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.
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 a "once-in-a-millennium
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 44 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 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 reasons for halting publication by Random House are
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 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. Rabbi Steinsaltz is also Rosh Yeshiva of
Yeshivat Hesder Tekoa, and functions as Nasi in an attempt to revive
Being a personal friend and follower of 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.
He has conducted interfaith work with several Cardinals in the Roman
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.