Adin Even-Israel Steinsaltz
|עדין אבן-ישראל שטיינזלץ|
11 July 1937
|Died||7 August 2020 (aged 83)|
|Resting place||Har HaZeitim|
|Alma mater||Hebrew University of Jerusalem|
|Notable work||The Talmud: The Steinsaltz Edition|
|Children||Menachem, Amechaye, Esther Sheleg|
Rabbi Adin Even-Israel Steinsaltz (11 July 1937 – 7 August 2020) (Hebrew: עדין אבן-ישראל שטיינזלץ) was an Israeli Chabad Chasidic rabbi, teacher, philosopher, social critic, author, translator 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, 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, and has since been brought to completion.
Adin Steinsaltz was born in Jerusalem on 11 July 1937 to 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 Mandatory Palestine 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. 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, physics, and chemistry at the Hebrew University, 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, and, at the age of 24, 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 (such as by Jacob Neusner, 1998), the Steinsaltz edition is widely used throughout Israel, the United States, and the world.
Steinsaltz's classic work on Kabbalah, The Thirteen Petalled Rose, was first published in 1980, and now appears in eight languages. In all, Steinsaltz 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 joined the original faculty of the nondenominational Pardes Institute of Jewish Studies in Jerusalem in 1972, along with David Hartman, Eliezer Schweid, Menachem Froman, Dov Berkovits, and others. He established Yeshivat Mekor Chaim alongside Rabbis Menachem Froman and Shagar in 1984 and Yeshivat Tekoa in 1999. He also served 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 was 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. In 1995, the chief Rabbi of Russia, Adolph Shayevich gave Steinzaltz the title of Duchovny Ravin (Spiritual Rabbi), a historic Russian title which indicated that he was 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. In 1991, on Schneersohn's advice, he changed his family name from Steinsaltz to Even-Israel. Besides Chabad, Steinsaltz was 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.
Steinsaltz took 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", 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 lived in Jerusalem until his death and had three children and many grandchildren and great-grandchildren. In 2016, Steinsaltz suffered a stroke, leaving him unable to speak. 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.
Steinsaltz died in Jerusalem on 7 August 2020, from acute pneumonia, at the Shaare Tzedek Medical Center. He was hospitalized earlier in the week with a severe lung infection. He leaves behind his wife Sarah, three children and eighteen grandchildren.
Head of the new Sanhedrin
Steinsaltz was 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.
His published works include:
- Biblical Images (1984)
- The Candle of God (1998)
- A Dear Son to Me (2011)
- The Essential Talmud (1976)
- A Guide to Jewish Prayer (2000)
- The Passover Haggadah (1983)
- In the Beginning (1992)
- My Rebbe (2014)
- The Tales of Rabbi Nachman of Bratslav (1993)
- On Being Free (1995)
- The Miracle of the Seventh Day (2003)
- Simple Words (1999)
- The Strife of the Spirit (1988)
- A Reference Guide to The Talmud (2012)
- Talmudic Images (1997)
- Learning from the Tanya (2005)
- Opening the Tanya (2003)
- Understanding the Tanya (2007)
- Teshuvah (1982)
- The Longer Shorter Way (1988)
- The Seven Lights: On the Major Jewish Festivals (2000)
- The Sustaining Utterance (1989)
- The Thirteen Petalled Rose (1980)
- We Jews (2005)
- The Woman of Valor (1994)
As a speaker
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(Rebbes and Chasidim)
Prior to his stroke, 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 Pinchas Sapir.
Awards and critical reception
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. Steinsaltz was presented with this award for his contribution to the study of Talmud, making it more accessible to Jews worldwide.
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. The Modern Jewish Thought & Experience award was awarded on 15 January 2013 in memory of Joy Ungerleider Mayerson by the Dorot Foundation.
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. This medal of achievement was awarded to Steinsaltz for his writing and translating work.
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. A limited-edition version of "The Steinsaltz Humash" was presented to the attendees of this event.
Jacob Neusner's How Adin Steinsaltz Misrepresents the Talmud. Four False Propositions from his "Reference Guide" (1998) displays strong disagreement. In what was an overall favorable review, Dr. Jeremy Brown notes that the Koren Talmud Bavli contains some 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. Aharon Feldman penned a lengthy critical review of the Steinsaltz Talmud contending that 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."
Haredi reaction and ban
Publication of the Steinsaltz Hebrew translation of the Talmud in the 1960s received endorsements from prominent rabbis including Moshe Feinstein and Ovadia Yosef. However, in 1989, when the English version appeared, Steinsaltz faced a fierce backlash from many leading rabbis in Israel such as Elazar Shach, Yosef Shalom Eliashiv, Eliezer Waldenberg, Nissim Karelitz, Chaim Pinchas Scheinberg and Shmuel Wosner who harshly condemned his work and other publications. Branding him a heretic, Shach was at the forefront of a campaign which banned all his works, believing that his literary and psychological explanations of biblical characters and events rendered them heretical. He also slated his translation of the Talmud, describing it as being written in the style of a secular book causing "any trace of holiness and faith to vanish." Waldenberg wrote that he was shocked to see the way in which Steinsaltz described the Patriarchs and Talmudic sages, writing that the works had the power to "poison the souls" of those who read them. Striking a more conciliatory tone in the controversy however were the Gerer Hasidim who praised his works and commended him on his willingness to amend various passages "which could have been misconstrued." After the Jerusalem-based Edah Charedis limited the ban to three books, Steinsaltz publicly apologised for his error and offered to refund anyone who had bought the books. The ban nevertheless caused thousands of schools and individuals to discard the Steinsaltz Talmud, with Rabbi Avigdor Nebenzahl ordering all copies to be placed in genizah. This led to more liberal Jewish movements placing adverts in the press asking for the edition to be donated to their institutions instead. For his part, Steinsaltz countered that much of the criticism he faced was rooted in opposition to the Chabad-Lubavitch community he was affiliated with.
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. 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. 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. 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. In 1988, secular Israeli historian Zeev Katz compared Steinsaltz's importance to that of Rashi and Maimonides, two Jewish scholars of medieval times. 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.
- AP, Josef Federman |. "Adin Steinsaltz, groundbreaking Talmud translator, dies". The Washington Post. Retrieved 8 August 2020.
- "Adin Steinsaltz, Groundbreaking Talmud Translator, Dies". The New York Times. Associated Press. 7 August 2020. ISSN 0362-4331. Archived from the original on 7 August 2020. Retrieved 8 August 2020.
- 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.
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- Steinsaltz, Rabbi Adin Even-Israel; Society, The Aleph (3 October 2014). "The Aleph Society – Let My People Know". The Aleph Society. Retrieved 8 August 2020.
- Kalman, Aaron (9 February 2012). "Presidential award handed out for the first time". The Times of Israel.
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- 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.
- Woodward, Kenneth L.; Kubic, Milan L. (26 May 1980). "Israel's Mystical Rabbi". Newsweek.
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- Political Leaders of the Contemporary Middle East and North Africa: A Biographical Dictionary, Bernard Reich, Greenwood Publishing Group, 1990, page 406
- "Jewish World Mourns Passing of Renowned Talmudic Scholar Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz". Algemeiner.
- Correspondent, J. (1 March 1996). "Steinsaltz delivers first volume of his Russian-language Talmud". J. Retrieved 8 August 2020.
- "Jewish University in Moscow". Jewish-Heritage.org. Jewish Heritage Society. Archived from the original on 27 September 2011. Retrieved 4 July 2011.
- 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.
- Cattan, Nacha (23 January 2004). "Cardinals Meet For a Dialogue With Top Rabbis". The Jewish Daily Forward. Retrieved 4 July 2011.
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- JTA. "Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz recovering from stroke". timesofisrael.com. Retrieved 13 January 2020.
- Even-Israel, Meni (20 May 2018). "Knowledge: The Key to Jewish Survival". The Jerusalem Post. Retrieved 20 May 2018.
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- Wagner, Matthew (1 March 2007). "Steinsaltz addresses event for revived Sanhedrin". The Jerusalem Post.
- 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.
- Sylvetsky, Rochel (6 September 2018). "Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz changes how we read the Humash – now in English". Israel National News.
- Krupka Berger, Miriam (11 October 2018). "Steinsaltz Commentary: Discovering Something Novel in the 'Voice' of the Humash". Jewish Link of New Jersey.
- Klein Greenwald, Toby (14 June 2018). "Rav Adin Steinsaltz honored in Jerusalem for life's work". San Diego Jewish World.
