web analytics
May 25, 2015 / 7 Sivan, 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
Former Israel Ambassador to the UN Dore Gold.
Bibi Seals Nationalist Policy with Dore Gold Heading Foreign Ministry
Latest Indepth Stories
Former US Senator, Joe Lieberman

The contrast between a Dem pretending to love Israel & a Dem who truly loves Israel is CRYSTAL CLEAR

israeli-american flags

Pentecost, derived from the Greek word for 50, is celebrated 50 days after Easter.

Israeli-flag

U.S and European demands for the creation of a Palestinian State in the West Bank is world hypocrisy.

Harris-052215

We take a whole person approach, giving our people assistance with whatever they need.

During my spiritual journey I discovered G-d spoke to man only once, to the Jewish people at Sinai

20 years after the great Ethiopian aliyah, we must treat them like everyone else; no better or worse

Connecting Bamidbar&Shavuot is simple-A world without Torah is midbar; with Torah a blessed paradise

Many Black protesters compared Baltimore’s unrest to the Palestinian penchant of terrorism & rioting

She credited success to “mini” decisions-Small choices building on each other leading to big changes

Shavuot 1915, 200000 Jews were expelled; amongst the largest single expulsions since Roman times

Realizing there was no US military threat, Iran resumed, expanded & accelerated its nuclear program

“Enlightened Jews” who refuse to show chareidim the tolerance they insist we give to Arabs sicken me

Somewhat surprisingly, the Vatican’s unwelcome gesture was diametrically at odds with what President Obama signaled in an interview with the news outlet Al Arabiya.

The recent solid victory of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud Party produced something very different.

The reaction is so strong that nine times out of ten, parents engage in some form of coping mechanism before arriving at a level of acceptance of a special-needs diagnosis.

“…his neshamah reached out to us to have the zechus of Torah learning to take with him on his final journey.”

More Articles from Elliot Resnick
Dr. Phyllis Chesler

Jews are an anxious group – understandably, given the millennia of persecution – and want to have no trouble.

Dr. Michael Berenbaum

Why do Jews, then, sometimes feel more intensely about Polish anti-Semitism than they do about German anti-Semitism?

Mitchell Bard is nothing if not prolific. He has written and edited 23 books, including “The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Middle East” and “The Arab Lobby: The Invisible Alliance That Undermines America’s Interests in the Middle East.” Bard, who has a Ph.D. in political science from UCLA, is also the executive director of both the […]

You have to understand that Ukraine was really a very, very Jewish place for many years.

What I think is going on here is the Midrash is making a comment about Rut’s love for Naomi being some sort of reflection of how we have to love God.

HarperCollins’s omission was especially egregious because it is a major general and educational publisher.

I said to myself, “This story has got to be told. We’re losing this generation of World War II and if we don’t listen to them now, we’ve lost it.”

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: