web analytics
September 1, 2015 / 17 Elul, 5775
At a Glance
InDepth
Sponsored Post


Talmudic, Tenacious, Tough-Minded: An Interview With Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz


Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz

Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz

Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz is quite the accomplished personality. The author of over 60 books, Rabbi Steinsaltz has also translated the entire Talmud into Hebrew, a project he started in 1965 at the age of 28 and took 45 years to complete. To date, over two million copies of the Steinsaltz Talmud – in Hebrew, English, French, and Russian – have been sold. No wonder Time magazine once dubbed him a “once-in-a-millennium scholar.”

Last month, Rabbi Steinsaltz’s career hit another high as Koren Publishers Jerusalem released the first volume of its English translation of the Steinsaltz Talmud. From 1989-1999, Random House published four masechtot of the Steinsaltz Talmud in English, but then stopped. Koren Publishers has now stepped into the breach.

The new English edition features color illustrations, vowelized and punctuated Gemara pages, and Koren’s signature aesthetic touch. According to Rabbi Tzvi Hersh Weinreb, the project’s editor-in-chief, the entire set of 41 volumes is scheduled to be published within the next four years. A Steinsaltz Talmud iPad app will also be available soon.

The Jewish Press recently spoke with Rabbi Steinsaltz about the new translation, his background, and various controversies that have surrounded him and his work.

The Jewish Press: Why should someone buy the Steinsaltz Talmud over ArtScroll’s immensely popular Shas?

Rabbi Steinsaltz: Look, it’s not the same. I would put it in the following way: When you learn from my Gemara, I hope that you get a kick to learn further, and that you don’t feel that you know everything and that all the problems are answered.

Does the ArtScroll Shas not do that as well?

I think ArtScroll gives too much in a way. Everything is in there. I’m trying to have it in a way that you study and want more.

Basically I want, not just that you will look at the Gemara, but that you will get involved in it. You cannot learn Gemara completely passively. You have to be a participant.

There are two parts to what Hillel HaZaken said about kol haTorah kulah. One part is always quoted – “What you don’t want done to you, don’t do to others.” But the other part – “And all the rest go and learn” – is no less important.

I hope to have people who will learn and say, “We want to know more, we have more questions.”

You started translating Shas into Hebrew at the age of 28. What led you to embark on this enormous project and what gave you the confidence that you’d be able to do it?

For the first part of the question, I will just tell you it’s what makes people want to climb Mount Everest – the mountain is there, the challenge is there, and the need is there. So you do it.

[In terms of being able to translate Shas], I thought at the time, and other people thought as well, that I was able to do it. Hopefully I didn’t disappoint.

Were you scared of embarking on such a major project at such a young age?

Well, I’m not a scared person – not of bullets and not of ideas.

But why assume such a major undertaking?

Because the Talmud is the central pillar of Judaism, and if the central pillar is not at hand for most people, they miss something very important. The Talmud was, in so many ways, a closed book for many people – so I tried to open it.

In the original editions of the Steinsaltz Talmud, you changed the traditional look – the tzuras hadaf – of the pages, for which you were heavily criticized. For the new edition of the Hebrew and English Steinsaltz Talmud, however, you restored the old look. Why did you originally change it and why did you restore it?

Look, in the beginning, it just couldn’t be done. All the additional material couldn’t be put on the old pages. I tried twenty-odd formats, and found out that if I used the traditional page, it would be at least two and a half times as big, which wouldn’t be usable. So the question is: What do you do – duplicate the page as ArtScroll did or cut it?

What I originally did in my Hebrew Gemaras was cut it. About 150 years ago in Poland, an edition with exactly the same kind of half pages was published. They made notes about why this was needed and [said] there was nothing holy about the other format. The traditional page is after all just a page. Even sifrei Torah can be written in different ways; surely Gemaras can be done differently too.

About the Author: Elliot Resnick is a Jewish Press staff reporter and author of “Movers and Shakers: Sixty Prominent Personalities Speak Their Mind on Tape” (Brenn Books).


If you don't see your comment after publishing it, refresh the page.

Our comments section is intended for meaningful responses and debates in a civilized manner. We ask that you respect the fact that we are a religious Jewish website and avoid inappropriate language at all cost.