- Steinsaltz, Adin (1984). Biblical Images.
- Steinsaltz, Adin (1998). The Candle of God.
- Steinsaltz, Adin (2011). A Dear Son to Me. ISBN 9781592642823.
- Steinsaltz, Adin (1976). The Essential Talmud.
- Steinsaltz, Adin (2000). A Guide to Jewish Prayer.
- Steinsaltz, Adin (1983). The Passover Haggadah.
- Steinsaltz, Adin (1992). In the Beginning.
- Steinsaltz, Adin (2014). My Rebbe.
- Steinsaltz, Adin (1993). The Tales of Rabbi Nachman of Bratslav.
- Steinsaltz, Adin (1995). On Being Free.
- Steinsaltz, Adin (2003). The Miracle of the Seventh Day.
- Steinsaltz, Adin (1999). Simple Words.
- Steinsaltz, Adin (1988). The Strife of the Spirit.
- Steinsaltz, Adin (2012). A Reference Guide to The Talmud.
- Steinsaltz, Adin (1997). Talmudic Images.
- Steinsaltz, Adin (2005). Learning from the Tanya.
- Steinsaltz, Adin (2003). Opening the Tanya.
- Steinsaltz, Adin (2007). Understanding the Tanya.
- Steinsaltz, Adin (1982). Teshuvah.
- Steinsaltz, Adin (1988). The Longer Shorter Way.
- Steinsaltz, Adin (2000). The Seven Lights: On the Major Jewish Festivals.
- Steinsaltz, Adin (1989). The Sustaining Utterance.
- Steinsaltz, Adin (1980). The Thirteen Petalled Rose.
- Steinsaltz, Adin (2005). We Jews.
- Steinsaltz, Adin (1994). The Woman of Valor.
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- "Israel Prize Official Site – Recipients in 1988 (in Hebrew)". Archived from the original on 16 July 2011.
- "2012 National Jewish Book Award Winners". JewishBookCouncil.org. Jewish Book Council. Archived from the original on 3 July 2018. Retrieved 10 July 2018.
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- Klein Greenwald, Toby (14 June 2018). "Rav Adin Steinsaltz honored in Jerusalem for life's work". San Diego Jewish World.
- "New 'Steinsaltz Chumash' Makes Torah Study Uniquely Accessible to English-Speaking World". Jewish Link of New Jersey. 21 June 2018.
- "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. ..."
- "A Preliminary Review of The New Koren Talmud Bavli: A Goldilocks edition – The Seforim Blog".
- "Review Essay — Learning Gemara in English: The Steinsaltz Talmud Translation" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 25 February 2017. Retrieved 24 February 2017.
- Toby Klein Greenwald. (7 August 2020). The Life and Legacy of Torah Scholar and Prolific Author Adin Even-Israel Steinsaltz, jewishjournal.com
- Elchanan, Yoel. דת הציונות [Dat Hatzionut] (PDF) (in Hebrew). pp. 288–302. Archived (PDF) from the original on 9 October 2022.
- "Steinsaltz Completes His Controversial Translation of Shas".
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- Michael Rosenak (1993). "Jewish Fundamentalism in Israeli Education". In Martin E. Marty & R. Scott Appleby (ed.). Fundamentalisms and Society: Reclaiming the Sciences, the Family, and Education (American Academy of Arts and Sciences ed.). University of Chicago Press. p. 390. ISBN 978-0-226-50880-1.
- 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.
- Noach Zvuluny Archived 7 October 2013 at the Wayback Machine; Davar – 4 August 1989, p.3
- (10 August 1989) Biblical Scholar’s Books Banned by Ultra-orthodox Rabbis, JTA.
- Haim Shapiro. (17 November 1989). Is Steinsaltz A Heretic?, Detroit Jewish News.
- Pinchas Goldschmidt. (11 August 2020). Adin Steinsaltz was essential to the revival of the Russian Jewish community, Forward.
- Marissa Newman. (7 August 2020). Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz, who made the Talmud accessible, dies at 83, timesofisrael.com.
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- 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.
- "Studying Talmud As A Woman Is Often Lonely. But It Doesn't Need To Be". Forward.com. The Forward Association. Retrieved 10 July 2018.