral Torah. Waldenberg further wrote that these works had the power to "poison the souls" of those who read them.[53][57]

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.[58]

Jewish leaders and authors[edit]

While certain members of the Haredi community may have opposition to Steinsaltz's works, other Jewish leaders, rabbis, and authors have spoken or written about their appreciation for Steinsaltz's unique educational approach. Rabbi John Rosove of Temple Israel of Hollywood featured "Opening The Tanya", "Learning the Tanya", and "Understanding the Tanya" on his list of the top ten recommended Jewish books.[59][60] These volumes are written by rabbi Shneur Zalman of Liadi, the founder of the Chabad Lubavitch movement, and include commentary by Steinsaltz. Through reading the Tanya, readers can explore all aspects of the central text of Chabad movement.[61] Rabbi Elie Kaunfer, a rosh yeshiva and the CEO of Mechon Hadar Yeshiva, discussed his gratitude for Steinsaltz's Global Day of Jewish Learning and the opportunity created by this online platform for learning and creating a deeper connection to Torah, other Jewish text, and Jews worldwide.[62] Rabbi Pinchas Allouche, who studied under Steinsaltz, notes that Steinsaltz "is a world scholar" who "revolutionized the Jewish landscape" through his commentary, other writings, and educational organizations.[63] In 1988, secular Israeli historian Zeev Katz compared Steinsaltz's importance to that of Rashi and Maimonides, two Jewish scholars of medieval times.[64] In addition, Ilana Kurshan, an American-Israeli author, wrote that Steinsaltz's ability to bring "the historical world of the Talmudic stages to life" created an enjoyable Jewish learning experience for her when she was intensely studying Talmud.[65]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ 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.
  2. ^ Abernethy, Bob (27 April 2012). "Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz". Religion & Ethics. Retrieved 29 April 2012.
  3. ^ "אגדות מבית אבא". Retrieved 13 January 2020.
  4. ^ 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
  5. ^ Steinsaltz, Adin; Arthur Kurzweil. Pebbles of wisdom from Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz. John Wiley and Sons, 2009, p.331.
  6. ^ a b Woodward, Kenneth L.; Kubic, Milan L. (26 May 1980). "Israel's Mystical Rabbi". Newsweek.
  7. ^ "Jewish University in Moscow". Jewish Heritage Society. Archived from the original on 27 September 2011. Retrieved 4 July 2011.
  8. ^ 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.
  9. ^ Cattan, Nacha (23 January 2004). "Cardinals Meet For a Dialogue With Top Rabbis". The Jewish Daily Forward. Retrieved 4 July 2011.
  10. ^ JTA. "Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz recovering from stroke". Retrieved 13 January 2020.
  11. ^ Even-Israel, Meni (20 May 2018). "Knowledge: The Key to Jewish Survival". The Jerusalem Post. Retrieved 20 May 2018.
  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. ^ Sylvetsky, Rochel (6 September 2018). "Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz changes how we read the Humash - now in English". Israel National News.
  15. ^ Krupka Berger, Miriam (11 October 2018). "Steinsaltz Commentary: Discovering Something Novel in the 'Voice' of the Humash". Jewish Link of New Jersey.
  16. ^ Klein Greenwald, Toby (14 June 2018). "Rav Adin Steinsaltz honored in Jerusalem for life's work". San Diego Jewish World.
  17. ^ Steinsaltz, Adin (1984). Biblical Images.
  18. ^ Steinsaltz, Adin (1998). The Candle of God.
  19. ^ Steinsaltz, Adin (2011). A Dear Son to Me.
  20. ^ Steinsaltz, Adin (1976). The Essential Talmud.
  21. ^ Steinsaltz, Adin (2000). A Guide to Jewish Prayer.
  22. ^ Steinsaltz, Adin (1983). The Passover Haggadah.
  23. ^ Steinsaltz, Adin (1992). In the Beginning.
  24. ^ Steinsaltz, Adin (2014). My Rebbe.
  25. ^ Steinsaltz, Adin (1993). The Tales of Rabbi Nachman of Bratslav.
  26. ^ Steinsaltz, Adin (1995). On Being Free.
  27. ^ Steinsaltz, Adin (2003). The Miracle of the Seventh Day.
  28. ^ Steinsaltz, Adin (1999). Simple Words.
  29. ^ Steinsaltz, Adin (1988). The Strife of the Spirit.
  30. ^ Steinsaltz, Adin (2012). A Reference Guide to The Talmud.
  31. ^ Steinsaltz, Adin (1997). Talmudic Images.
  32. ^ Steinsaltz, Adin (2005). Learning from the Tanya.
  33. ^ Steinsaltz, Adin (2003). Opening the Tanya.
  34. ^ Steinsaltz, Adin (2007). Understanding the Tanya.
  35. ^ Steinsaltz, Adin (1982). Teshuvah.
  36. ^ Steinsaltz, Adin (1988). The Longer Shorter Way.
  37. ^ Steinsaltz, Adin (2000). The Seven Lights: On the Major Jewish Festivals.
  38. ^ Steinsaltz, Adin (1989). The Sustaining Utterance.
  39. ^ Steinsaltz, Adin (1980). The Thirteen Petalled Rose.
  40. ^ Steinsaltz, Adin (2005). We Jews.
  41. ^ Steinsaltz, Adin (1994). The Woman of Valor.
  42. ^ "Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz recovering from stroke". The Times of Israel. 14 December 2016.
  43. ^ "Israel Prize Official Site – Recipients in 1988 (in Hebrew)". Archived from the original on 16 July 2011.
  44. ^ Kalman, Aaron (9 February 2012). "Presidential award handed out for the first time". The Times of Israel.
  45. ^ "2012 National Jewish Book Award Winners". Jewish Book Council. Archived from the original on 3 July 2018. Retrieved 10 July 2018.
  46. ^ "National Jewish Book Award". Network Solutions, LLC. Retrieved 10 July 2018.
  47. ^ "Rabbi Adin Even-Israel (Steinsaltz) Honored With Jerusalem Award". Chabad Lubavitch Center. Retrieved 10 July 2018.
  48. ^ Sharon, Jeremy (23 May 2017). "Recovering Steinsaltz Made 'Yakir Yerushalayim' During Visit By Mayor". The Jerusalem Post.
  49. ^ Klein Greenwald, Toby (14 June 2018). "Rav Adin Steinsaltz honored in Jerusalem for life's work". San Diego Jewish World.
  50. ^ "New 'Steinsaltz Chumash' Makes Torah Study Uniquely Accessible to English-Speaking World". Jewish Link of New Jersey. 21 June 2018.
  51. ^ "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. ..."
  52. ^ A Preliminary Review of The New Koren Talmud Bavli: A Goldilocks edition
  53. ^ a b Elchanan, Yoel. דת הציונות [Dat Hatzionut] (PDF) (in Hebrew). pp. 288–302.
  54. ^ "Steinsaltz Completes His Controversial Translation of Shas".
  55. ^ Elias, Joseph (January 1990). "Popularizing The Talmud: An Analytical Study of the Steinsaltz Approach To Talmud". p. 27. Archived from the original on 2 March 2018. Retrieved 1 March 2018.
  56. ^ Words, Meaning and Spirit: The Talmud in Translation, particularly endnote 99. See also Rabbi Steinsaltz's Approach to the Oral Tradition – Revisited in The Jewish Observer, November 1990, p. 13-16 where rabbi Matis Greenblatt defends Steinsaltz's approach from criticism leveled by rabbi Joseph Elias (published in The Jewish Observer, January 1990, p. 18-27), with Elias' response on p. 16-26.
  57. ^ Noach Zvuluny Archived 7 October 2013 at the Wayback Machine; Davar - 4/8/1989, p.3
  58. ^ "Review Essay — Learning Gemara in English: The Steinsaltz Talmud Translation" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 25 February 2017. Retrieved 24 February 2017.
  59. ^ "About". Wordpress. Retrieved 10 July 2018.
  60. ^ "My Top Ten Recommended Jewish Books". Jewish Journal. Retrieved 10 July 2018.
  61. ^ "Lessons in Tanya". Chabad Lubavitch Center. Retrieved 10 July 2018.
  62. ^ Borschel-Dan, Amanda (13 November 2014). "Old-school educators go hi-tech to promote Torah accessibility". The Times of Israel.
  63. ^ Allouche, Pinchas (1 January 2014). "Why Rabbi Steinsaltz is right about the rabbis of today". The Times of Israel.
  64. ^ Ostling, Richard N. (18 January 1988). "Giving The Talmud to the Jews". Time. Archived from the original on 14 May 2009. "He will stand like Rashi and Maimonides," says Israeli Historian Zeev Katz, daring to compare the contemporary rabbi with the two great Jewish sages of medieval times. The assertion that Steinsaltz is a once-in-a-millennium scholar is particularly remarkable coming from Katz, a leader of Israel's association of secular humanists.
  65. ^ "Studying Talmud As A Woman Is Often Lonely. But It Doesn't Need To Be". The Forward Association. Retrieved 10 July 2018.

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