Adin Steinsaltz - biography
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. 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 scholar."
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). The Babylonian Talmud translation was completed in late 2010. 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 disputed.
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 the Sanhedrin.
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 Catholic Church.
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.