If you promote any foreign religions, gods or messiahs, lies about Israel, anti-Semitism, or advocate violence (except against terrorists), your permission to comment may be revoked.

3 Responses to “Talmudic, Tenacious, Tough-Minded: An Interview With Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz”

  1. Jonathan Weber says:

    I bought the new Koren Publishers Berachot. I can say as a secular teacher, it is the ultimate teaching tool. Everything is so crystal clear. You don't need to study with a Rabbi to learn from it. Kol HaKavod… Yesher Koach!

  2. Atraf Creez says:

    BS"D
    As a "religious" Jew,I understand what you say Jonathan,but as is universally known & Rav Shteinszaltz says ,he made his version for people that won't think they understand the whole page they learned.& as our Sages say,whoever thinks he has learned the whole Gemorrah missed the point,he hasn't even learned the first page.
    (The Gemorrah starts on page 2).
    If I understand what you meant to say, that this edition is so well done,you could learn on your own and gain much insight.But think how much more with a teacher.

  3. Atraf Creez says:

    Many Chabad-Lubavitch Chasidim if asked are they connected to the Rebbe will answer the same.We TRY to be (sometimes, often, not enough).Try telling an agnostic Jew "O, so you aren't really Jewish".He would blow up."How can you say that of me?"Ask an honest religious Jew if he is religious."How often a day do you mean?" "Are you asking me how many hours I serve HaShem during the day & how many I serve myself?". A Jew is a Jew is a Jew. Same with a Chasid.But you can't ask a Chasid to grade himself/herself.We just hope that our actions bear fruit.

Comments are closed.

Current Top Story
The Palestinians have desecrated Joseph's Tomb on more than one occasion.
Capture of Joseph’s Tomb Terrorists Exposes Truth About Palestinian Authority
Latest Indepth Stories
The Palestinians have desecrated Joseph's Tomb on more than one occasion.

The purpose of an attack on Joseph’s Tomb is to murder Jews at prayer and destroy a Jewish holy site

Broken Telephone

A nuclear Khomenist Tehran will be a threat to Western democracies and to Jerusalem in particular

Major Monster, "Shirley Temper" looking at the cameraman.

The MONSTERS of Nebi Saleh know well the damning, visceral impact of powerful, deceitful imagery.

Proud Members of Jewish Voice for Peace

Jewish Voice for Peace openly supports BDS movement against ALL of Israel & ending the Jewish State.

In recent years, there has been a big push to grow and develop American Football here in Israel.

Unlike Judaism & Christianity which honors “truth,” Islam pursues “Taqiyya,” strategic lying

Yashar Lachayal’s mission is to learn what IDF soldiers’ need and get it to them when they need it.

Corbyn leading the Britain’s Labour Party polls, describes Hamas & Hizbullah as England’s “friends.”

The convicted murderer was released from Israeli prison with more than two dozen other sociopaths

JCF is a donor/supporter of The New Israel Fund which supports BDS & wants IDF soldiers prosecuted

The ‘Peace Industry’ promotes its adherents; weak leaders, both military & political, is the result

The conundrum for US Labor Zionists: Lobbying for Iran deal while Israel’s Left lobby’s against it.

What does the Torah want from our small nation described as “they who struggle with God & with men”?

Mr. Nadler’s support for the deal is a naked political gift to a president who has defied logic in his quest to reinvent international affairs according to his ideological inclinations.

More Articles from Elliot Resnick

Aside from my own 485-page tome on the subject, Red Army, I think Jamie Glazov did an excellent job at framing things in United in Hate: The Left’s Romance with Tyranny and Terror.

I think the melodies in our religious services have a haunting sound to them that just permeates your guts and gets into your soul. If you have any musical inclination, I think they inspire you to compose.

In his day, Rav Kook was the greatest writer of haskamot and pretty much everyone in the Lithuanian Torah world wanted his approbation.

But on the human level, public protest played a very central role. And that’s not my position – it’s the position of historians who are experts in this area.

When words lose meaning, the world becomes an Orwellian dystopia; a veritable Tower of Babel

My best book is one that hasn’t been published yet.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/interviews-and-profiles/talmudic-tenacious-tough-minded-an-interview-with-rabbi-adin-steinsaltz/2012/06/20/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: